Somali troops defeat suicide attack on Mogadishu port

Somali troops narrowly averted a potentially devastating Shabaab suicide attack at the main seaport in Mogadishu today.

A Shabaab fighter hijacked a fuel tanker and forced the driver at gunpoint to ram the security checkpoint at the seaport, Reuters reported. Somali troops shot out the tires of the truck and fired into the cab as well, wounding the driver and suicide bomber.

The suicide bomber was found with a bag packed with explosives. A Somali police officer told Reuters that the Shabaab fighter clearly had tried to detonate the bomb at the seaport. The extent of damage the blast would have created is undetermined, as the fuel truck was empty.

The attack in Mogadishu is the second in three days by the al Qaeda-linked Shabaab against a vital installation protected by African Union and Somali forces. On Sept. 9, a five-man suicide assault team penetrated security at Mogadishu International Airport and came within 200 meters of the terminal. Five Shabaab fighters, two African Union troops, and three civilians were killed during the fighting.

The airport and seaport are among the handful of installations under the control of the weak Transitional Federal Government and African Union troops. These two facilities are the main conduits for aid and supplies to African Union and Somali forces.

The African Union has expected an attack on the seaport since early April. At that time, an African Union spokesman said intelligence indicated that Shabaab was “preparing trucks in the lower Shabelle region for suicide attacks” and that the terror group was also planning an attack from the sea.

Today’s attempted suicide assault is the third in Mogadishu in three weeks. In addition to the Sept. 9 attack at the airport, a Shabaab suicide assault team killed 28 people, including six members of parliament and five soldiers, in an attack on a hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Aug. 23.

Shabaab has also carried out one suicide attack outside of Somalia’s borders this summer: the July 11 double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people. The suicide cell that carried out the attack is called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade and is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as the military commander for Shabaab before being killed in a US special operations raid in September 2009.

Shabaab has carried out 24 major suicide attacks in Somalia since September 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union usurped control of the government (the Islamic Courts was ousted from power in an invasion by Ethiopian forces in December 2006). Several of the attacks have been carried out by American and British citizens who had left their home countries to join Shabaab.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Peacemaker says:

    Is this a sign that the Government in Mogadishu and the AU are becoming more able to prevent or avert attacks from Shabaab & consorts?

  • kp says:

    Given: “A Somali police officer told Reuters that the Shabaab fighter clearly had tried to detonate the bomb at the seaport. The extent of damage the blast would have created is undetermined, as the fuel truck was empty.”

    It also seems to be a sign that the ability to prep and build VBIEDs is lacking in Mogadishu.

    An empty tanker? Their recon didn’t provide them with a full fuel tanker? This is a huge mistake.

    Retaining the original driver? They can’t find a suicide enabled truck driver rather than dragging one off the street? Clearly this is a big weakness as a choice between certain death in a bombing and possible death escaping you know which option the driver might take.

    The main charge failed to detonate? Well, that’s IED making 101: switches, battery, blasting cap, explosives. It’s a suicide bombing they guy has to flip two switches and bang. How difficult is that to make work? Bad wiring (i.e. bad testing)? Bad blasting cap? Bad DetCord? Bad assembly?

    Did the recent “mysterious” safe house explosion deprive Al Shabaab of some of their better bomb makers and planners? This sounds like a hurried idea put into action by minor league players. Plus some quick action by UNISOM though I’m surprised that the driver and bomber survived: the goal to stop this sort of VBIED has to be to make sure the driver/bomber dies promptly.

  • noa says:

    i think you’re making a few to many assumptions from this failed operation.
    by pure luck a bullet could have hit the power supply, the det cord, a wire, the assembly, whatever! hence the failed initiation.
    although i agree that though their op failed, that says nothing about their capabilities (or persistence), which is what matters and what is concerning.
    also, sadly i disagree with you on the driver TTP. who do the guards shoot at first? not the passenger.
    this could have been nothing more than a target of opportunity or a test run.
    don’t underestimate and assume.
    great site, keep it up. I hope the first poster is correct.

  • kp says:

    “don’t underestimate and assume.”

    I’m not assuming anything about the empty tanker. That’s a fact. Poor planning failing to verify they could get a full tanker. Even if the bomb had gone off it wouldn’t have had quite the effect they wanted.

    My point was in this attack there are multiple weaknesses in this attack. I don’t assume they’re supermen either. They made mistakes this time. That’s a valid and curious observation.

  • crusader says:

    kp: what is the meaning of your post?
    this war is a sordid one, do you say that you mock their bombmaking skills to blow themselves to bits?
    if the al queda backed al shaabab wins then this will be the new haven for al queada since yemen and the two -stan are very unstable. it will of course be easier to pick of foreign targets that have lighter skin but perhaps thats a “racist” assumption…?


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