NAIROBI (Reuters) - Kenyan police arrested three men suspected of trying to break into a British army camp in central Kenya on the same day Islamist insurgents attacked another base used by U.S. and Kenyan forces, according to a police report seen by Reuters.
The failed break-in at Laikipia, where the British army trains about 10,000 troops a year, was captured on a security camera. Three men were subsequently arrested at about 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Sunday and were being questioned by anti-terrorism officers, the police report said.
It is not clear whether the attempt to break into the British base was connected to the attack on the Camp Simba base in Manda Bay that killed three Americans. Somali Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab claimed responsibility for that attack early on Sunday and posted pictures of fighters posing next to planes in flames.
The deadly attack came only days after the United States said it was tightening security at its bases following threats from Iran to retaliate for a U.S. airstrike that killed its most prominent military commander.
The United States deployed additional military forces to Kenya on Monday to reinforce security at Manda Bay after Sunday’s attack, the military’s Africa Command said.
Al Shabaab contacted media organizations, including Reuters, to stress that Sunday’s attack was not connected to Iran.
“This Kenya attack has no connection with the Middle East attack. It is a fight between us and the U.S.,” said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations.
The insurgent group, which wants to oust Somalia’s U.N.-backed government, is now seeking to broaden its regional reach and reaffirm ties with al Qaeda, which it first pledged allegiance to in 2012, analysts said on Monday.
Al Shabaab has been recruiting Kenyans and other East Africans in a bid to launch more attacks beyond Somali borders, said Matt Bryden, the founder of Nairobi-based think-tank Sahan Research.
“We heard chatter three months ago that al Shabaab was planning intensive cross-border operations and had identified commanders to lead those operations,” Bryden said.
Al Shabaab used the phrase “Jerusalem will never be Judaized” when announcing Sunday’s attack on the Simba base at Lamu, on the Indian Ocean coast, and during an attack a year ago on the upscale Riverside hotel and office complex in Nairobi.
“That is likely a signal of continuing loyalty to al Qaeda,” said Bryden.
Kenyan security forces killed five attackers and arrested five following the early morning attack on Sunday, the military spokesman and Lamu county commissioner said on Monday.
Photographs circulating among security specialists and seen by Reuters showed five dead men in fatigues with military-standard boots sprawled on a concrete slab next to the insurgency’s trademark black flag and an assortment of weapons that included grenades and a machinegun.
The attackers managed to damage six planes and breach the perimeter of the base before being repulsed, U.S. Africa Command said in a statement late on Sunday. They killed a U.S. serviceman, two American contractors and wounded two Americans working for the Department of Defense, the statement said.
The Kenyan military does not typically release details of its casualties.
Tom Munyalo, an artist who has a workshop about 350 meters form the Simba base, told Reuters there had been an unusual power cut in his area that night.
He went outside at about 4 a.m. after hearing two vehicles approaching. They stopped briefly near his water tank to release a man who took off, running away from the base, he said.
Moments later, he heard gunfire and shouts of “Takbir! Takbir!” an Arabic expression for “God is greatest”.
Additional reporting by George Obulutsain Nairobi and Phil Stewart in Washington; Editing by David Clarke and Alex Richardson