U.S. Army Soldiers, assigned to the East Africa Response Force (EARF), 101st Airborne Division, exit a C-130J Super Hercules, assigned to the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, at Manda Bay Airfield, Kenya, on January 5, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)

Al-Qaeda Says Surprise Al Shabaab Attack That Killed 3 Americans Is ‘Brilliant’ Example for Jihadists

Al-Qaeda exhorted adherents to follow the “brilliant” example of Al Shabaab terrorists who killed three Americans in a raid this month on a Kenyan base.

U.S. Army Specialist Heny Mayfield Jr., 23, of Hazel Crest, Ill., was killed in the pre-dawn attack on the Manda Bay Airfield on Jan. 5, along with L3Harris Technologies contractor pilots Dustin Harrison, 47, and Bruce Triplett, 64. A third contractor was wounded.

The surprise attack by a team of militants, which AFRICOM said breached the perimeter and involved mortar and small-arms fire, resulted in an hourlong gunbattle; several airplanes, fuel tankers and vehicles were destroyed or damaged. Officials said five Al Shabaab fighters were killed and five taken into custody.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence, told reporters Jan. 16, “We assess that these are al-Shabaab coming out of Somalia, but with the support of Kenyan facilitators and potential Kenyan aspirants of al-Shabaab. We also assess that after the attack, they’re continuing to make their way back into Somalia as well.”

AFRICOM, which is investigating the attack, acknowledged “the enemy achieved a degree of success in its attack” yet pushed back against reports that indicated contingency troops were slow to respond, saying their “timely and effective response to the attack reduced the number of casualties and eliminated the potential for further damage.”

In a recent statement issued by their official As-Sahab media, Al-Qaeda gushed about their “deepest gratitude and appreciation for the valiant Mujahideen and the leadership of the Al Shabaab Mujahideen Movement, specifically Shaykh Abu Obaida Umar and his brothers.”

“With their steadfastness, they have lit the spirit of sacrifice in the Ummah [Muslim community]. Leading by example, they have imparted great practical lessons in eliminating the enemy’s forces, destroying enemy bases, fortifications, and strategic targets,” Al-Qaeda continued. “In the series of operations named ‘Jerusalem Shall Not be Judaized,’ they have targeted enemy bases in a manner that the enemy could never have contemplated.”

The terror group congratulated jihadists “on the completion of a year of these operations whose flame was first lit by the Mujahideen of Somalia, and the Mujahideen of Mali followed suit soon after,” adding that “the operation in Manda Bay, Kenya, resulted in the destruction and burning of the American Naval Base in Lamo.”

“In the course of this brilliant operation, a large number of Americans were killed and injured, their aircrafts and vehicles destroyed,” Al-Qaeda continued. “It was indeed a heroic raid, brilliantly executed; a perfect example of selfless sacrifice for the sake of the Islamic cause.”

Al Shabaab said in a video released after the attack that the assault was “carried out under the guidance and direction of the leadership of al-Qaeda.”

The 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, acting as the East Africa Response Force, flew into Manda Bay after the attack to beef up base security.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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