The United States State Department has offered a $10 million reward for any information leading to the capture or conviction of al-Shabaab leader Maalim Ayman or any militants involved in the 2020 attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya, which left an American soldier and two American defense contractors dead.
Reward for Info on Maalim Ayman
Maalim Ayman, leader of an Al-Shabaab unit, helped prepare the attack that killed three U.S. citizens at a Kenyan military facility in Manda Bay, Kenya in January 2020.
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— Rewards for Justice (@RFJ_USA) January 5, 2023
Maalim Ayman, an ethnic Somali from Mandera County, is the leader of Jaysh Ayman, a unit within the al-Shabaab terror group that operates within Kenya. Over the past several years, the unit has launched attacks against civilians and Kenyan security forces in the coastal county of Lamu from hideouts in the area’s woodlands.
On January 5, 2020, dozens of Jaysh Ayman militants launched an early morning raid against the Magagoni Airfield, located near Manda Bay in Lamu. Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. of the Army’s 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group, was killed when an RPG struck a vehicle he was driving in. Meanwhile, two American defense contractors, identified as L3 Technologies pilots Dustin Harrison and Bruce Triplett, who were taxiing Beechcraft Super King Air were killed when their reconnaissance aircraft was hit by an RPG while on the runway. A third contractor was wounded in the strike, along with an American Marine and Kenyan soldier who were also wounded in the ensuing battle to hold the airport.
After several hours, the attack was repulsed, however, three ISR aircraft, two helicopters, and several support vehicles were destroyed in the fighting, which marked a win for militant propaganda. At least five militants were killed and several others were captured. In the weeks following the attack, the United States carried out a series of airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab, resulting in numerous militant casualties.
Investigations launched after the attack underscored several shortfalls in security and preparedness at the airfield, which Air Force Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox stated “Certain senior officers contributed to the inadequate force posture at Manda Bay and, to some extent, allowed a climate of complacency and poor understanding of the threat.” This was echoed by the Department of Defense, who announced that “The investigation and independent review further found that no single point of failure resulted in the loss of life and damage to property, and no single act or omission would have avoided the attack. However, several causal factors contributed to the attack, including inadequate force protection focus, inadequate understanding of the threat, inadequate security force preparation, and problems with mission command.”