Two majors and four lieutenants are among 15 Kenya Defence Forces officers who have been killed in the last 100 days since Kenya sent its troops to Somalia. In their quest to take over Dhobley, Ras Kamboni, Beles Qooqani, Tabda, Amuma, Buale, Dheere, Oddo, Fafadun, Afmadhow, Afgoye, Jilib, Dinsoor and Bardheere, Kenyan troops have paid the ultimate price.
Maj Samuel Keli Kavindu and Maj Kizito Wahiza Nyamohanga of the Joint Helicopter Command are the most senior Kenyan military officers to die since 'Operation Linda Nchi' was launched in October. The two were both commissioned as army officers in 1997. They died when a helicopter they were travelling in crashed at a military base near Liboi Primary School on the night of October 16, last year at about 7pm, close to 14 kilometres from the Kenya-Somalia border.
Operation Linda Nchi spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir said the helicopter developed mechanical problems and crashed before exploding. Defence minister Yusuf Haji yesterday paid tribute to the fallen soldiers and thanked Kenyans for supporting the war against the al Shabaab militia. "We are all mourning the death of these gallant soldiers who fought for their country. We send our heartfelt condolence to their families. We thank all Kenyans for the support they give to our forces on the warfront that gives them the morale to continue with the mission," Haji said in Addis Ababa where he was on an official visit.
The Kenyan military spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna on Saturday termed their deaths as the ultimate price a soldier pays in his or her duty to protect the country from its enemies. “They stood in between the al Shabaab bullet and the Kenyan citizen. We are proud of them,” Oguna said at a briefing at police headquarters.
Corporal Francis Muli Solovea who was enlisted into the military in 1987; Corporal Noel Kipkurgat Kipkosiam enlisted in 1994; and Corporal Francis Imenyi Languchia enlisted in 1994, who were all attached to the Joint Helicopter Command, also died in the crash that claimed the first casualties in the war against al Shabaab. Lieutenant K.A Webi of the 1st Kenya Rifles who was commissioned into the Kenya Defence Forces as an army officer in May 2009 died in the line of duty on January 22 when his unit conducted a raid on al Shabaab camps in Delbiyow and Hosingow.
Another officer who was injured in the same incident and had been undergoing treatment at the hospital, Lieutenant Edward Okoyo attached to the 3rd Kenya Rifles. Also later died. He had only served for one-and-a-half years. He had been commissioned into the Kenya Defence Forces on June 30, 2010. Four AK-47 rifles, a large amount of ammunition, communication equipment and a collapsible water tank were recovered during the raid in which 11 al Shabaab fighters were reportedly killed.
Raymond Kirui, attached to 7 Kenya Rifles, and who joined the Kenya Defence Forces on October 25, 2010 died on November 24, last year when the vehicle he and 13 other soldiers were travelling in drove over an improvised explosive device in Bulla Garaay area near Mandera. Four of his colleagues were seriously injured and airlifted to Garissa hospital for treatment.
Lieutenant Evans Kipkorir Ngetich is another senior military officer who was killed by al Shabaab during fighting around Tabda area. He was attached to the 76th Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion. Six al Shabaab fighters were also killed in the incident. Kenya Defence Forces troops moving from Beles Qooani to Dhobley came into contact with al Shabaab fighters and a fierce gun battle ensued during which the senior officer sustained fatal injuries. Two other soldiers were also injured.
Lance Corporal Willie Njoroge attached to the 1st Kenya Rifles died during a confrontation between his unit and al Shabaab fighters in Somalia on December 29 last year. His unit had raided the al Qaeda linked insurgents base south of Beles Qooqani when he was killed. Five al Shabaab fighters were killed and many others injured during the incident. He joined he Kenya Defence Forces on August 3, 2002.
Others who have been killed are Yusuf Abdullah Korio, a private in the 15th Kenya Rifles. Korio joined the military in 1992 and died during combat on December 22 last year when during fighting between Tabda and Dhobley. Ronald Kipkemboi Kiptui, who joined the army on October 29, 2007 and was attached to the 7th Kenya Rifles, died on December 3, last year.
Two Kenya Navy officers, bombardier Edward Kiboi Mugo and gunner Kevin Mgogoyo Wamai, both of the 77 Artillery, drowned at sea on October 1 and October 2 when their boat capsized in the Indian Ocean. Mugo joined the military in 1994 while Wamai had served in the military since April 27, 2009.
One other officer, Philip Onyango, from the same unit is still presumed missing at sea since the incident. The Kenya Defence Forces has in its medical scheme a system of compensating the families of soldiers who die in the line of duty apart from taking care of the burial arrangements. The family of the dead soldier is always the first to receive the news after his or her seniors. This is done by a team of officers who are dispatched to the deceased soldier's home to personally break the news.
Policemen and civilians have also been killed in grenade or improvised explosive device either lobbed into buildings or planted on roads. KDF entered Somalia in October with a mission to weaken and destroy al Shabaab militia. The militia have termed Kenya's entry an act of war and threatened to retaliate. They have so far claimed responsibility for a number of attacks within Kenya that have left several people, mainly civilians, dead.