How brave KDF soldiers stood up to Al-Shabaab
Kenyan soldiers captured during the January 15 attack by Al-Shabaab militants at El-Adde in Somalia were brave and unshaken in the face of certain death and unimaginable carnage.
Although most of them had suffered serious injuries in the attack, as shown in a propaganda video by the terror group, they stood their ground, exuding soldierly endurance and a degree of mental stamina that, in a valiant way, belied the bloodbath around them.
Among them was a soldier the Nation will only identify as Private EO out of respect for the family, who, though seriously injured and clearly bleeding to death, still goes out of his way to reassure his daughter back home.
Captured after their camp was overrun, EO seems to have been taken, alongside the rest of the captives, to a nearby settlement as a prisoner of war.
He has evidently lost a lot of blood, and as he is propped up against a mud-walled hut, he peers into the camera to tell his story.
He assures his family, including his wife and daughter — whom he also refers to as “my angel” — that all is well with him. But you can see that he is struggling to sit up. He has been shot in the abdomen and legs, has not been given any First Aid, and life appears to be draining out of him.
Another soldier, who only introduces himself as Private M, tells the Shabaab cameraman that he has been injured in battle, and that a number of his colleagues have been killed.
He then addresses his Commander-in-Chief, President Uhuru Kenyatta, asking him to ensure the families of his slain colleagues are taken care of.
Private M is surrounded by heavily armed gunmen as he narrates what happened at El-Adde. Seated in the middle of a dusty track, he leans to his right, looks into the camera, and tells his family not to expect him back.
The soldier is not shaken, even as he must have known that death was close. The cameraman moves to end the macabre interview, but Private M calls him back.
“Can I add something?” he asks, but then he corrects himself; choosing not to beg for the interview but to demand it.
“I can add anything I want,” he says, matter-of-factly, and with the courage of a man who is facing a bunch of village bullies, not an injured soldier who is surrounded by fanatics who have just killed tens of his colleagues.
“I can add anything. I want to tell my family not to expect me back.”
But, perhaps the most enduring image of courage in the face of certain death is an unnamed soldier who mows down the attackers using an armoured personnel carrier.
He, however, comes under a barrage of Rocket Propelled Grenade fire that lights up his vehicle, engulfing him in smoke. His vehicle disabled, he pops open the hatch and rises to survey the camp.
Tens of militants surround him, taunting him and waiting for him to raise his hands in surrender. Around him, the camp is on fire.
Al-Shabaab militants on open Landcruisers have shot thousands of bullets into the camp, fired tens, probably hundreds, of grenades into defence positions, and slaughtered his colleagues.
Now they have him in their gunsights, cornered, unarmed, and his carrier burning beneath his feet.
Instead, he scans the burning camp and just shakes his head. He does not raise his hands in surrender, and in the few seconds in which he stares into the tens of automatic rifle barrels pointed at him, you half-expect him to jump out and fight with his bare hands.
Tired of waiting, the first militant shoots a bullet into him. It jolts him, but he stands his ground, choosing to die on his feet and defiant, than surrender to an enemy who has slaughtered his comrades.
Only after several other attackers shoot him does he eventually collapse into the bowels of the burning vehicle. He remains the tragic but valiant poster boy of the Kenyan mission at El-Adde.
The Al-Shabaab video is shot by a cameraman who is clearly not in the first wave of attackers, so there is no record of the main fighting for the camp. It is professionally done, with great care given to display KDF but not Al Shabaab casualties.