Shortly after battling African Union forces in the Daynile district in Mogadishu on Oct. 20, Shabaab released photographs and then later a video of scores of corpses of what appeared to be African Union soldiers who were slain during the battle. Shabaab claimed killing more than 70 African Union troops, but the African Union claimed the images were “faked.” We now learn that Shabaab did indeed kill more than 70 African Union troops. From The New York Times:
Oct. 20 was a particularly bad day. Shortly after dawn, several hundred peacekeepers marched into Deynile, one of the last Shabab strongholds in Mogadishu.
“It started off easy, too easy,” groaned Cpl. Arcade Arakaza, a Burundian peacekeeper, from a hospital bed in Nairobi.
There was little resistance, with a few Shabab fighters fleeing in front of them. Civilians smiled from the bullet-riddled doorways, saying things like, “Don’t worry, Shabab finished.”
But suddenly the entire neighborhood opened up on the peacekeepers with assault rifles, belt-fed machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, “women, kids, everyone,” Corporal Arakaza said. It was a classic envelope trap, with the Shabab drawing the peacekeepers deeper into their lair, sealing off the escape routes and then closing in from all sides.
Dozens of peacekeepers were wounded, including Corporal Arakaza, who was shot through the groin, and more than 70 killed in the span of a few minutes. But the African Union soldiers clawed back, eventually capturing a chunk of Shabab territory.
The NYT reports that more than 500 African Union troops from Burundi and Uganda have been killed in the four years since the “peacekeepers” deployed. Their mission intensified when Ethiopia withdrew from Mogadishu in 2009 after occupying the Somali capital for just over two years.
The NYT article claims that African Union forces have made significant progress in the four years since they have been in Mogadishu. But despite recent gains due to Shabaab’s withdrawal from several districts in the capital, the al Qaeda-linked terror group still controls several areas (Daynile is still under Shabaab control, for instance). And the Kenyan military, which invaded southern Somalia nearly six weeks ago, still hasn’t seized Afmadow and Kismayo, two major Shabaab strongholds. Ethiopia has even rejoined the fight, sending troops in from the west (the scope of the current Ethiopian involvement is still unclear; it appears one or two battalions of Ethiopian troops have entered the country).