Reinforcements from the U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) arrived at Manda Bay in Kenya on Sunday to bolster efforts to secure the airfield following an attack by Al-Shabaab militants.
Al-Shabaab militants attempted to invade a Kenya Defence Forces military base in Lamu County early on Sunday killing three U.S. military personnel. Four suspected militants were also killed in the attack.
A statement issued by AFRICOM on Monday said the EARF offers a combat-ready, rapid deployment force whose capabilities to respond to a variety of incidents provide a “proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need”.
AFRICOM gave no further details on the number of EARF personnel or any military equipment deployed.
AFRICOM also refuted allegations circulated online by unverified social media accounts that the force commander General Stephen Townsend was killed in the attack.
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated. 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,” a statement from Townsend read in part.
AFRICOM added that its investigations did not find the attack to be connected to Iran. Tensions between Iran and the United States have heightened in recent days following a drone strike last Friday which killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad.
“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 said.
Al-Shabaab has staged reprisal attacks against Kenya following the deployment of the Kenyan military in neighbouring Somalia in 2011 to fight the terrorist group.