Kenyan Army Kills Al-Shabaab Deputy in Raid on Training Camp

  • Commander was head of militant group's intelligence wing
  • Other mid-level leaders, recruits also died in the strike

Kenya’s army said it killed the head of al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing and 10 other leaders in a strike on one of the Islamist-militant group’s training camps in southern Somalia.

Mahad Karate, who was also a deputy commander of al-Shabaab, died in a “major strike” by the Kenya Defence Forces on Feb. 8 at Nadaris, about 300 kilometers (188 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, the Defence Ministry said in a statement Thursday. Al-Shabaab denied any of its camps had been attacked by Kenya’s military, describing the claim as “baseless,” according to a statement broadcast by pro-militant Radio Andulus in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

Karate played a key role in an attack on a Kenyan army base last month in el-Adde, near Somalia’s border with Kenya, according to the statement. The al-Qaeda-linked group said it killed at least 100 soldiers in the Jan. 15 assault.

The KDF said it carried out the attack during a passing-out parade for about 80 recruits of Amniyat, the intelligence wing of al-Shabaab that the State Department says was also responsible for the attack on a Kenyan university last year in which 147 people died. Amniyat is comprised of suicide bombers, assassins, explosives experts and information gatherers, the KDF said.

“Operations against the al-Shabaab terrorists will continue until justice is done,” the KDF said.

If confirmed, Karate’s death would represent a blow to al-Shabaab, though the group has demonstrated its resilience after losing other key figures in previous counter-terrorism operations, said Ryan Cummings, director of intelligence at risk-management consultancy Signal Risk. A U.S. raid in September 2014 killed al-Shabaab’s former leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. The U.S. declared the group a terrorist organization in 2008.

“If anything, there is a possibility that we may see a short-term increase in al-Shabaab attacks to both avenge Karate, but to also show the group’s dexterity in light of his demise,” Cummings said in an e-mailed response to questions from Cape Town.

Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 to impose its version of Islamic law. While it has lost territory since being driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by government and AU forces, it continues to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks both at home and around the region. Kenya deployed its troops in Somalia in 2011 to help troops from other African countries fighting the militant group.

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