Al-Shabaab attack on the US Manda Bay base in Kenya early this month resulted in the destruction of six surveillance aircraft, a report by the New York Times has revealed.
According to the US publication, the militants destroyed the multi-million-dollar aircraft in the January 5 attack. Also destroyed in the attack was a medical evacuation helicopter on the ground at the time. The militants destroyed fuel storage area, the paper said, ‘rendering the airfield next to useless’, the report adds.
The newspaper reports that Al-Shabaab fired a rocket propelled grenade into a twin-propeller Beechcraft, loaded with sensors and video equipment for surveillance as it began to taxi on the run way. Two US military officers were killed instantly while the third, badly burned in the rear of the aircraft, crawled out to safety.
A Defense Department official quoted by the New York Times said the loss of a surveillance aircraft meant loss of hundreds of hours of reconnaissance flights until it is replaced.
There are about 200 American soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines, as well as about 100 Pentagon civilian employees and contractors, in Kenya helping train and assist local forces, according to the New York Times. A large majority of them work at Manda Bay, according to military officials.
Many of the local Kenyan forces, assigned to defend the base, hid in the grass while other American troops and support staff were corralled into tents, with little protection, to wait out the battle.
The Kenyan military rubbished the claim in the report that its soldiers hid in the grass instead of providing support to the Americans during the attack.
“It is strange where the news report is coming from and why at this time when we are waiting for investigations to be concluded. We can only have a correct and factual account of the happenings once the report is finalised,” Military Spokesperson Colonel Paul Njuguna told the local media.