Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, has reportedly killed more than 50 Burundian troops stationed at an African Union base in the southern Somalian town of Leego. The Burundian forces are part of AMISOM, or the African Union Mission in Somalia.
The African Union (AU) base in Leego, which is northeast of the capital of Mogadishu, came under attack last night after a suicide bomber detonated near the facility. After the explosion, an assault team was able to enter the compound, killing dozens.
Suicide assaults are a common tactic used by jihadists, such as al Qaeda, its rival the Islamic State, the Taliban, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Boko Haram. These type of attacks are common in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria, and in Somalia.
The Guardian has quoted witnesses saying that “as many as 50 bodies” were found in the base after the assault. Some witnesses have said some bodies were beheaded, but this claim has not yet been confirmed. Other reports have put the body count closer to 70 Burundian troops. According to The Guardian, only 100 Burundian soldiers were in the base.
A statement released by Shabaab on the radio station Al Andalus, which is affiliated to the jihadist group, said that its forces were able to capture many light and heavy weapons. Shabaab also claimed it was able to take full control over the site and that its flag now flies over the base. Radio Al Furqan, another Shabaab-linked station, is claiming that the jihadist group’s fighters also captured several vehicles and that “senior Shabaab members” gave a sermon to nearby civilians.
Somali media has reported that several Burundian soldiers and Somali civilians are still unaccounted for and are feared to have been kidnapped. There have also been reports that as many as 15 suicide bombers were deployed in the assault, but these claims cannot be independently verified by The Long War Journal.
Ambassador Maman Sidikou, the AU’s Special Representative to Somalia, has released a statement condemning the attack and expressing his condolences to the people of Burundi.
“This attack will not diminish our resolve to continue to support the Somali Government and people until they are free from terrorism,” Sidikou said. He ended the statement by saying that AMISOM will continue to conduct joint operations with Somali troops to “liberate other parts of Somalia still under Al Shabaab domination in order to pacify the entire country so that the Somali people can go about their day-to-day life and business in peace and in freedom.”
One Shabaab statement from Radio Al Andalus indicated that this attack was undertaken by the “Sheikh Abu Zubayr Battalion,” which is named after the former emir of Shabaab who was killed in a US drone strike last year.
The Sheikh Abu Zubayr Battalion was also behind the attack on Ethiopian troops last week in southern Somalia. More than 60 Ethiopian troops are said to have been killed in the assault. Shabaab has released several images from what it describes as the “ambush” of the Ethiopian forces. [See LWJ report Shabaab claims to kill dozens of Ethiopian troops in southern Somalia and Threat Matrix report, Shabaab releases images from the ambush of Ethiopian troops.]
Somali media has warned that Shabaab has planned to step up attacks on foreign troops within Somalia during the month of Ramadan.