Somali markets targeted in Shabaab explosions

Over the past week, al Qaeda’s East African wing, Shabaab, targeted two markets in southern Somalia with deadly explosions. At least 14 civilians were killed in the attacks.

On Wednesday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a khat market in Wanlaweyn, a town 50 miles west of the capital city of Mogadishu. At least 10 civilians were reportedly killed and many others wounded. While today in Bulomarer, 90 miles south of Mogadishu, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated at a livestock market inside the town. At least four people were reportedly killed in that explosion and five others were left wounded.

Targeting markets or other civilian infrastructure is a common tactic of Shabaab. Last February, a Shabaab suicide car bomb targeted a busy market in Mogadishu, killing almost 40 civilians.

Additionally, Shabaab also claimed responsibility for firing several rockets at the Turkish military base inside Mogadishu. Thirteen rockets were reportedly fired at the base, however, no material damage or injuries were reported. Abdul Aziz Abdul Musab, Shabaab’s military spokesman, released a statement about the incident, saying “we do not distinguish between a Turkish, American, Kenyan, Ethiopian, or British soldier, as all of them are invaders fighting against the Shari’ah, and it is an obligation to expel them and kill them.”

The market attacks came just a week after Shabaab killed at least nine Kenyan soldiers in an IED blast near the Somali-Kenyan border. As a Kenyan military vehicle traveled to a military base in Somalia’s southern Jubaland region, it was destroyed in a blast amid an IED ambush. A week prior, seven Somali soldiers were killed in another IED attack near the same area as the Kenyan troops.

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 withdrew. In addition, Shabaab 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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