Army specialist from Chicago area was among three Americans killed in Kenya attack
STUTTGART, Germany — A U.S. Army specialist from the Chicago area 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. “He loved his family and spending quality time with his siblings,” Mayfield’s mother, Carmoneta, told NBC 5 Sunday evening.
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."
She also thanked hundreds of well-wishers on Facebook, asking them to keep her family in their prayers.
Mayfield joined the Army in June 2018, NBC 5 reported. His Facebook page lists him stationed at Fort Rucker, Ala.
U.S. Africa Command on Monday said a quick reaction force based out of Djibouti has arrived at the scene of the attack in Kenya to augment security at the Manda Bay airfield. The unit, known as the East Africa Response Force, arrived on Sunday.
Mayfield and two Defense Department contractors were killed in Kenya after their military base was overrun by al-Shabab fighters. The Pentagon, which waits until at least 24 hours after notification of next of kin, 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 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.
“The aircraft were a combination of fixed wing and rotary,” Navy Lt. Christina M. Gibson said in a statement.
Six contractor-operated civilian aircraft were also damaged, AFRICOM said.
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.
The al-Qaida-linked group’s aim is to overthrow the central government in Somalia, where U.S. troops have been deployed over the last several years to train the Somali army to counter the militants. The U.S. conducted 63 airstrikes against militants in Somalia last year.
While al-Shabab hasn’t demonstrated an ability to launch attacks outside of Africa yet, AFRICOM officials have said the group has ambitions to do so and poses a threat to western interests beyond Somalia’s borders.