Shabaab fighters after overrunning the base.
Al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa has reportedly overran a Somali military base southwest of Mogadishu, furthering its control in southern Somalia. While Somali officials have conceded the fall of the base, numbers have differed wildly on the total number of casualties.
According to Shabaab’s propaganda arm, Shahaada News on Telegram, the jihadists killed “more than 70 members of government militias” just 27 miles southwest of Mogadishu. The jihadist outlet reported that Shabaab used “light and heavy weapons” in the attack, “seizing nine vehicles” in the process. Shahaada News also released photos of the vehicles, as well as almost a dozen rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) and several crates of ammunition.
While Shabaab claimed that “more than 70” were killed, Somali officials told Reuters that only one soldier was killed in the battle and the rest were able to “flee the base.” Both Shabaab and Somali officials often exaggerate numbers, so without photo evidence it is difficult to assess just how many were killed in the attack on either side.
Shabaab has been regaining ground in southern Somalia in 2016. Last month, Shabaab briefly recaptured the coastal town of Marka, which it originally lost in 2012. African Union (AU) forces recently retook the town. Nonetheless, Marka marked the third major town in a span of just a few weeks that Shabaab was able to wrestle African Union (AU) and Somali forces.
Shabaab has mounted attacks in the region despite the presence of a large African Union mission in Somalia. The jihadist group has also launched numerous suicide assaults on heavily guarded hotels in Mogadishu this year. It has continuously targeted African Union troops in southern Somalia, building on their operations in the central part of the country, Puntland and neighboring Kenya. In late November, Shabaab said its forces temporarily took control over a Kenyan town bordering Somalia.
Photos released by Shabaab:
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