AU forces repulse Al-Shabaab attack targeting Jubaland troops, arrest several militants


MOGADISHU, Somalia - The African Union Mission troops in Somalia foiled a would-be devastating attack against Jubaland regional forces on Friday, in a midnight raid that saw Al-Shabaab militants besiege a camp in Bilis Qooqani, Lower Jubba.

In a statement issued by the AMISOM on Saturday, the peacekeeping mission troops are said to have responded to a distress call from the Jubaland forces, who had been surrounded completely by the Al-Qaida linked militants.
Bilis Qooqani is found along with the southern Sector of the African Union Mission in Somalia, which is manned by the Kenyan Defense Forces [KDF], whose main Forward Operating Base [FOB] is found within Dhobley town.
During the raid, heavily armed militants stormed the Jubaland forces camp at 00:30 hrs local time on Friday, forcing the troops to quickly reach out to KDF for reinforcement, AMISOM said in a statement, adding that "the attack would have been extremely bad".
And after few minutes, AMISOM troops from nearby Bilis Qooqani responded by opening fire, leaving three militants dead and several wounded, the force said. Those who were injured have since been arrested and detained by the Kenyan troops 
"Jubaland Forces stationed at Bilis Qooqani were attacked at 00:30 hrs were attacked by about 20 Al-Shabaab militants from three different directions," read the statement. "Our Bilis Qooqani defense points immediately responded by dispatching one platoon to help our Somali counterparts."
While it's not clear how long the fighting lasted, the Al-Shabaab militants are, however, understood to have lost ground due to fierce gunfight from both the AMISOM troops and the regional Jubaland forces.
"Three Al-Shabaab militants were killed and several wounded during the attack which was successfully repulsed," added Brigadier Paul Njema, the Force Commander AMISOM Sector II. It was the first major attack within a territory of AMISOM within Jubaland.
After the first, AK 47 rifles were recovered from the militants and several rounds of ammunition, the AMISOM forces said, adding that the Al-Shabaab were "completely neutralized" after the raid. 
Two Jubaland forces injured during the ensuing battle are receiving treatment at AMISOM Forward Operating Base in Bilis Qooqani, added the statement, without disclosing the level of injuries inflicted against the troops, who work closely with the KDF.
Ambassador Francisco Madeira, the head of the mission, hailed the KDF troops for their "quick" response to the distress call, adding that "this is a remarkable victory against the enemy of the people of Somalia".
"We are thankful to the KDF troops in Bilis Qooqani for their professionalism, bravery, and courage. Their presence in the region is very vital as manifested in the latest heroic acts," the Mozambique national said in a statement.
The troops which responded to the attack are only three months old in Somalia. In February, Brigadier Paul Njema was appointed the commander after Kenya dispatched fresh 3,500 troops in compliance with the rotational program.
Since invading Somalia in 2011, KDF has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab brutality, despite the fact that it has also managed to liberate strategic towns for the last eight years. Some of these towns include Jubaland administrative capital, Kismayo.
The attack on KDF bases at El-Adde and Kulbiyow in 2016 and 2017 respectfully remains the worst outing for the troops. Records published by humanitarian groups indicate that close to 400 troops died from the two raids.
Next year, AMISOM will be withdrawing its 22,000 forces from the war-torn nation, with responsibilities expected to be handed over to the Somali National Army [SNA] which has been undergoing training for years now.
Kenya also uses Jubaland as the buffer zone in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants. Although the militants have been significantly degraded, they can wage small to large scale sporadic attacks within and outside Somalia, US Africa Command said.

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