Shabaab targets Somali, African Union troops in southern Somalia

Over the past few days, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, has claimed several attacks on Somali and African Union troops across southern Somalia.

The first attack was an attempted suicide bombing on a Somali military base near the town of Afgoye, just north of Mogadishu. A suicide car bomb was detonated near the base’s perimeter, killing one soldier and injuring three others. However, when the three soldiers were being transported for medical attention, Shabaab ambushed the vehicle with an improvised explosive device (IED). The IED killed four soldiers in the truck.

Other sources have put the combined fatalities closer to 11. Additionally, other sources have stated that foreign troops, namely South Africans, were killed in the suicide bombing at the base. This has yet to be confirmed.

Shortly thereafter, Shabaab’s forces also ambushed a convoy of Burundian troops near Balad, which also sits north of Mogadishu. The jihadists hit the African Union troops with small arms and explosives, destroying several vehicles and leaving at least five Burundian soldiers dead. After the ambush, Shabaab then launched a coordinated assault on Balad, briefly taking control over the town. When AMISOM sent reinforcements to the area, the jihadists then withdrew.

Today, Shabaab has claimed responsibility for an attack on Ethiopian troops near the city of Baidoa. While Shabaab claims to have killed 30 soldiers in the strike, local reporting has not confirmed that number.

Shabaab quickly claimed credit for the attacks, saying its forces killed over 80 Somali troops in Afgoye, 23 Burundian troops in Balad, and 30 Ethiopian troops near Baidoa. However, Shabaab routinely inflates the number of casualties in its assaults.

Elsewhere, the Somali jihadist group also killed five Kenyan police officers in northern Kenya yesterday.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union (AU) and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia – often after AU or Somali forces withdraw. In addition, it remains a potent threat against both African Union and Somali military bases in central and southern Somalia. The al Qaeda branch also remains a serious danger inside northern Kenya, where it has undertaken several assaults and improvised explosive device attacks and even increased its operational tempo there last year.

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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