Qaeda-Affiliated Group Overruns African Union Base in Somalia
Mohammed Ibrahim, New York Times
1 September 2015
Image:Mustafa Abdi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Fighters from the Shabab militant group overran an African Union military base in southern Somalia on Tuesday morning in an attack that included a suicide bombing and an intense firefight, witnesses and officials said.
The Shabab, an Islamist extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack and said that its fighters had killed 50 Ugandan peacekeepers at the base in the village of Janale, about 50 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu, in the Lower Shabelle region.
The attack began when a car loaded with explosives rammed the base’s gates, allowing the Shabab gunmen to storm in.
“We have completely taken over the Janale base,” a Shabab spokesman, Sheik Abu Muscab, said in an audio message posted on Somali websites.
A local official, Abdifatah Hassan Abdi, the deputy commissioner of Lower Shabelle region, told Somali media that Shabab fighters had taken over the village, blown up a nearby bridge and cut phone lines in the area.
“Currently, we cannot exactly tell the exact casualties, as the communication with the village has been lost,” Mr. Abdi said.
But in a statement issued Tuesday, the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, said it had regained control of the base.
“The militants used a car loaded with explosives to trigger the attack and to facilitate their forced entry into the camp, after which they engaged our soldiers in a gun battle,” the African Union said. “Although our troops undertook a tactical withdrawal following the initial vehicle-borne explosive attack, they have since consolidated and regained full control of the base.”
The statement said that African Union officials were trying to verify the number of casualties and the extent of the damage.
Last September, an American airstrike killed the Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Since then, the group has intensified attacks against government targets and African Union bases in Somalia. It has also carried out attacks outside Somalia, particularly in Kenya, including a massacre at a university there in April.
Copyright: New York Times 2015
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