Somalia – The Kenyan army received intelligence on Friday’s attack but bosses did not make use of it, a soldier at the base has said.
The Kenya Defence Forces has denied claims that scores died after al Shabaab militants attacked its base in Kulbiyow, Somalia, at dawn.
The al Qaeda-linked terror group said its fighters killed at least 66 people when they overran the camp near the Kenyan border.
The soldier, who spoke to the Star on condition of anonymity, said al Shabaab were scheduled to attack the base on January 15.
He said this was to mark the anniversary of their raid on a camp in El Adde on that date last year, during which at least 100 soldiers were reportedly killed and several captured. The government is yet to release details of the attack to the public.
“That is the information we received…everybody was on the watch. The militants said they had an anniversary they needed to celebrate,” said the source. “They wanted to celebrate one year since the El Adde attack.”
The soldier said the reports were sent to top military chiefs but that they did not get any instructions from them.
“We waited but nothing happened,” the source said. “When intelligence reports are sent, somebody somewhere delays implementation… Our bosses are not working. Something fishy is going on and we have no answers.”
The soldier asked whether the government tracks those who are dismissed from the army.
“Those who get fired know how we work. Some of them may have joined al Shabaab,” he said, noting that members of the terror group are not ordinary fighters.
“They have a lot of experience and know how to operate equipment. Maybe people who are withdrawn join al shabaab… These people are skilled,” he said.
“If you withdraw somebody with 10 years’ experience from the forces, is that person a layman?”
Noting that they have no equipment to fight the militants, the soldier said they only engage the attackers at night when they ambush their camps.
“We do not see them during the day. They raid out camps at night,” he said.
The source added that the vehicles President Uhuru Kenyatta commissioned for police officers last week were much better that what the army uses.
Police received 500 new vehicles to enhance their mobility and welfare. Uhuru commissioned the vehicles saying one of the most glaring gaps in the security sector was transport.
The soldier said their equipment was in bad condition and was not serviceable.
“We would be better off using the vehicles police were given. They are much stronger than what our bosses fight to get,” he said.
“With equipment we can fight them. We are trying our best since we cannot turn our backs. If we do, you will become the targets.”
Al Shabaab, whose assessment of casualties often differs markedly from official versions, typically rams the entrance to a target site with a car or truck bomb so fighters can storm in.
KDF spokesman Paul Njuguna dismissed reports on the number of fatalities as “propaganda from the enemy”.
“We’ve repulsed the enemy. We were ready. We’ve not been overrun. It’s false,” he said. He was not immediately available for comment on the claim that they had intelligence on the attack.
But members of the public have noted similarities between the El Adde and Kulbiyow assaults, and said the government needs to learn lessons in the bid to secure Kenya and Somalia.