Shabaab ambushes Burundian troops near Leego


The flag of al Qaeda waves over a destroyed African Union armored personnel carrier

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, ambushed a convoy of Burundian troops on a road near the southern town of Leego. The jihadist group released a video highlighting the attack on July 13, but no date was given for when the ambush took place.

The video begins with a message that reads “From the French and those who followed suit, today we sign with the blood of the dogs from the Burundian crusaders. Tomorrow, we will sign with your blood, God willing.” After the short statement, several improvised explosive device (IED) attacks are seen on screen. Some of the vehicles targeted are African Union (AU) armored vehicles, while many others appear to be cargo or transport vehicles for the AU forces.

After the IED attacks, Shabaab official Abdul Qadar Mu’min delivers a short speech before the video cuts to a Shabaab military commander going over the battle plan with several fighters. These jihadists, and many others, are then shown ambushing and targeting the Burundian contingent of AU forces.

Shabaab fighters forced the Burundian troops to retreat. The jihadist group then highlights a number of the AU troops who were killed as well as some of the “spoils” gained in the fighting.

At certain points in the video, the jihadist group includes the voices of Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Ibrahim al Rubaish. Zarqawi was the founder and emir (leader) of al Qaeda in Iraq before being killed by the US in 2006. Despite his group eventually turning into what is now known as the Islamic State, Zarqawi is heavily revered by al Qaeda. Ibrahim al Rubaish was a senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader and Islamic scholar before his death by a US drone strike in Yemen earlier this year.

While the video details an ambush near the town of Leego, it appears to be separate from the attack on the AU base in the area late last month. That attack is said to have left around 70 Burundian troops dead out of the 100 that were stationed at the base. Shabaab also claimed that its “Sheikh Abu Zubayr Battalion,” which targeted the base, captured the town of Leego. Days later, Ethiopian troops reportedly recaptured the town from the jihadists. [For information on this attack, see LWJ report, Shabaab assaults African Union base and Threat Matrix report, Shabaab photo release verifies details of Leego attack.]

The video release comes just days after the jihadist group targeted two hotels in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. At least 16 people were killed in the attacks on the Weheliye and Siyad hotels, according to Voice of America. The al Qaeda branch regularly attacks hotels that hosts government officials and tourists. Shabaab also claimed to have fired mortars at the Mogadishu stadium, where Ugandan troops are based. No one was hurt in the mortar fire.

On July 13, Shabaab targeted a Somali military base in the central Somalian town of Rage Ceele, killing four soldiers. Additionally, it targeted Kenyan police with an IED in the town of Lamu, just near the Somali border, but no police personnel were hurt in the attack.

A Kenyan military base in Lamu was the scene of a coordinated Shabaab assault last month. The attack was repulsed and 11 militants were killed. One fighter who was killed was identified as British national Thomas Evans. Evans, who went by Abdul Hakim, originally said that he had joined the jihadist group back in 2012, according to his motherAccording to the BBC, “at least 50 British citizens are believed to have joined al Shabaab.” Kenyan authorities have also issued a $100,000 reward for the capture of a German national.

The Lamu assault came just days after Shabaab killed more than 60 Ethiopian troops in southern Somalia. Shabaab has also 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.]

Despite being pushed out of its major urban strongholds of Mogadishu and Kismayo, the jihadist group still controls large rural areas in southern Somalia. It also retains the ability to launch large-scale assaults in the country, even with a major African Union mission present. Shabaab has also increasingly been able to mount attacks across the border into neighboring Kenya.

Screenshots from the video:

IED attacks:




Abdul Qadar Mu’min:


Going over the battleplan:



The fighting:




Burundian troops retreat:




Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • David says:

    Wow, it really looks like Shabaab is coming back. They looked like they were dead, and now they have had several successful ambushes in a row. They have been shut out of most of the major cities, and suffered huge losses and defections, so where does their newfound strength come from? Are they being supported by a nation, or is Al Qaeda supplying all this new strength?

  • mike merlo says:

    in the mean time Burundi itself totters towards a potential Civil War


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