One day after an attack by al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabaab on a base in Kenya left a U.S. soldier and two American contractors dead, a contingent of crisis response troops has arrived in the region, officials said.
The Sunday morning attack at Manda Bay, Kenya, came on the heels of a Dec. 28 attack by al-Shabaab on civilians in Mogadishu, Somalia, in which 80 people died. Al-Shabaab also took credit for that attack.
Between 50 and 100 U.S. troops with the East Africa Response Force (EARF) were deployed to Manda Bay, U.S. Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Military.com. The number represents a sizable reinforcing element, as AFRICOM officials have said fewer than 150 American troops were at Camp Simba on Manda Bay prior to the attack.
The response force, which falls under Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, based in Djibouti, is equipped for military operations including protecting Americans and U.S. diplomatic facilities, supporting noncombatant evacuations, providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and "other missions as directed," according to an AFRICOM release.
It's one of a number of response force elements created in response to the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.
In a previous mission, EARF deployed to Libreville, Gabon, in January 2019 to monitor expected unrest in an adjacent country, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As attention has focused on the Middle East in the wake of a U.S. strike that killed Iranian Quds Force Commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, AFRICOM officials said they have had to battle misinformation about Sunday's deadly attack in Kenya.
"Contrary to various open source reports, U.S. Africa Command does not assess yesterday's attack by al-Shabaab is linked to Iran," officials said in a release. "While Iranian involvement is not suspected in the attack, U.S. Africa Command has observed other nations, including Iran, seek increased influence in the Horn of Africa."
AFRICOM also issued a statement Monday from the commanding officer, Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, addressing false rumors that he had been killed in the al-Shabaab attack.
"Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated," Townsend said. "This is yet another example of the lies, propaganda and fake news coming from al-Shabaab and other malign actors such as Iran and its proxies."