Shabaab fighters in Kenya sometime in 2015
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, launched three separate attacks in Kenya and Somalia today, symbolizing its continued lethality. The jihadist group launched a suicide assault on a Djiboutian military base, an ambush on Ethiopian troops, an assassination of a top Somali intelligence official, and an attack on Christians in a Kenyan border town.
In Kenya, Shabaab launched a deadly assault on Christians living in Mandera. According to the BBC, “the target was a guesthouse hosting members of a theatre group who were performing plays in schools in the north-eastern town of Mandera.” This is the second attack on Christians in the area this month. The prior was a “grenade and gun attack” on a residential neighborhood of Mandera.
Shabaab has launched numerous assaults in Kenya in the past. This includes the April 2015 massacre at a university in Garissa, which killed over 140 people. Before that, Shabaab killed dozens after laying siege to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013. Several smaller attacks have occurred over the years, mainly on Kenyan border towns in Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, and Mandera Counties.
Earlier today, an African Union base north of Mogadishu, manned by troops from Djibouti, was the target of a suicide bombing. Shabaab’s Shahada News Telegram account quickly took credit for the bombing, adding that 17 troops were killed. The African Union gave a different account of the events, however. On its Twitter feed, it said that the car bomb was set off outside the camp and all attackers were killed.
In central Somalia, the jihadist group claimed it ambushed Ethiopian troops near the town of Wabho in the Galgaduud Region. Shabaab gave no definite number of troops killed and Ethiopia has yet to comment on this ambush. Yesterday, Shabaab claimed it took control over the town of Halgan in the Hiraan Region after Ethiopian troops withdrew from the nearby base.
Additionally on the Shahada News channel, Shabaab claimed credit for the assassination of a top intelligence official. According to local reports, the official was killed late last night in Mogadishu as he was walking to a mosque.
In Somalia, Shabaab continues to be a potent force, with the ability to capture territory, despite an African Union-led force in the country. It continues to exhibit the ability to launch complex operations in the capital, and has harassed African Union and Somali forces in both southern and central Somalia. In some instances over the past nine months, Shabaab has been able to recapture the cities of Marka, El Ade, and Badhadhe after both African Union and Somali troops were forced to withdraw. It continues to capture small towns in central Somalia, especially with Ethiopian troops continuing to leave their posts.