Fighters from Shabaab’s “Saleh al Nabhani Battalion” after the battle
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has released several photos showing the aftermath of last week’s attack on an African Union base in southern Somalia. The photos add credence to the jihadist group’s claim of a high body count.
In the assault last week, Shabaab said its “Saleh al Nabhani Battalion” launched an attack on the base, which hosted Kenyan troops. The coordinated assault began with a suicide bombing, followed by an assault team breaching the perimeter of the base. The strike left at least 60 Kenyan soldiers dead, but Shabaab later claimed killing 100 and the actual number is unknown. In the photos released by the jihadist group, over 65 bodies are shown strewn across the perimeter of the base.
Kenya initially denied its base was attacked, but a Somali official later contradicted this. The photos also show all Kenyan bodies and captured Kenyan troops, confirming that it was indeed a Kenyan base that was targeted. Another Somali official also confirmed to the BBC that 13 Kenyan troops fled the base during the battle and reached safety in a nearby village. The claims that Shabaab made of capturing “over 30 vehicles and large quantities of weapons, ammunition, and military gear” is also confirmed in the photo report. Most of the photos in the report are too graphic to be published at The Long War Journal.
The “Saleh al Nabhani Battalion” is named after the senior Al Qaeda East Africa operative of the same name. Al Nabhani was wanted by the FBI for his involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania before being killed by US forces in Somalia in 2009. The Kenyan jihadist was also wanted for his involvement in a 2002 strike on an Israeli hotel and an airliner in Mombasa.
Shabaab has been able to mount attacks in the region despite the presence of a large African Union mission in Somalia. The jihadist group has also launched numerous suicide assaults on heavily guarded hotels in Mogadishu last year and today’s beach attack. It has also continuously targeted African Union troops in southern Somalia and has taken back some territory in the process. The jihadist group has also been able to mount attacks in the central part of Somalia and into neighboring Kenya, as well. In late November, Shabaab said its forces temporarily took control over a Kenyan town bordering Somalia.
Photos released by Shabaab. Some photos may be graphic:
Captured Kenyan troops: