Shaqala Checkpoint in Mogadishu
Central Mogadishu's Monday afternoon rocked to the sounds of gunfire and explosions as members of al-Shabaab drove up to the Debka base near Shaqala and opened fire in a suicide attack. Today's attack is described by AMISOM as a failed suicide attack in their official release:
AMISOM forces have today foiled a suicide attack by extremist insurgents. At approximately 1645 hrs, several extremists disguised as Somali government soldiers attacked the AMISOM position at Shakala guarded by both AU and Ahlu Sunna Waljamaa forces, on the busy Makka Mukarama road.
The extremists drove up in a white saloon car and engaged AMISOM troops there in a firefight. However, they were unable to gain entry into the position. Three of them were killed, including one would-be suicide attacker who ran away towards Hamar Weyne district.
During the attack, AMISOM lost 2 soldiers and one was injured. 3 others, and one AWSJ fighter, were injured when the body of one of the suicide attackers exploded.
AMISOM Chief of Staff, Col. Innocent Oula, paid tribute to the courage and sacrifice of the AMISOM troops. “But for their brave and speedy action, many more lives, including those of innocent civilians, would have been lost,” he said.
Shaqala means "employer" and is a living quarters for the AU but Somalia Report has learned that the attack was actually against the Dabka base where ASWJ militia live in one building and AMISOM forces live in another building. The suicide attack by al-Shabaab was directly on the ASWJ forces.
Al-Shabaab confirmed to local radio that they were behind the attacks today. Entrance to AMISOM at Shaqala
What might be embarrassing for AMISOM is that this checkpoint is inside the publicized zone of control shown to reporters just five days ago along a major road. Somalia Report interviewed an ASWJ soldier who said that after the men spilled out of a white mini van, three of the men began firing at the guards until they ran out of ammunition. The joint government forces responded by killing three of the fighters. Two bodies of the militia fighters exploded killing several women and children who were accessing that road. AMISOM forces continued to fire mortars and heavy weapons fooling some people into thinking there were multiple attacks around the city.
Ali Suffi, an ASWJ senior official told Somalia Report on phone from Al-Baraka intersection, "The infidels are now in a desperate attempt after losing badly in the latest successful offensives that we launched on them in the past few weeks now."
Out of the 11 that launched the attack, six were killed on the spot and the others tried to flee to the Liberian Village where the TFG forces pounced on them. The eyewitness did not see any dead AMISOM soldiers. The ASWJ soldier confirmed that but he adds that six of their men were wounded in the attack.
Speaking exclusively to Somalia Report, Khalif Abdikadir, a State Minister in the Office of the President and a senior official of the ASWJ moderate Islamist faction, condemned the attacks and termed it as barbaric.
"It is a clear sign that the al-Shabaab have began their usual tactic; killing people after planting suicide bombers in civilian populated areas. They were unsuccessful this time and they will never be successful again," Minister Khalif said.
Although the ASWJ took the brunt of the attack it appeared that the goal of the suicide attack was aimed at the Ugandan peacekeepers stationed in Maka Al-Mukarama.
The State Minister also criticized the TFG officials for the lack of security measures that has seen al-Shabaab reach all the way to sleeping quarters of the government forces.
"We will improve the area security and there will be no repeat of such an incident and I assure the people of Mogadishu that the areas under AMISOM and TFG are safe from the extremists," he said.
Al-Shabaab Claims 30 Dead
Meanwhile, in an attempt to capitalize on the failed attack, math-and-reality-challenged al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Rage insisted that nearly 30 AU and ASWJ soldiers were killed as a result of the suicide.
"As our brothers who come back with safety told us that they killed 30 soldiers from Uganda and Somalia because the operation was very well prepared, thank to Allah and our Mujahidin brothers. Al-Shabaab sends message to Uganda and Burundi that you destroyed Mogadishu so we will destroy your towns."
Neither side commented on the civilian casualties.
According to interviews conducted by Somalia Report by UXO experts, IED attacks, both manned and unmanned are a serious and deliberately underreported problem in Mogadishu.
Although the level of sophistication is described as "getting there" in comparison to Iraq and Afghanistan where IEDs are the main insurgent weapon, Mogadishu's ability to deal with these deadly booby traps is limited by manpower and training. AMISOM soldiers and visitors are still transported in lumbering anti-mine vehicles which are designed for the older military type of buried bottom blast mine, not the artillery shell, side blast type commonly in use by insurgents.
VBIEDs (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices) suicide bombers have been used against targets in Somaliland, Puntland and Mogadishu since 2008. The IED first appeared in 2007 in Mogadishu as an export of al Qaeda members fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.