On Sunday, April 3rd, Al-Shabaab’s media wing released a recruitment video showing the militant group’s January 15th raid at a Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) camp at el-Adde, Somalia. It was the deadliest attack on an AMISOM mission to date, killing 100-200, 12 were reportedly taken hostage. KDF has yet to release any casualty figures to the public.
After viewing the video I contacted a military source – let’s call him ‘Dave’ – and asked him what he thought. Dave is a former KDF soldier, who has on several occasions engaged in battle with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. He is also a keen observer; his opinion is that much of the footage showing fighters approaching the KDF was staged i.e. filmed almost entirely on Saturday the 16th, the morning after the initial siege.
- Early reports indicated that three Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) had exploded inside the camp on Friday morning, January 15th. Dave thinks the explosion shown in the video is only one VBDEID which they detonated the following morning – but captured from different angles – to give the impression of several successive explosions. Use of split screen would indicate the same.
- KDF apparently had received photos from Friday morning’s attack that showed deceased soldiers laying on a road outside the camp. The al-Kataib video shows only soldiers who’d been killed inside the camp, perhaps to underscore the military’s lack of preparedness. The Somali National Army (SNA) camp was co-located with the el-Adde camp 600 meters away. As Dave tells it the SNA had been tipped off of an impending attack. When the fighters arrived they fired several rounds near Somali National Army (SNA) camp as warning shots for occupants to evacuate. The shots also served as a decoy to lure KDF soldiers out of their camp into the “killing area”. Dave concludes that al-Shabaab probably killed a number KDF soldiers outside the camp as they tried to reinforce soldiers en route to the SNA camp. By midday, several hours after the attack, it was clear to al-Shabaab that KDF reinforcement from Nairobi headquarters was not coming, so they “extricated” (military parlance for withdrawing). They may have mingled with locals and the next day returned to the KDF camp – now itself a kill area – to crush the remaining soldiers. A good portion of soldiers may have been killed inside the camp the next day. This means the camp was overrun on Saturday, not Friday.
- Dave noted the fighters were not advancing toward the camp in a tactical formation; indeed, they appeared at times to be casually strolling through open grassy fields not expecting engagement. Al-Shabaab are foreign-trained and would never move around a battle field this way.
- The film doesn’t show any return fire from the KDF camp, which is unlikely and for that reason would have been difficult to edit out. Not a single al-Shabaab militant appears in the video wounded or dead. Clearly al-Shabaab suffered casualties. Presence of bloated corpses indicates some soldiers were killed Friday morning but filmed the next day — corpses usually don’t bloat within the first few hours of death.
- There were way too many Al-Shabaab fighters with phone cameras filming the attack. Dave notes that al-Shabaab consists of hundreds of professionally foreign-trained fighters who wouldn’t be caught dead in a battle field with cameras in hand.
On a final note Dave said Commander, Major Geoffrey Obwoge, was probably killed the second day. It appeared he was trying to repulse the enemy in an APC, along with the gunner and driver. One of the tires had been shot, caught fire (explaining the billowing black smoke) and the commander was unable to continue. As a commander he’d have been among the last men standing. If he was afraid in his final moments, it didn’t show. He stood his ground. The el-Adde camp was under-manned and under-equipped: the commander did not fail his company. Rather, KDF head quarters in Nairobi failed the company at el-Adde.
Categories: Conflict In Context - Field Notes