The Battle of El Adde took place on 15 January 2016. Al-Shabaab militants launched an attack on a Kenyan-run AMISOM army base in the town of El Adde, Gedo, Somalia. It remains the deadliest attack on the African Union Mission to Somalia and is the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) largest defeat since independence in 1963. As such, the Kenyan government went to extreme lengths to conceal the extent of its losses.[6][18][19][20] It has been described by the media as a "military massacre" or military disaster.[18] It was also the largest military defeat in Kenyan history.[14][4]

2016 Battle of El Adde
Part of the War in Somalia

Political situation in Somalia
Date15 January 2016

Major Al-Shabaab victory[2][3][4][5]

  • Kenya Defense Forces temporarily pull out of 3 towns in Gedo
  • Deadliest attack on AMISOM mission to date.[6]
  • El Adde temporarily captured by Al Shabaab, recaptured by KDF four days later.[5]


Somalia Federal Government of Somalia
Commanders and leaders
Ahmad Umar
(Emir of Al-Shabaab)
Maalim Janow [*]
Mahad Mohammed Karatey
(Intelligence Chief)[*]
Ahmed Iman Ali[7]
AbduQadir Ali 

Maj. Jeffrey Obuoge 
(KDF Commanding Officer)[8]
Warrant Officer Isaac Otsyalo [9]
Sgt. Juma Zahoro 
(Officer in KDF Intelligence Unit)[5]

Somalia Gen. Abas Ibrahim Gurey[10]
Units involved
Saleh Nabhan brigade[9]
Abu Zubair battalion[6][9]

Kenya Kenya Army Infantry

  • 9th Kenya Rifles[9]
  • 5th Kenya Rifles[9]
200 fighters [5] Kenya Company: ~175[5][11] to 200 soldiers[2][12]
Casualties and losses

Unknown [**]



150-190 killed[**]

11 captured[5][14]

12 wounded[10]
12 civilians killed[15]
* Al Shabaab leaders subsequently killed in retaliatory air-strikes (per Kenya's military).[6][16]
** Approximate casualty figure.[17][5]

Background edit

In 2011, Kenya launched an incursion into Somalia, "Operation Linda Nchi." In 2012 Kenya joined the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). From that time, the KDF has occupied the southern Gedo Region of Somalia with around 3,000 troops.[21]

According to Abas Ibrahim Gurey, a Marehan war leader in the area who often cooperates with the Somali authorities, clear and reliable intelligence of an imminent attack had been passed along to the commanding officer in charge of the El Adde base, 45 days in advance.[22][10][23]

Kenyan army base attack edit

On 15 January, at 6:30 a.m before morning prayers, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive laden armoured personnel carrier to the front gate to an AMISOM garrison base in El-Adde, Gedo, Somalia. The base compound housed a company of men belonging to both the 5th and 9th Kenya Rifles.[22][24] Both Kenyan Rifle Battalions were detached to the El-Adde base only two weeks beforehand.[24] The total size of the garrison that day has been generally put at around 200 Kenyan troops present.[21]

According to KDF spokesperson General Samson Mwathethe, the explosion was three times more powerful than the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Nairobi.[1] The massive blast damaged the command and communications buildings, as well as an armory and fuel depots of the base, killing dozens of soldiers.[9][23][25] Al Shabaab named the suicide bomber as AbduQadir Ali.[26]

The suicide explosion was a precursor to an estimated 150 to 300[18] Al-Shabaab fighters assaulting the base with rocket-propelled grenades and assault weapons.[27] The attack caught Kenyan troops unprepared and asleep. At approximately 7:30 a.m, the battle lasted for more than one hour of fierce fighting,[2][6] until Kenyan troops were routed from the base and fled into the dense bush pursued by Al Shabaab militants.[19][10]

A neighboring Somali National Army (SNA) base located 600 meters away from the AMISOM base, was empty of troops, who allegedly left and were warned hours before the attack, per the Kenyan military.[24][28] It was initially reported that the SNA base came under assault and Kenyan troops were supporting the Somali Army and that the KDF had incurred unspecified losses. However, this story was revised.[10]

Tactical failures edit

According to the Cable News Network (CNN), "The apparent ease with which the militants breached barriers at El Adde has surprised many security analysts -- especially since the same style of assault had been seen before in bloody attacks on AMISOM forces."

One Western diplomat based in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, told CNN this was clearly a "tactical disaster" for the Kenyans. "How can two hundred Al-Shabaab walk across a field in broad daylight without the Kenyans noticing? Where were the KDF's machine guns?" he asked. "This is contrary to everything they have been taught, and should be doing in a hostile environment."[18]

Casualties edit

Al Shabaab claimed to have captured 12 Kenyan soldiers, including the commanding officer after the battle.[29][30] Later al-Katāi’b Media associated with Al-Shabaab, released a 48-minute-long propaganda video showing the bodies of at least 63 dead KDF soldiers and captured military hardware, including several tanks and long range field artillery.[24] They later claimed to have killed over 100 Kenyan troops,[31][32] although this has been deemed an understatement. This number does not include ethnic-Somali soldiers in Kenyan uniform.[30][32][33]

A new death toll from available open source information indicates that ranges from 141 to 185 Kenyan troops, including all officers, were killed in action. Around 40 survivors managed to escape and an unknown number are still unaccounted for.[6] Separately, DNA samples were taken from 143 bodies at the scene, most of which were burned beyond recognition.[32]

Aftermath and reactions edit

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta expressed his condolences to the families and vowed militants would pay a heavy price for the attack. He reaffirmed Kenyan support in the AMISOM Peace Support Mission to Somalia and ruled out withdrawal of troops from Somalia.[34] Declaring the terrorists will have no time to breathe. "We will not be cowed by these cowards. With our allies, we will continue in Somalia to fulfill our mission. We will hunt down the criminals involved in today's events. Our soldiers’ blood will not be shed in vain." Kenyan bishops around the country offered condolences.[35]

The Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud condemned the attack.[36] In a later interview with Somali Cable TV, he described the attack as a "defeat" in a line of victories and put the KDF death toll at close to 200 fatalities.[37] However, according to a Somali presidential spokesman, he was "misquoted" on the precise casualty figures when questioned by the Kenyan military.[38]

Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari along with Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud made a three-day visit to Kenya to attend a ceremony in honor of the soldiers killed at the Moi army barracks in Eldoret, Kenya.[20]

On 22 January, the alleged mastermind of the El Adde attack and leader of the Al Shabaab "Abu Zubair battalion", Maalim Janow, was killed in retaliatory airstrikes according to Kenya's military.[3][6]

Cover-up edit

According to CNN, "to prevent details of what happened at El Adde from emerging, Kenya's government used a rarely enforced law prohibiting the distribution of images or information likely to cause public fear and alarm or undermine security operations. One local blogger who tweeted a photograph showing the aftermath of the attack was promptly arrested. He was later released without charge."

"There is clearly an attempt to mislead Kenyans and to hide the truth about what happened," said Patrick Gathara, a political commentator and cartoonist who lashed out at the KDF and Kenyan government in local newspapers after the attack. "It is being hidden to avoid accountability." "Who died for you in El Adde?" Gathara believes there is a deliberate attempt "to avoid accountability."Added Gathara, "It is all very deliberate and designed to avoid public demands for senior officials and officers to be held responsible for failures. "The truth about El Adde is being hidden from Kenyans, not from Al-Shabaab."

CNN reports, "Tellingly, Al-Shabaab's propaganda video uses the Kenyan authorities' own words against them, highlighting the inaccurate KDF press release sent in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and accusing the KDF of "distorting the truth and blatantly lying to their public." Analysts say the KDF's lack of transparency has only provided more fodder for Al-Shabaab's ideological battle."

"Although they cite national security reasons, what they end up doing is creating an opportunity for Al-Shabaab to propagandize their victories, perhaps exaggerate them," said Peter Pham, director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center."But there's no way of countering that narrative because there is no real narrative coming from the government."

"The AU [African Union] would be better served by contesting the Al-Shabaab narrative, not ceding ground to it," said Paul D. Williams, Associate Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, who specializes in reporting on peacekeeping missions. "Silence is not a winning strategy in the world of strategic communications," he told CNN in late January, shortly after the attack.[18]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Kenya troops killed by 'huge bomb' in Somalia attack - BBC News". BBC News. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Ohito, David. "How KDF fought 10-hour battle to save ill-fated camp". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b OHITO, CYRUS OMBATI and DAVID. "KDF soldiers kill Al Shabaab leader who plotted deadly raid". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b Gettleman, Jeffrey (12 April 2016). "Shabab and East African Front Militants Compete for Notoriety (Published 2016)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 January 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Kenya covers up military massacre". CNN. 31 May 2016. Archived from the original on 1 April 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "We believe we've killed mastermind of El Adde attack-KDF". 22 January 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Fugitive Kenyan al Shabaab terrorist resurfaces with more threats".
  8. ^ Kenya: Top Soldier Killed in El Adde Attack Laid to Rest
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Al-Shabab attacks African Union base in Somalia". Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d e Team, Standard. "New details of El Adde attack: Somali general claims KDF received pre-attack intelligence". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  11. ^ "The Star".
  12. ^ Gettleman, Jeffrey (20 January 2016). "Kenya Rattled as Shabab Turns Sights on Somalia Military Targets (Published 2016)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 26 January 2023.
  13. ^ "Brave and sharp major who led KDF to its worst ambush in Somalia".
  14. ^ a b No answers from Kenya on deaths of 150 troops
  15. ^ "UN releases number of KDF soldiers killed in El-Ade raid". Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Al-Shabaab commander Karatey who was behind El-Adde attack killed in KDF strike".
  17. ^ Somalia's al-Shabab killed '190 Kenyan troops'in el-Ade
  18. ^ a b c d e "Kenya covers up military massacre". 31 May 2016.
  19. ^ a b "Kenya: KDF Soldiers 'Will Fight On Until There Is Peace in Somalia'". Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  20. ^ a b "Nigeria and Somalia to honour Kenya's fallen soldiers in El Adde | Diplomat News Network". Archived from the original on 2 February 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Amisom releases photos of el Adde attack, says it is 'payback time'".
  22. ^ a b OLLINGA, SILAH KOSKEI AND MICHAEL. "DOD asks families of missing KDF soldiers to go for DNA tests to help identify bodies". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  23. ^ a b "What happened when al-Shabab attacked a Kenyan base in Somalia? - BBC News". BBC News. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  24. ^ a b c d Gettleman, Jeffrey (20 January 2016). "Kenya Rattled as Shabab Turns Sights on Somalia Military Targets". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  25. ^ Ohito, David. "Standard Digital News - Probe team seeks role of Somali troops in El Adde ambush". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  26. ^ Hussein, Abdikarim (11 April 2016). "Al-Shabaab release 48-minute propaganda video about El-Adde raid". - Kenya news. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  27. ^ "90 days on, Kenya remembers dawn raid on El Adde KDF base". The Star, Kenya. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  28. ^ "Somalia: Scores of Kenyan Soldiers Feared Dead". Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  29. ^ "Somali Militants Broadcast Voices of Captured Kenyan Soldiers After Attack on Military Base | VICE News". VICE News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  30. ^ a b Ombati, Cyrus. "Local clan in El Adde might have betrayed KDF". Standard Digital News. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  31. ^ "Bodies of Kenyan soldiers dragged through Somali streets after al-Shabaab attack on base". Retrieved 6 February 2016.
  32. ^ a b c "Video Surfaces of Brutal Assault on Kenyan Peacekeepers in Somalia | RECOIL". 23 April 2016. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  33. ^ "Kenyan troops withdraw from El Adde massacre camp in Somalia". The Star, Kenya. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  34. ^ "Kenya President: Al-Shabab Will Pay 'Heavy Price'". VOA. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  35. ^ " » Kenya's bishop offers condolences after soldiers killed by al-Shabab". Retrieved 4 February 2016.
  36. ^ "Somalia: Somali President Condemns Attack On KDF Base At El-Adde". Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  37. ^ "Somali leader: '200 Kenyan troops' dead in January raid". Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  38. ^ "I was misquoted, Somalia President says on report 200 KDF troops killed in El Adde". The Star, Kenya. Retrieved 28 February 2016.

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