A U.S. Army specialist was among three Americans killed in a weekend attack by al-Qaida-aligned militants in Kenya, according to his family.
Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, from the Chicago suburb of Hazel Crest, was killed in the Sunday morning attack, his family told Chicago’s NBC affiliate.
Mayfield’s mother, Carmoneta, told NBC 5 Sunday evening: "He loved his family and spending quality time with his siblings."
She said she last spoke with her son on New Year’s Day over FaceTime.
"We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base," Carmoneta Mayfield told the network. "He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me."
Mayfield and two Defense Department contractors were killed in Kenya after their military base was overrun by al-Shabab fighters. The Pentagon has not yet released the names of the victims.
Two other Defense Department personnel were injured in the attacks at the Kenyan military’s Manda Bay airfield. They were in stable condition and evacuated for treatment, officials said.
The U.S. has about 200 troops in Kenya and roughly 100 nonuniformed personnel. Manda Bay airfield also is near Camp Simba, where other American troops are based. The small outposts play a role in U.S. counterterrorism operations in Somalia, where al-Shabab has been waging a yearslong insurgency against a U.S.-backed government.
The pre-dawn raid happened early Sunday at Manda Bay Airfield, a base shared by U.S. and Kenyan forces near Nairobi. The militants stormed the Kenyan compound with indirect and small-arms fire, U.S. Africa Command said. The fighters overran the base but U.S. and Kenyan forces eventually repelled the attack.
Five U.S. aircraft were destroyed and one was damaged during the attack.
On Monday, Kenyan police also arrested three men who tried to force their way into a British army training camp in Kenya, The Associated Press reported. The attempted breach of the British base happened at about the same time the U.S. forces came under attack, the AP said.
Al-Shabab has carried out attacks in Kenya in the past, but this marks the first time U.S. military personnel have been killed in the country.