A Djibouti-based U.S. Army response force has been dispatched to a military base in Kenya to bolster security after an attack Sunday by al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab killed an American soldier and two Department of Defense contractors.
The Defense Department on Monday identified the soldier killed in Manda Bay as Spc. Henry J. Mayfield Jr., 23, from Evergreen Park, Illinois. He had been assigned to the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group in Fort Rucker, Alabama, and was supporting Operation Octave Shield, the code name for the U.S. mission targeting terrorist groups in Somalia.
Mayfield is the seventh member of the U.S. armed forces to be killed in combat in Africa since 2017.
In Sunday’s dawn attack, claimed by Al-Shabaab, terrorists briefly breached the perimeter at the base, located at a coastal airfield about 60 miles from the border with Somalia.
The terrorists were then repelled by U.S. and Kenyan forces, but Mayfield was killed, along with the two contractors, not yet named. U.S. Africa Command said two other DoD officials had been injured in the attack, during which contractor-operated civilian aircraft had reportedly been damaged.
The Kenyan Defense Forces said later the bodies of five terrorists had been recovered.
After the attack, messages posted on social media accounts, some of them linked to the Iranian regime, claimed that AFRICOM’s commander, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend had been killed in the attack.
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Townsend said on Twitter on Monday morning. “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.”
At a time of significant tensions with Iran, AFRICOM said it does not believe the attack was linked to Iran – despite claims to that effect in “various open source reports.”
“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,” it said.
After Sunday’s attack, AFRICOM’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) was dispatched to Manda to secure the airfield, where the military says U.S. forces provide training to African partners, respond to crises, and protect U.S. interests in the area.