Earlier today, a suicide bomber disguised as a Somali police officer infiltrated a police academy in Mogadishu and detonated his explosives near a group of officers. Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, claimed credit for the attack.
The suicide bomber entered the academy wearing a police uniform. According to Somali authorities, the bomber was not able to position himself within the middle of the group of officers who gathered to attend a parade, which aided in saving lives. However, the explosion killed at least 18 people and wounding at least another 15. Other reports have put the wounded number at 20.
Shortly after the attack, Shabaab claimed credit through its various media outlets. On its Shahada News website, it claimed its forces killed and wounded more than 60 police officers in the attack. On its Radio Al Andalus, it released an audio statement from its spokesman Abdul Aziz Abu Musab where he claimed Shabaab killed 29 police officers. Shabaab has often inflated casualty numbers in its claims of responsibilities.
Today’s suicide bombing is the first since Nov. 14 when a suicide car bomb rammed into an African Union convoy near Mogadishu. In October, Shabaab also conducted three coordinated bombings on a hotel in Mogadishu, killing dozens. Just two weeks prior to that assault, Shabaab perpetrated one of, if not the deadliest suicide car bombing in history when it killed over 500 people near a hotel also in Mogadishu.
The US military has stepped up the targeting of both Shabaab and the rival Islamic State in an effort to reduce attacks against the central government, security personnel, and civilians. So far this year, the US military has launched 28 airstrikes against Shabaab and four more against the Islamic State, US Africa Command told FDD’s Long War Journal earlier this week.
The last reported strike, which took place on Dec. 12, destroyed a Shabaab car bomb as it was being driven to Mogadishu. AFRICOM claimed that the car bomb posed “an imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.”
The US military ramped up strikes against Shabaab and the Islamic State’s networks in Somalia at the end of March, after the Trump administration loosened the restrictions on the use of force against Shabaab. Both the Departments of Defense and State have noted that Shabaab has become more dangerous over the past year and has regained territory. Shabaab has killed hundreds of African Union and Somali forces while overrunning bases in southern Somalia and has maintained its safe havens while expanding areas under its control during 2016.
The US government has previously identified the Lower Shabelle Region south of Mogadishu as a “known safe haven” for Shabaab. On July 30, the US military killed Ali Jabal, a senior al Qaeda leader who directed attacks in the Somali capital, in an airstrike in the Lower Shabelle Region. The US military claimed that the death of Ali Jabal’s death would degrade Shabaab’s ability to conduct attacks in the capital, however Shabaab has executed several high profile attacks since he was killed.