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Somali Militants Broadcast Voices of Captured Kenyan Soldiers After Attack on Military Base

Al Shabaab claims to have taken 12 soldiers after hostage its fighters overran a military base near the Kenyan border, killing dozens and looting weapons.
A Kenyan soldier takes position during a gunfight near the border with Somalia in April 2015. (Photo by Dai Kurokawa/EPA)

The Somali militant group al Shabaab said on Sunday that it captured several Kenyan soldiers during an attack last week on military bases in western Somalia, near the country's border with Kenya.

The group, which did not say how many soldiers were held after Friday's assault in El Adde, also said in a statement that more than 100 Kenyan soldiers were killed, revising up the number from the more than the 63 dead it had previously claimed.

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Kenya has not given casualty figures beyond saying both sides sustained losses. A top Kenyan commander said on Sunday the army was conducting "search and rescue" operations without specifically saying if they were looking for captured soldiers.

"Mujahideen fighters … stormed the Kenyan base in the early hours of Friday morning, killing more than 100 Kenyan invaders, seizing their weapons and military vehicles and even capturing Kenyan soldiers alive," al Shabaab said in a statement.

Related: Somali Militant Group al Shabaab Uses Donald Trump in Video to Recruit New US Followers

Live From Mogadishu, a Twitter account by a freelance journalist in Somalia's capital who tracks al Shabaab activity, reported that 12 Kenyan soldiers had been captured. Three of the captives were described as being wounded, with two sustaining critical injuries.

The alleged voices of two of the captured soldiers were reportedly broadcast on an al Shabaab radio network on Sunday morning. The captives identified themselves as Isaack Balewa, 50, and Lawrence Kamau, 30, and said they had only been serving in Somalia for two weeks when they were captured.

BREAKING: #AlShabaab's Radio Andalus broadcasting audio massages of alleged #KDF soldiers captured in El-Adde attack, they speaking English.

— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) January 17, 2016

1st alleged #KDF soldier says his name is Lawrence Rinui Kamau, 30-yrs old from #Kenya's Kiambu County & captured by #AlShabaab in El-Adde.

— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) January 17, 2016

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2nd alleged #KDF soldier says his name is Isaack Balewa, 50 yrs old. Has a wife & several children. He's captured by #AlShabaab in El-Adde.

— Live From Mogadishu (@Daudoo) January 17, 2016

Kenyan Defence Minister Raychelle Omamo said Kenya was striking back and would pursue the attackers. She spoke to reporters at a Nairobi airport where four wounded soldiers arrived back for treatment.

"This attack will not rest unanswered," she said. "We have engaged the perpetrators decisively and remain in full pursuit of them."

The African Union's AMISOM force, which includes Kenyans, along with Somali troops have driven al Shabaab from major strongholds in Somalia in a wave of offensives. But the group still controls some rural areas and frequently launches attacks saying it wants to drive out the "invaders."

Related: Kenyan College Reopens Months After al Shabaab Attack That Killed 148

General Samson Mwathethe, chief of the defence forces, said Friday's attack struck the Somali National Army base and an AMISOM base that was located in the same place, near El Adde, a town in the southwestern Gedo region. The attackers used vehicles packed with explosives and suicide bombers. The militants reportedly pulled weapons and ammunition from the military base, and paraded the bodies of dead soldiers through the streets.

Mwathethe said the attack was launched against a company-sized force of soldiers, without making clear if this was the size of the Kenyan contingent in the area or the mixed force. A military company can range between 80 to 250 soldiers.

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"Our priority now is to make sure that we conduct the search, rescue and recovery for the ones who are not in the camp but are elsewhere. We are trying to search for them, rescue them and recover them," Mwathethe said without saying if they were captured.

The general said he would not release details for security reasons. "We have engaged the enemy and severely degraded him," he added.

Related: US Citizen Defects from al Shabaab as Group Contends with Competing Islamic State

Al Shabaab often cites higher figures for death tolls than those given by officials, who usually play down the numbers. There was no independent death toll.

Al Shabaab said the attack was in retaliation for the Kenyan "invasion of Muslim lands."

President Uhuru Kenyatta has repeatedly said he would not be coerced into withdrawing Kenyan forces from Somalia, saying the troops are protecting Kenya.

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