Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, launched a suicide assault today against Somalia’s parliament building in its latest attack in the capital of Mogadishu. The suicide assault took place just two days after Shabaab vowed to step up attacks in Mogadishu.
The Shabaab suicide assault team detonated a car bomb at one of the gates to Somalia’s parliament building. The blast took place in front of a mosque, according to Garowe. The car bomb was followed by a suicide bomber and a team of gunmen who entered the compound and attacked Somali and African Union forces guarding the compound, Reuters reported.
Shabaab forces battled the Somali and African Union forces for hours before being killed. Ten Somali soldiers and policemen and seven Shabaab fighters died during the shootout. Fourteen people, including four members of parliament, are said to have been wounded during the fighting.
Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed the attack at the parliament building.
“We are behind the suicide bombing, explosions and the fighting inside the so-called Somali parliament house,” he told Reuters. “We killed 30 from the AU (African Union) and from the various forces of the so-called Somali government,” Abu Musab claimed.
Today’s assault on Somalia’s parliament took place just two days after Ali Mohamed Hussein, or Ali Jabal, Shabaab’s commander in Banadir, a region that includes Mogadishu, threatened to step up attacks in the capital. Hussein made the claim on Radio Andulus, Shabaab’s radio station that continues to broadcast, Garowe reported.
Shabaab has been making a push to regain control of areas of the capital after being ousted during an African Union and Somali offensive that began in 2012.
In the past, Shabaab has shown it can penetrate security at the heavily protected areas in the capital and carry out deadly attacks. AMISOM, Somali government and military officials, and nongovernmental organizations have been the targets of Shabaab suicide assaults and bombings. In one such incident, in September of 2012, three suicide bombers attacked Somalia’s president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at a hotel in Mogadishu.
In June 2013 a Shabaab suicide team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu. Several UNDP employees were killed and Shabaab briefly took over the compound.
In February of this year, Shabaab launched two suicide bombings and assaults. On Feb. 14, a suicide bomber killed seven people in an attack that targeted a United Nations convoy as it traveled through Mogadishu. And on Feb. 21, a suicide assault team killed several soldiers while attempting to storm the presidential compound, which is close to parliament.
Shabaab has also executed suicide attacks outside Somalia’s borders. In July 2010, a double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda killed 74 people. It was carried out by a suicide cell called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as Shabaab’s military commander before he was killed in a US special operations raid in September 2009.
In September 2013, a Shabaab suicide assault team took control of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya for four days before being killed by Kenyan security forces. Shabaab’s assault team killed 63 people during the attack.
Although Shabaab abandoned Mogadishu, Kismayo, and other large cities in Somalia after a combined African Union, Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Somali offensive, it still controls several major towns and cities along the coast between Kismayo and Mogadishu, including Jilib and Baraawe, as well as other rural areas throughout the country.
Shabaab and its Kenyan branch, the Muslim Youth Center, formally joined al Qaeda in February 2012. The east African terror groups were closely tied to al Qaeda for years prior, however; Shabaab leaders had openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda long before the official merger.
Al Qaeda and its branches and allies have carried out numerous suicide assaults such as the one in Somalia today in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, and Niger.