Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia, recently detailed a deadly raid on a Somali military base near the southern port town of Kismayo that took place two months ago.
The assault, which took place on Sept. 2, left over 20 Somali military personnel dead, far more than Somali officials admitted to after the attack.
Shabaab detailed the attack in a video entitled “And Be Harsh Against Them.” The video, which was released today, includes dramatic footage of the nighttime assault which included a massive suicide car bombing, and Shabaab fighters entering the base, clashing with Somali soldiers, and executing survivors (note: elements of the video appear doctored; such as the muzzle flashes and some sound effects, however the video is authentic).
Shabaab’s strike on the Bala Gadud base began with its signature pattern, a large suicide car bombing to soften the perimeter before an assault team enters the fray.
The video shows the pre-dawn suicide bombing before turning to the actual raid on the base. At the time, Somali officials reported that at least 10 soldiers were killed in the attack. However, Shabaab claimed to have killed 26 soldiers. The video appears to confirm the larger number; as dozens of dead Somali soldiers are shown sprawled throughout the base. Shabaab fighters shoot any who appear to be alive.
The Somali army base seems to be relatively new. The HESCO barriers used to form the base’s perimeter are in good shape, and new US-supplied tents and orange tarps used to single the presence of friendly forces to Coalition air power are seen in the video.
Shabaab seized a large amount of weapons and equipment from the base, including mortars, machine guns, and AK-47s assault rifles. Toward the end of the video, Shabaab claimed that 16 members of the “apostate militias of Bala Gadud” defected to the jihadist group. Eleven captured Somali soldiers are then shown in front of Shabaab’s flag.
Archived speeches from Ayman al Zawahiri, Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, Adil al Abab, and Hamid al Hamidi are used throughout the video. The US killed Zubayr, Shabaab’s first emir, in an airstrike in 2014.
The latter two were senior leaders and ideologues of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who were killed in a US drone strike in 2012 and executed by Saudi Arabia last year, respectively.
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 withdraw. In addition, it 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 upping its operational tempo there this year.
At the same time, it retains the capabilities to strike in heavily-secured areas of Mogadishu and conduct attacks like the October 14 suicide bombing that killed over 300 people. According to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, Shabaab has also conducted at least 40 car bombings in Mogadishu so far this year.
Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies
AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.
Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.
One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.
“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.
A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.
The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.
“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.
The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.
“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.
In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.
Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.
Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens
BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.
The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.
Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.
The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.
Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.
“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.
Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.
Watch this presser. pic.twitter.com/wEH19WsG7t
— Abdisalam Aato (@AbdisalamAato) April 16, 2018
The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.
That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.
Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.
One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.
The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.
The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.
Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.