Military base overrun by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A military base belonging to Somali National Army [SNA] was on Thursday overrun by suspected Al-Shabaab militants, witnesses said, amid an ongoing crackdown against the Al-Qaida linked group, which is causing havoc across East Africa.
The incident took place at the perilous town of Bal'ad, about 30 kilometers north of the capital, Mogadishu, witnesses said, with some reports indicating the armed militants seized the town from the SNA, taking time to patrol after the takeover.
A heavy gunfight between the two parties ensued afterward with reports indicating that the SNA troops had reorganized themselves for an assault against the militants, who had already announced victory against the government troops.
At the time of publishing this report, details about casualties from either side remained scanty. The Al-Shabaab militants, who have been fighting with government troops in the region, had not also claimed responsibility for the attack.
Elite troops from Danab forces have been leading operations against the militants in Bal'ad and the two sides had suffered casualties in recent weeks. Last week, Al-Shabaab militants used IEDs to ambush a convoy of SNA troops, killing dozens of them in the process.
And in retaliation, the troops descended on aid workers at Galoley village in Bal'ad, killing seven of them along with a civilian. The government has since formed a commission of inquiry following international retribution, but residents maintain that the victims were killed by the troops.
Thursday's attack, once confirmed by government agencies, a move which is rare will be the second successful assault by the militants against SNA troops. In February, the militants attacked El-Salini military base in Lower Shebelle, a raid that left at least 20 soldiers dead.
Early this week, the militants had a planned attack at an Ethiopian military base repulsed between Bardale and Qansaxdheere in the Bay region, officials said. The ENDF troops responded by opening gunfire, leaving dozens of the militants dead.
On Tuesday, the militants also attacked the office of Burdhubo District Commissioner Abdullahi Sharif in Gedo. A fierce gunfight ensued between them and the officers' guards, forcing him to take refuge at a nearby Ethiopian military base.
That notwithstanding, the militants also tried to ambush Jubaland regional forces at Bilis Qooqani and Dhobley last week but their effort was neutralized by Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] troops who man Sectors II of AMISOM according to Brig. Paul Njema.
For almost a decade, Al-Shabaab militants have been working hard to topple the fragile UN-backed Somalia government, but their attempts have failed to materialize due to high alert by SNA troops and peacekeeping forces from AMISOM.
Through the US Africa Command, Washington has also helped to neutralize the militants in central and southern Somalia. The team under the command of Stephen Townsend has been coordinating sophisticated air raids, especially in Middle Juba.
Since January, over 40 airstrikes have been launched, with the death toll standing at 60. This excludes ground combats conducted by SNA and AMISOM troops, which have significantly degraded the Al-Shabaab.
On Tuesday, the militants released photos of their "students" graduating after taking Arabic courses according to the group's affiliate media sites. Besides the urge to take over the government, the militants have been advocating for use of Arabic language in Somalia.