U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force is now in Manda Bay, Kenya to bolster security of U.S. forces there — following an attack at the Kenya Defense Force Military Base that took the lives of one U.S. service member and two Department of Defense contractors on Sunday.
“The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force,” U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM’s director of operations, said in a news release Monday. “The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need.”
The EARF falls under the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa and is designed to respond to a variety of military operations, including providing humanitarian assistance or safeguarding Americans and diplomatic facilities in AFRICOM’s area of operations.
Al-Shabab, an offshoot of al-Qaida, attacked U.S. and Kenyan troops in Manda Bay on Sunday in what AFRICOM described as an indirect and small arms fire. According to the command, reports suggest that six contractor-operated civilian aircraft suffered damage during the attack.
AFRICOM also announced hours following the attack that a U.S. service member and two contractors had died during the confrontation. The command also said that two other Defense Department officials were injured and remain in a stable condition.
Although the Pentagon has not yet released the identity of the deceased U.S. service member, a local news outlet reported through an interview with family that the service member was Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., of Illinois.
His mother Carmoneta said in an interview with NBC 5 that she spoke with Mayfield on New Years and that he guaranteed her that he was safe.
“We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base,” Carmoneta told NBC 5. “He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me.”
On Monday, AFRICOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Townsend rejected reports from outlets including Iran’s Fars new agency that claimed he had died in the attack on Sunday.
“Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated,” Townsend said. “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.”
Even so, AFRICOM said it doesn’t believe the attack was connected to unrest occurring Iran, but noted that countries including Iran have sought to boost their influence in the Horn of Africa.