Shabaab hits Somali, Turkish bases with suicide bombings

Since the beginning of the week, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has launched two suicide bombings on two military bases across Somalia. One of the bases targeted was Turkey’s military base in Mogadishu.

On Sunday, Shabaab launched a suicide assault on a Somali military base in the town of Bacaadweyn in the north-central Mudug region. Local media reported that a suicide car bomb was detonated at the base’s perimeter before an assault team entered the fray.

As many as six people were killed in that assault, including two soldiers. Shabaab’s claim of responsibility, released through its Shahada News Agency, confirmed the use of a suicide car bombing while offering little additional detail compared to local news reports.

The suicide assault comes as Somali forces have launched an offensive earlier this month against Shabaab in the Galmudug region (comprised of the Somali regions of Galgaduud and Mudug). This came after Shabaab assassinated the governor of Mudug in another suicide bombing in the region last month.

Much of Somalia’s efforts have been directed around securing the areas near the cities of Galkayo and El-Buur.

Local media reported late last week that Galmudug state forces have wrestled back control over several areas of the state from Shabaab. Several commanders of the group in the area have also reportedly surrendered.

Shabaab has launched several strikes against Somali forces in retaliation. In addition to the suicide bombing in Bacaadweyn on Sunday, another suicide car bombing was reportedly thwarted in Galkayo.

Elsewhere in Somalia this week, Shabaab also claimed a suicide bombing at the Turkish military base inside Mogadishu. The base, which acts as a training facility, is Turkey’s largest overseas military installation.

At least two people were killed in that blast, which occurred after the bomber, disguised as a Somali military recruit, infiltrated a queue to enter the base.

Through Shahada News Agency, Shabaab greatly exaggerated the success of its operation by saying “7 officers of the government’s militias were killed and 14 others wounded as a result of a martyrdom operation targeting the Turkish military base in Mogadishu.

Shabaab often exaggerates the number of casualties and other details in operations that are not particularly successful.

While the attack marks the first time Shabaab has struck the base with a suicide bombing, it is not the group’s first attack against it. Indeed, Shabaab has long considered the Turkish presence inside Somalia as a legitimate target.

In May 2018, Shabaab claimed launching several rockets at the base. However, no material damage or injuries were reported.

At the time, Abdul Aziz Abdul Musab, Shabaab’s military spokesman said that “we do not distinguish between a Turkish, American, Kenyan, Ethiopian, or British soldier.” He went on to explain that “all of them are invaders fighting against the Shari’ah, and it is an obligation to expel them and kill them.”

While in Jan. 2015, Shabaab detonated a suicide car bomb on the popular SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, where a Turkish delegation was preparing for a state visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Shabaab continues to be one of Al Qaeda’s most effective branches. It maintains significant control over much of southern Somalia and retains the ability to strike in MogadishuKenya, and against heavily fortified bases in both Somalia and Kenya.

Though its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past decade, it has weathered numerous offensives from an array of local, regional, and international actors, including the United States.

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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