Kenyan forces have abandoned two military bases where they were previously stationed in the war-torn nation of Somalia, area residents told the BBC.
One of the bases had already been attacked by Al Shabaab, the militant Islamist outfit that is tied to Al Qaeda, according to reports.
The Al Shabaab advances have continued into Tuesday, seizing an entire town following Kenya’s abandonment of the village of Badhaadhe, a local parliamentarian expressed.
But a Kenya army spokesperson claims its military invoked a “normal operational manoeuvre,” and not a retreat, the BBC reports. Another Kenyan official stressed that Kenyan forces are not “withdrawing from any of our positions in Somalia.”
“Nobody says we must be in that camp. We can operate from another site,” said Col. David Obonyo in a BBC interview.
An Al Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, tells Reuters: “This morning we peacefully captured El Adde.”
Somali MP Mohamed Ismail Shurie said it was “unfortunate” to see the Kenyan military run from Badhaadhe. “We feel very bad that three years since it was liberated, Badhaadhe has fallen to Al Shabaab again,” he stated.
The reported retreat comes following a deadly battle at an African Union base in El-Ade. Al Shabaab claimed it took out 100 Kenyan soldiers during its offensive.
A Kenyan Army chief said the Al Qaeda-affiliate used bombs comparable to the ones utilized to bomb the U.S. embassy in Nairobi in 1998. The Nairobi attack left 224 dead and many more injured. Following the bombings, the FBI placed deceased Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, and current Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, on its most-wanted list.
“You can imagine what impact the three of those had in that small place,” Army chief Samson Mwathethe told reporters following the assault. He added that the jihadi fighters used vehicle borne improvised explosive devices to breach the base, and that the vehicles were driven by suicide bombers.
Kenya remains part of a 20,000-strong African Union fighting force stationed in Somalia to help stave off Al Shabaab.
The Al Qaeda-linked group has publicly stated it seeks to take over the entire country of Somalia.
A faction of the militant group recently pledged to the Islamic State in a video released in October.
The United States and United Kingdom estimate Al Shabaab currently has between 7,000 to 9,000 fighters at its disposal.