Al-Shabaab bomb attacks leave 14 SNA soldiers dead in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somali National Army [SNA] troops have borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab attacks in recent weeks, records indicate, with a total of 14 soldiers killed in a span of two days, in two separate incidents within war-torn Somalia.
On May 26, at least nine soldiers were killed following an IED explosion in the vicinity of Galoley village, few miles north of Bal'ad town within the terror-prone Middle Juba. The soldiers had their vehicle badly dismembered when it ran through the bomb, leaving several others injured.
According to witnesses, the soldiers were patrolling the region in pursuit of the militants moments before the explosion. The deceased were airlifted from the region to their homes for burial, eyewitnesses said.
But in a rejoinder, the SNA troops are said to have raided Galoley village, abducted seven aid workers and a civilian, and shot them dead at close range. The bodies of the victims were retrieved from a bush on Thursday, officials confirmed.
Despite the allegations linking the incident to SNA troops, FGS is yet to issue a statement, but spokesperson Ismael Mukhtaar had on Thursday evening said "investigations will be done and those responsible will be brought to book".
The seven aid workers were health professionals attached to a local NGO and their death has sparked outrage, with UNICEF, the European Union, and the United Nations demanding swift investigations and subsequent prosecutions.
On May 28, five soldiers died on the spot after their vehicle was blown by an IED in the vicinity of Awdhegle within Lower Shebelle, an incident that raises questions about the ability of the SNA troops to secure the country from Al-Shabaab militants.
In both incidents, the IEDs were planted along the roads by Al-Shabaab militants. The Somalia-based militants took responsibility for the two attacks through their proxy media outlets, saying that "we shall continue attacking those who sabotage peace and stability in our country".
Although it remains significantly degraded, the militant group has been using IEDs as their primary mode of execution given that fighters do not have the capacity to withstand ground combats. Security forces, foreigners, and innocent civilians are not spared in their deadly attacks.
But despite their unending raids, the militants continue to struggle, due to increased joint attacks by SNA, AU forces, and the US Africa Command. The operation has forced a number of them to desert remote villages in southern and central Somalia, where they have traditionally used for recruitment and training.
For instance, the militants lost Janaale town in Lower Shebelle on March 16, but have been trying to ambush government forces with an aim of recapturing it. Southwest officials were forced this week to repair roads between Janaale and Buufow which were dug by the militants
The operation has mainly focused on Lower Shebelle, which had traditionally served as the main taxation center for the militants. Ibrahim Aden Najah, the local governor, has been launching projects in the region with the help of SNA troops as residents try to adapt to civilian lives following a decade of Al-Shabaab misrule.
Early this week, he launched headquarters at Marka town, in a ceremony that was attended by dozens of local officials. The militants are said to have retreated to urban centers as a strategy to evade ongoing crackdown by security forces.
Despite the latest setback, the SNA team is determined to completely crush the militants. Gen. Abdihamid Mohamed, the commanding officer of Danab in Lower Shebelle, recently announced the death of several militants within the region, adding that "we shall ensure they are defeated".
SNA soldiers are set to take over security responsibilities by 2021 in Somalia once the AU forces leave. The AMISOM team, which has been pivotal in combative the militants, is set to leave next year after a decade of exploits in Somalia, mission chief Francisco Madeira had said.
The US has been also helpful in getting rid of the militants. On Saturday, AFRICOM boss Gen. Stephen Townsend said the American troops will continue helping their partners in several African countries facing violent extremism.
“Many of our African partners are under siege from malign actors & terrorist networks. We remain committed to working together to deliver solutions to common challenges," Townsend, who joined the team in 2018, told a top Tunisian official.