The President of Somalia suggested this week that a massacre of Kenyan soldiers by the Sunni jihadi group al-Shabaab killed up to 100 more people than originally reported, making it the deadliest massacre in the terrorist group’s history. Kenyan officials are refuting the claim.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has come under fire for choosing to attend a mass funeral of Kenyan soldiers who died in the al-Ade massacre in late January; some Somalis contend he is showing more sorrow for dead Kenyan citizens than the hundreds of Somali victims of al-Shabaab, according to BBC. In response to these claims, he gave the number of those dead as far higher than the initial estimate: “The soldiers have been sent to Somalia to help us get peace in our country, and their families are convinced that they died while on duty… When 180 or close to 200 soldiers who were sent to us are killed in one day in Somalia, it’s not easy.”
“We have been winning for years and months but that El Adde battle, we were defeated,” he added, “Yes, in war, sometimes something that you do not like happens to you.”
The Kenyan government has never released an official death toll for the el-Ade attack. The most widely circulated number is 100 Kenyan soldiers dead, a number BBC received from a representative of al-Shabaab. Terrorists arrived at the town in January and began the raid by detonating a car bomb, then entered the town and raided a military camp. The Kenyan government denied it was theirs, claiming that Somali soldiers were the victims of the attack, but eyewitnesses reported seeing terrorists hoisting the bodies of dead Kenyan soldiers in celebration. The Somali government also denied they were hit. Kenyan officials later clarified that their soldiers had entered the fray to defend the Somalis, before al-Shabaab released their estimated 100 Kenyan soldier death toll.
Mohamud’s number is far greater than the al-Shabaab estimate; BBC suggests that the terrorist group may be counting only the deaths of Kenyan citizens, while Mohamud’s toll includes Somali soldiers and civilians killed in the siege.
Following the siege, the Kenyan military abandoned two military bases in Somalia, giving al-Shabaab the media victory. “This morning we peacefully captured El Adde,” an al-Shabaab media contact told Reuters in late January, on a day in which the Kenyan army told media the departure was a “normal operational manoeuvre” unrelated to the massacre. “Nobody says we must be in that camp. We can operate from another site,” spokesman Col. David Obonyo said then.
Friday, Col. Obonyo told BBC to disregard the Somali president. “Ask the source of the information to clarify it. Maybe he knows his sources,” Kenyan army spokesman David Obonyo told BBC about the Somali President’s claim this week. He condemned the president for “trivializing the dead” by mentioning numbers at all. “They are not statistics,” he added, “They ought to be treated with honor and respect.”
Should Mohamud’s numbers be correct, the el-Ade massacre will have been al-Shabaab’s deadliest, surpassing the siege of Garissa University in April 2015. In that attack, al-Shabaab terrorists killed 147 people, most students. Terrorists went building by building, asking students whether they were Christians and demanding they recite the Koran, killing all those who did not comply.
Mohamud has previously claimed that al-Shabaab is far more dangerous than anticipated because of its ties to other jihadist groups. Earlier this month, he alleged that his government had evidence of the presence of Boko Haram terrorists traveling from west Africa to Somalia for training with al-Shabaab terrorists. Boko Haram is a satellite organization of the Islamic State, while a-Shabaab remains loyal to rival organization al-Qaeda. ISIS has attempted to court al-Shabaab in the past, however, and some reports indicate a number of the Somali terror group’s members have defected to the Islamic State.