A suicide assault team from Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, attacked a United Nations base in the capital of Somalia, killing several UN employees after briefly taking over the compound.
The suicide assault team, which was made up of eight fighters armed with assault rifles and suicide vests, struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound earlier today. The attack began as a suicide bomber detonated “a pickup truck rigged with explosives” at the main gate, according to a UN statement. The blast breached the perimeter of the compound, and allowed the seven other Shabaab fighters to enter the base.
African Union soldiers surrounded the UNDP base and engaged the Shabaab fighters, killing them all after nearly two hours of fighting.
Reports of casualties indicate that more than 20 people were killed in the fighting. Four “UNDP foreign staff, four Somali security guards,” and seven “civilians” were killed, according to Garowe.
Shabaab claimed credit for the attack in a series of Tweets on its official Twitter site, HSMPRESS1.
Shabaab described the UN as “a merchant of death & a satanic force of evil,” which “has a long inglorious record of spreading nothing but poverty, dependency & disbelief.”
“Serving #US goals, the #UN is a monolithic block in the path towards the astablishment [sic] of Allah’s Law on earth & must therefore be dislodged,” Shabaab said.
Shabaab “intel teams” claimed to be among the dead are “16 #UN workers, including 3 #British, 2 #Kenyan and 1 #SouthAfrican,” as well as 19 “UNDP security guards” and African Union troops.
“Some of the ‘white Kuffar’ [non-Muslims] who tried to engage the Mujahideen in combat inside the offices were killed and thrown out into the compound,” the terror group stated.
Casualty counts for the attack have not been released by the UNDP, AMISOM, or the Somali government.
In the past, Shabaab has shown it can penetrate security at the heavily protected areas in the capital and carry out deadly attacks. AMISOM, Somali government and military officials, and nongovernmental organizations have been the target of Shabaab suicide assaults and bombings. In one such incident, in September of 2012, three suicide bombers attacked Somalia’s president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at a hotel in Mogadishu.
Shabaab has also executed a suicide attack outside Somalia’s borders: the July 11, 2010 double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people. It was carried out by a suicide cell called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as Shabaab’s military commander before he was killed in a US special operations raid in September 2009.
Although Shabaab abandoned Mogadishu, Kismayo, and other large cities in Somalia after a combined African Union, Kenyan, Ethiopian, and Somali offensive, it still controls several major towns and cities along the coast between Kismayo and Mogadishu, including Jilib, Baraawe, and Merca, as well as other areas throughout the country.
Shabaab and its Kenyan branch, the Muslim Youth Center, formally joined al Qaeda in February 2012. The east African terror groups were closely tied to al Qaeda for years prior, however; Shabaab leaders had openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda long before the official merger.
Al Qaeda and its affiliates and allies have carried out numerous suicide assaults such as the one in Somalia today in countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Mali, and Niger.