Shabaab suicide bombers conducted a coordinated assault against an African Union peacekeeper base in Mogadishu. The deputy military commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was among the nine people killed in the attack.
The suicide bombers entered the AMISOM military compound in Mogadishu driving two white vehicles with United Nations markings, Reuters reported. The two UN-marked vehicles, which were looted from a compound in Baidoa, were followed by two truckloads of Somali troops.
“We thought they were real UN cars carrying white people, but moments later deafening thunder shook the ground,” a witness at the compound told Reuters. “The area was covered with flames and clouds of smoke.”
The drivers of the car “spoke English and identified themselves as being from the United Nations,” Somalia’s information minister said.
Shabaab had good intelligence on when and how to launch the attack. The attack took place as AMISOM commanders were meeting with senior Somalia officials at the compound, and the attackers entered the compound with ease.
The suicide attack resulted in the top two AMISOM commanders being killed or wounded. Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, the deputy commander for AMISOM and the commander of Burundian forces in Somalia, was killed, while General Nathan Mugisha, the AMISOM commander, was lightly wounded, Mareeg reported.
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia and East Africa, took credit for the attack and claimed it was launched in response to the US killing of a senior Shabaab leader earlier this week.
“We have got our revenge for our brother Nabhan. Two suicide car bombs targeting the AU base, praise Allah,” Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told Reuters. “We knew the infidel government and AU troops planned to attack us after the holy month. This is a message to them.”
US Navy SEALs killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa as well as a senior leader in Shabaab, during a raid in Barawe on Sept. 14. The SEALs recovered Nabhan’s body; eight other Afghan and Shabaab fighters were also killed in the attack.
Shabaab leaders quickly vowed to avenge Nabhan’s death. “Muslims will retaliate against this unprovoked attack,” a leader of the group told AFP. “The United States is Islam’s known enemy and we will never expect mercy from them, nor should they expect mercy from us.”
Shabaab and the allied Islamist group Hizbul Islam have been relentless in attacking African Union peacekeepers and Somali government forces stationed in the capital of Mogadishu. The government and AMISOM control only a few enclaves in the city.
Outside of Mogadishu, the central government wields little control. Shabaab and Hizbul Islam currently control almost all of the southern and many of the central provinces of Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba, Lower Shabelle, Gedo, Bay, and Bakool.
The central Somali districts of Middle Shabelle, Hiran, and Galgadud are considered contested, with the government and allied Islamist groups in nominal control of some areas.
Not only do Shabaab and Hizbul Islam reject the African Union presence in Somalia, the groups also reject President Sharif and his faction of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia – Djibouti for reconciling with the Somali government. From 2006 until early 2007, Sharif was the co-leader of the now-defunct Islamic Courts Union with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of Hizbul Islam. Aweys has close links to al Qaeda and has been listed by the US Treasury Department as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
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