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US air base in Somalia attacked by suicide bombers from terrorist group Al-Shabaab

Members of the Al Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al Shabaab stand after giving themselves up to forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in Garsale, approximately 10km from the town of Jowhar, 80km north of the capital Mogadishu, 22 September 2012. (AU-UN IST/Abukar Albadri/AMISOM)
September 30, 2019

The Somalian Islamic extremist group, Al-Shabaab carried out attacks over the weekend against an airstrip where U.S. and Somali forces are stationed.

The Monday attack on Baledogle airbase was initiated by a pair of suicide bombs before the rebel group opened fire on the base. The attack targeted a base used by U.S. forces to launch drone strikes against Al-Shabaab, according to the Associated Press.

The airbase was also used as a facility for U.S. forces to train Somalian forces.

Al-Shabaab has claimed credit for the attack. The group has ties to al Qaeda and has been fighting the U.S. and UN-backed Somali government.

“In the early hours of Monday morning, an elite unit of soldiers from Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen’s Martyrdom Brigade launched a daring raid on the U.S. military base,” reads a statement from Al-Shabaab, reported by the Evening Standard.

The Al-Shabaab claim goes on to say “after breaching the perimeters of the heavily fortified base, the mujahideen (holy warriors) stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight.”

It is not clear from U.S. sources as to the extent of the rebel group’s success in the airbase attack and no casualties have yet been reported.

“Two suicide car bombs from the Middle Shabelle region tried to attack Balidogle airport but they detonated outside the airport gate,” police Major Abdullahi Nur told Reuters reporters.

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former national security adviser and founder of the Mogadishu-based security think-tank the Hiraal Institute, told Reuters the attacks on the airbase targeted the part of the base where U.S. forces train Somali forces and is an indicator of an intelligence network that helped them target their attacks.

Sheikh-Ali said it likely took a lot of coordination, even to come close to that area of the base.

“They don’t look like people on the back foot,” he told Reuters.

The base has also slowed the pace of its drone launches in recent months, according to Reuters.

In a separate attack Monday morning in Mogadishu, a roadside bomb targeting an Italian military convoy was detonated. Reuters reported the explosion “seriously damaged” an Italian flagged armored vehicle, though Italy’s Defense Minister claimed no casualties.

The Associated Press also reported the roadside bomb largely missed the military convoy, instead injuring Somali civilians in the area.

At the beginning of the year, Al-Shabaab targeted a UN base with mortar strikes.

Along with its conflict against Al-Shabaab, Somalian government forces have also had fight ISIS network fighters in Somalia.