Al-Shabaab attacks base of AU forces in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia-based al-Shabaab militants attacked a military base held by African Union mission forces on Monday, officials said, in the latest terror attempt to disrupt the peace and stability that has been courtesy of the troops, who have been in the mission for almost two decades.

Officials said suspected members of the group attacked the Bula-Marer military base, manned by the Ugandan People’s Defense Force. [UPDF] in the south of the country, triggering a violent shooting that lasted several hours according to military officials who spoke to journalists.

The militants carried out the attack with mortar shells before opening fire on UPDF troops, which resulted in a sporadic gunfight in the area. It is not known how many mortar shells the militants opened, but military officials estimated the number to be around seven, but did not immediately confirm it.

But the militants met resistance from the UPDF warning troops and suffered immense losses, the army said without giving the exact number of those caught in the crossfire. The survivors have disappeared into nearby bushes and the military is pursuing them, officials added.

The UPDF team, which likes to expose such incidents, has yet to release a statement on the matter, but the Somali army said no military officials were killed or injured during the encounter. Those who died were marched by the AU mission forces, officials added during the meeting.

This is not the first time that UPDF troops have foiled an al-Shabaab attack targeting their base in Somalia. In April, troops thwarted a potentially fatal attack at Barawe military base after detonating an improvised vehicle-mounted device just at the entrance that was leading to the compound.

The incident came more than two months after militants successfully attacked the El-Salini base which is held by the Somali National Army. [SNA], not far from a UPDF base. More than 25 government soldiers have died according to police records in Somalia, which came to light moments after the attack.

Almost degraded by the joint military operations, al-Shabaab militants targeted military bases and police checkpoints in addition to attacking senior officials and civilians linked to the government. But in the process, several innocent civilians were often killed by the militants.

Ugandan troops first arrived in Somalia in 2008 and are credited with driving the militants out of the capital Mogadishu. The 2011 meeting which also saw the Ethiopian National Defense Forces [ENDF] participation also remains one of the best achievements of the AU mission forces in Somalia.

The latest incident took place in Lower Shebelle, one of the areas considered to be an al-Shabaab stronghold. However, the Somali National Army recently announced its victory in the region after killing dozens of militants in several strategic villages that are now under government control.

ONLINE AXADLE