NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenyan police say they arrested three “terrorist suspects” who tried to force their way into a British Army training camp on the same day al-Shabab extremists attacked a military base and killed three U.S. military personnel.
An internal police report seen by The Associated Press says the three men were arrested Sunday after trying to enter the British Army Training Unit in Laikipia county. The British army said in a statement that Kenyan police were investigating “suspicious activity” and that “we do not believe there was a direct threat to UK personnel or assets.”
Meanwhile new details emerged in the al-Shabab attack, the al-Qaida-linked group’s first assault against U.S. forces inside Kenya.
The attack at Manda Bay Airfield killed 23-year-old U.S. Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., the NBC affiliate in Chicago reported, citing a family statement. Two other Americans, contractors with the U.S. Department of Defense, were killed but their names have not been released.
No Kenyans were killed, Kenya’s military spokesman Paul Njuguna said Monday. Al-Shabab has vowed retribution for Kenyan troops fighting it in neighboring Somalia, where it is based.
Five U.S. aircraft, including fixed-wing and helicopters, were destroyed and one damaged in the hours-long assault at the airfield in coastal Lamu county, the U.S. Africa Command told the AP.
The U.S. military later said its East Africa Response Force had arrived to increase security there. It did not say how many troops were involved.
Photos shared with the AP by a security source showed the five dead al-Shabab attackers wearing military uniforms. It was not clear whether the uniforms were Kenyan or Somali. Some al-Shabab fighters have worn military uniforms in past attacks. The photos also showed an al-Shabab flag.
Also Monday the U.S. Africa Command asserted that several unverified social media sites, “some with links to Iran,” posted false claims of the death of its commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend, in the al-Shabab attack.
Al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaida and has no known links to Iran or its proxies.
A U.S. Africa Command spokesman, Col. Christopher Karns, told the AP that Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency was one originator of the message.
“It is important to note, U.S. Africa Command does not assess yesterday’s attack by al-Shabab is linked to Iran,” the spokesman added.
The U.S. statement posted on Twitter cited Townsend as saying “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” He called them an example of the “lies, propaganda and fake news” from al-Shabab and “other malign actors such as Iran and its proxies.”
Cara Anna reported from Johannesburg. Greg Katz in London contributed to this report.