Death Toll in Somalia Base Attack Rises


Friday, December 26, 2014- The African Union says it has killed the last three of eight al-Shabab militants who attacked its base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, bringing the death toll to 14.

A spokesman for the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) tells VOA five AU peacekeepers and a foreign contractor died in Thursday's raid on one of the city's most fortified bases.

Colonel Ali Aden Hamoud said an investigation is under way to find out how militants dressed in Somali uniforms infiltrated the Halane facility near Mogadishu International Airport, which is also home to a United Nations office and several embassies.

"From our coordination, there will be some change for sure," he said.

The identity and nationality of the foreign contractor have not been released.

AMISOM said Thursday it had regained control of the base and "restored normalcy" after rebels ambushed the compound around midday, trying to gain access to what the peacekeeping mission called critical infrastructure.

In claiming responsibility for the attack, al-Shabab said the raid targeted a Christmas party at the base.

AU and Somali government forces have pushed al-Shabab out of most Somali cities and towns. The al-Qaida-linked group, however, still launches periodic raids and suicide attacks on AU and government targets.

Al-Shabab fighters have killed several Somali lawmakers this year and mounted two major attacks on the Somali presidential palace.

AU: Attacks Won't Deter Mission

Despite the magnitude of yesterday's attack, Ambassador Maman Sidikou, special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, said the continental body remains committed to supporting the Somali people and government in rebuilding their country.

“Today I’ve been on the phone with generals and officers, and I told them many people will be unhappy with us in coming days simply because you’re going to strictly enforce the regulations so that there is no mistake of this sort," he said, emphasizing the need to fully enforce all security measures to ensure that such an attack would not happen again.

"This means we have to agree with our partners, the U.N. and other partners, on how the camps are going to be monitored, who can enter and who cannot enter,” Sidikou added before expressing grief for the victims and their families.

“We lost five of our colleagues, five young soldiers to this attack by Al-Shabab on our camp. These young men have been [in] Somalia, some of them one year, some a few months, sacrificing to ensure that this part of Africa is free and stable,” he said.

Ambassador Sidikou withheld names and nationalities of the deceased, saying the mission wanted to first notify their families.

When asked how the militants infiltrated the base, he said the fighters had disguised themselves with Somali army uniforms, but quickly added that how they entered the base is less important than what will be done about it.

"This is a wakeup call for all of us, precisely because we’re working with Somalis [who] sometimes use tactics such as pretending they are [the] soldiers with whom we work to build their capacity.”

He also said Al-Shabab, which controlled most of Mogadishu before recently losing territory, is desperate to try any methods to show they are still relevant.

“So we have to adapt very, very quickly to the kind of warfare they’re imposing on us right now with the support of Somali institutions," Sikikou said. "If not, what will happen is instability will be the name of the game.”

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