Suicide bombers attacked Western soldiers in Djibouti

According to Djiboutian officials, the May 24 blast that killed one person and wounded more than a dozen, including French, Spanish, and Danish military personnel and civilian contractors, was not caused by a grenade attack as initially reported, but instead was the result of two suicide bombers. From SKY News:

“According to the initial indications from the investigation, the three dead include two suicide bombers of Somali origin, a man and a veiled woman. Out of the wounded, four are in a serious condition,” the agency quoted the [Djiboutian] interior ministry as saying.

The attack targeted La Chaumiere, a restaurant reported to have been packed with westerners.

The suicide attack was very likely carried out by Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, or the Muslim Youth Center, a Kenya-based group that has sworn allegiance to Shabaab and al Qaeda.

The attack, the first of its kind reported in Djibouti, further indicates that Shabaab is continuing to expand its operations beyond Somalia and strike at Western forces throughout the region. In a Shabaab attack in July 2010, two suicide bombers killed 74 people as they watched the World Cup at a bar in Kampala, Uganda. 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 another attack, 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, including several Westerners, during the attack.

Djibouti has been a major hub for Western counterterrorism missions in Somalia and Yemen, and anti-piracy efforts in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Yemen, and Indian Ocean.

In addition to basing naval and air forces, and conventional and special operations troops at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, the US also flies Reapers drones from the base. The drones based at Camp Lemonnier are thought to have killed senior Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in Somalia and Yemen.

Djibouti also provides troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM. Hundreds of Djiboutian troops battle Shabaab in Somalia on a regular basis.

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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