How superior KDF strategy caught al-Shabaab offguard
Posted Friday, September 28 2012 at 23:30
- KDF enter Kismayu in first sea-to-shore attack by an African military
- Al-Shabaab was expecting ground assault but Kenya struck from sea
- Kibaki leads praise for brave soldiers
Kenyan military planners duped Al-Shabaab into believing that a land invasion of their last remaining bastion of Kismayu was imminent before making an amphibious landing from the sea.
While Al-Shabaab planned its defences based on that assumption, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF), part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) in the Horn of Africa country, was training at sea.
“As the KAF (Kenya Air Force) engaged in aerial attacks the other forces were moving in by sea, from where they were to disembark. Essentially, it was intended to divert attention, especially from the Al-Shabaab.
That’s why you (the media) did not know about it yesterday (Thursday),” said Col Cyrus Oguna, the KDF spokesman.
The surprise landing in Somalia’s coastal city of Kismayu by Kenyan troops on Friday was the culmination of a three-day secret undertaking, the Saturday Nation can reveal.
It involved attacks from the air, land and sea, all happening at the same time, and was codenamed Operation Sledge Hammer.
It was the first time the KDF ground troops set foot in Kismayu, the stronghold of terrorist group Al-Shabaab, since the Kenyan troops crossed the border into Somalia in October last year. (READ: Kenya declares Kismayu fall imminent)
Landed in middle of the night
The operation involved bombing by KAF F-5 jets and more shelling by Kenya Navy ships from the Indian Ocean with the ultimate aim – landing Kenya Army troops in the city – being executed in the middle of the night.
Col Oguna, the operations officer in charge of Information at KDF, said: “By 2am (Friday), the last forces had gotten out of the naval vessels and were safely on the ground. It has been on for the past three days and that’s why there were air strikes in key Al-Shabaab logistical bases.”
The high-ranking officer left his usual station in Nairobi for Kismayu and arrived with the fighting troops so as to provide regular updates from the battleground.
Col Oguna said the capture, a secret undertaking, was an “amphibious operation”, an organised military landing by means of combined naval and land forces.
Military officers and analysts have since dubbed it the first of its kind in Africa.
The strategy was all along to make the Al-Shabaab believe that the attack on Kismayu would be launched by ground troops advancing by road, most probably the ones at Jana Abdalla, the most recent township to be captured by KDF before Friday’s onslaught.
‘KNS Jasiri’ sees action
Recently acquired naval warship KNS Jasiri, which arrived in Kenya in August, was among the vessels used to transport the Kenya Army troops. Col Oguna said the naval vessels carrying the ground troops left “one of the maritime bases” in time for the fall of Kismayu.
By Friday afternoon, KDF and Somali National Army had not suffered casualties, according to Col Oguna. The SNA has been fighting alongside the KDF in southern Somalia under the banner of Amisom.
“So far we have encountered minimal resistance. So the casualties on the side of Al-Shabaab are mainly due to airstrikes that are ongoing as the ground troops advance towards Kismayu’s CBD (Central Business District) from the port,” said Col Oguna.