By Magdalene Mukami
The Somali-based al-Shabaab militant group Tuesday released over 100 images claiming to show the aftermath of last Friday’s attack on Kenyan peacekeeping troops in Somalia near the Kenyan border.
Via their pro-insurgent radio Andalus, the al-Qaeda-affiliated militants claimed that the graphic photos showing dozens of soldiers killed (67, the group said) and militants making away with military vehicles and weapons were indeed from the Jan. 27 attack at the town of Kulbiyow in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region. The Kenyan government has said the attack left nine soldiers dead.
Nairobi has yet to comment on the images, spread through Twitter, the Telegram smartphone messaging app, and other digital and social media tools.
Anadolu Agency spoke to George Musamali, a security analyst specializing in the East African region, on the authenticity of the images and the motive behind releasing them.
“Al-Shabaab is very good at propaganda. Every time they have attacked any military camp, they always come up with documentary evidence that they carried out these attacks,” he said.
“The message they are trying to convey is that we attacked this camp, overran the camp, a devastating blow to the Kenyan Defense Force, and drove away with their vehicles and equipment, so basically al-Shabaab are winning the propaganda war by putting these pictures on social media.”
Musamali said that Kenyans were shocked by the release of the pictures, as the Kenyan government had announced that it had overpowered and killed hundreds of militants.
“There is a very loud silence from the president of Kenya, he hasn’t talked about it.”
- No official death toll
Mentioning the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) that the peacekeeping troops were part of, he added, “There also is no official communication from AMISOM. Kenyans are annoyed and angry because no explanation is coming from the government. Just like when El Adde [Somalia] was hit, the official death toll was never released.”
At that January 2016 battle, more than 60 Kenyan troops were killed by al-Shabaab militants, but the Kenyan government did not release casualty figures.
Musamali urged the Kenyan government to give credible information on such attacks so people will “stop believing in what is being posted by al-Shabaab as opposed to believing their own government. The government should come out clearly and explain to Kenyans what happened -- let us be given the numbers just like developed countries do.”
Musamali said that even though it cannot be immediately verified if the pictures are from last Friday’s attack or previous ones, the government should investigate and let the public know what happened and who should be held accountable. This would improve the morale of the soldiers and ordinary Kenyans, he added.