'I escaped hell twice on road to Kismayu' - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 22 December 2019

'I escaped hell twice on road to Kismayu'

KDF troops
Soft-spoken Lance Corporal Eric Langat could be described as the epitome of soldiers’ resilience.
He has twice survived major attacks by the enemy in Miido and El-Adde camp in Somalia, but he remains ready to serve  in the defence of his country.
He has lived to tell his battlefront stories, especially the infamous El-Adde attack on a KDF Forward Operating Base.
On the fateful day, January 11, 2016, L/Cpl Langat had just taken over sentry duties.
It had been just 15 days since 9 KR’s D company had been redeployed to Somalia after two years of fighting al-Shabaab.
The outgoing sentries had informed them that sometime at about 10pm the previous night, they had observed vehicle movements in a distance near El-Adde town, which they thought were smugglers transporting sugar. At 4.20am, a vehicle’s headlights flashed in the camp’s direction briefly then went off. Shortly thereafter, a vehicle with the lights switched off hurtled towards the camp and breached the first defence.
L/Cpl Langat and his colleague unsuccessfully tried to stop it using Rocket-Propelled Grenade. The driver of the truck avoided the trenches before hitting a tree in the middle of the camp and detonating. The explosion blew up the whole camp, especially the location of the D company, where only one soldier survived.
The vehicle became a huge ball of fire that both illuminated the camp and blinded those within a 200-metre radius.
Then followed two more blasts.
“When I came to, the whole camp was in chaos. We continued to fire at the enemy both from in front and behind me, but the attackers were all over, including the kitchen. It was difficult trying to shoot inside the camp for fear of hitting colleagues,” recalls L/Cpl Langat.
Captain Mbau Gichuhi, the company’s second-in-command, quickly gathered about 15 soldiers who engaged the attackers in a gun battle.
On realising that defending their positions was no longer tenable, Lance Cpl Langat and some of his colleagues escaped through the same route breached by the vehicle. A colleague was shot from behind and injured and, to avoid being captured, shot himself dead.
A sergeant who had attempted to use the same route got entangled in the razor wire and died of injuries.
L/Cpl Langat later assembled 10 other soldiers and began their march to safety.  Seven of them insisted on using the road while he and three others resolved to move through the forest. The seven have never been found, but Cpl Langat’s group ran for 30 kilometres before one of the soldiers asked to be allowed to rest. He died while leaning against a tree.
“We said a prayer and reluctantly had to leave him behind and continued running until we came to a maize plantation. Then I remembered that I had a mobile phone, which we used to call for assistance. We managed to direct a rescue helicopter to our location and were rescued. I cried with relief when we landed in a Kenyan military camp.
Although L/Cpl Langat had previously survived an al-Shabaab attack two years before in Middo, where some of his colleagues lost their lives, his brush with death has not dimmed his resolve to defend the country whenever called upon.
On August 9, 2012, he and his 9 KR battalion entered Afmadhow, the oldest town in Somalia’s Lower Jubba, to no resistance from al-Shabaab. They set up camp and were visited by the Army Commander as they prepared for an advance to Miido.
On August 31, 2012, the jubilant troops entered Miido at about 3pm. In their quest to establish a proper defence, one platoon drove out of town for about a kilometre.
Shortly thereafter, an improvised explosive device blew the tyres of their Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) in what would turn out to be an ambush.
The APC’s driver drove the vehicle for 50 metres before Lance Cpl Langat and his colleagues, urged on by their commanding officer, engaged al-Shabaab in a two-hour battle.
Reinforcement arrived from Miido in Panards (armoured vehicles). One APC got stuck, forcing the troops to abandon it as the attackers approached. Lance Cpl Langat will forever remember his injured colleagues’ cries and the videos of the bodies of the two KDF soldiers being dragged on Kismayu streets by al-Shabaab.
The injured were evacuated the next day by helicopter to Dhobley and the Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi.
Three days later, a decision was made to hit the attackers’ position with mortars and bombs but there was resistance yet again.
The troops stayed in Miido for a week before advancing to Harbole, which they captured.

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