Al-Shabab claims deadly attack in Somali capital

11 February 2024, 12:14

Armed al-Shabab fighters in Somalia
Somalia Emirates Bahrain. Picture: PA

Four Emirati troops and a Bahraini military officer on a training mission at the General Gordon Military Base in Mogadishu were killed.

The al Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab claimed an attack that killed four Emirati troops and a Bahraini military officer on a training mission at a military base in the Somali capital, authorities said on Sunday.

Saturday’s attack targeted the troops at the General Gordon Military Base in Mogadishu.

Few details were available about the attack and whether there were other casualties, but Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud offered his condolences to the UAE for the loss of its troops.

Early Sunday, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported the killing of three of its troops and the Bahraini officer in a “terrorist act”. A fourth later died en route back to the Emirates, it said.

WAM released footage of three flag-draped coffins being taken off an Emirati Boeing C-17A Globemaster III at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi with a guard of honour present.

WAM identified the dead as a colonel, two warrant officers and a corporal.

Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat, offered condolences to those killed and wished the wounded a quick recovery.

“No treacherous act will prevent us from continuing the message of security and safety and combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The military of Bahrain, an island nation in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia, later acknowledged the death of a major in a statement carried by the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

Al-Shabab claimed the attack in a statement online, alleging it killed multiple people involved in the Emirati military effort.

It described the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, as an “enemy” of Islamic Shariah law for backing the Somali government in its efforts to battle al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab, or “the youth” in Arabic, is a Sunni Islamic extremist group in Somalia born out of that country’s years of anarchy following its 1991 civil war. The affiliate of al Qaida once held Mogadishu.

Over time, an African Union-led force, with the backing of the US and other countries, pushed the militants out of Mogadishu but, in the years since, al-Shabab has remained a threat as it seeks to overthrow the Western-backed Somali government.

Al-Shabab has carried out attacks in neighbouring Kenya as well, since Nairobi provides troops and materiel to the African Union force in Somalia.

The US, under every president since George W Bush, has launched air strikes against militants in Somalia, with the number of strikes now exceeding 300, according to New America, a Washington-based security think tank. The vast majority of those strikes took place under then-president Donald Trump.

The US Embassy in Somalia on Sunday condemned what it called a “cowardly attack” against the training mission.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s deplorable terrorist attack against UAE military trainers and Somali soldiers valiantly working to advance the nation’s stability,” it said.

Somalia has also been an intense interest for Gulf states, particularly during the Qatar diplomatic crisis that gripped the region for several years and saw four nations including the UAE boycott Doha in a political dispute.

Somali troops once seized millions of dollars of Emirati cash from a jet at gunpoint, sparking a diplomatic incident between Mogadishu and the UAE that halted its troop training programme there.

In recent years, the UAE has increasingly invested in ports in East Africa, including in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region.

Securing Somalia fits into the Emirates’ wider concerns about security in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, particularly as Somali piracy has resumed after years amid attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on shipping in the region over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In 2019, al-Shabab claimed an attack that killed a man working for Dubai’s P&O Ports.

By Press Association

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