President Uhuru Kenyatta on has called on the international community to support regional efforts in stabilising Somalia, South Sudan and other African countries.
Uhuru made the call when he gave a speech at the 70th United Nations General Assembly annual debate in New York on Monday evening.
President Kenyatta’s speech went big on Kenya’s determination to continue playing its role in fostering stability in the region as well as enhancing its international responsibility in improving global cooperation for the improvement of humanity.
The President rallied world leaders to take more concrete steps to support the restoration of stability in Somalia and South Sudan as well as other countries affected by instability.
Too many Al Shabaab attacks too often leave countries worried over likely lapses
Amisom forces in Janaale. The attack showed a relaxation the vigilance and operational efficiency with which the AU force has conducted past operations that have led to victories against Al Shabaab. AFP PHOTO | AU UN IST | TOBIN JONES
By JULIUS BARIGABA, The EastAfrican
Feared operational flaws explain why Al Shabaab has the motivation to strike with impact, and this has government officials in Kampala speaking at cross-purposes on the magnitude of the loss from this attack.
Al Shabaab was only defeated in the urban centres, and driven into the countryside where it remains a big threat after changing tack from conventional to guerrilla warfare, operating clandestinely and hence being capable of inflicting harm using asymmetrical tactics, says security expert and legislator Simon Mulongo.
Al Shabaab is a weakened force, but sources say that the terrorist group has technical competence and training in the use of information technology to monitor Amisom bases, troop strength and deployment, enabling them to keep mounting attacks against the peacekeepers.
Even as the exact number of casualties suffered in the latest attack by Somali terrorist group Al Shabaab on Ugandan peacekeepers remains unclear, troop-contributing countries are alarmed at the frequency of deadly attacks on the forces of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
On September 1, Al Shabaab attacked a base at Janaale, 90km southwest of Mogadishu manned by Uganda People’s Defence Forces, using a car loaded with explosives. This was the second attack in a month on Ugandan troops, and the third in five weeks on Amisom forces.
The rate at which the attacks are happening and their impact prompted UPDF Chief of Defence Forces Gen Edward Katumba Wamala to fly to the Horn of Africa country to assess if operational lapses contributed to the raid, which upon confirmation of casualty numbers could have the same impact as the one on the Burundian base in late June.
There was another bomb attack on July 31 on an Amisom convoy in an area manned by Ugandan troops, that saw the soldiers comb the Rusiya neighbourhood in Merka city, Lower Shabelle, and kill six civilians at a wedding. Al Shabaab said the attack on the Janaale base was in retaliation for the July 31 incident.
“My visit was prompted by what happened here in Janaale, where our base was attacked by Al Shabaab using a vehicle bomb IED [improvised explosive device] to breach the defence and where we incurred some casualties. Some of our friends lost their lives,” Gen Katumba Wamala said. “I came to assess the situation and get a clear picture of how the whole thing happened and establish whether there were any flaws in terms of response.”
The feared operational flaws explain why Al Shabaab has the motivation to strike with impact, and this has government officials in Kampala speaking at cross-purposes on the magnitude of the loss from this attack.
While presenting a statement to parliament on September 3, State Minister for Defence Jeje Odongo said UPDF lost 10 soldiers, whose bodies were flown into Uganda the same day.
But army spokesman Lt-Col Paddy Ankunda had earlier dismissed as propaganda reports that Al Shabaab had inflicted as many as 50 casualties in the attack. Lt-Col Ankunda gave a figure of 12 dead, 10 of whom would be flown into the country and the remaining two be brought in later.
All this runs counter to earlier reports by Western military sources in a brief to diplomats that 50 soldiers were killed and a similar number remained unaccounted for, reinforcing Al Shabaab’s own claims that “scores” of Ugandan troops had been killed in the attack.
A security source however told The EastAfrican that the government had the number of casualties confirmed by independent sources as 19.
But, as different figures are being quoted, the precision of these attacks by Al Shabaab should be a concern for countries that have troops in Amisom, security expert and legislator Simon Mulongo argues.
“Al Shabaab has never been destroyed. It was only defeated in the urban centres, and driven into the countryside where it remains a big threat after changing tack from conventional to guerrilla warfare, operating clandestinely and hence being capable of inflicting harm using asymmetrical tactics,” said Mr Mulongo, who is also a former Director of East African Standby Forces.
Since 2007 when the over 22,000-strong Amisom force was deployed in Somalia, its different contingents have battled Al Shabaab, forcing the terrorist group out of the capital and other strategic towns like Kismayu and Baidoa. But Al Shabaab still has suicide bombers willing to use explosives to fight back, using the element of surprise on sentries at different posts.
Militants from Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabab group rammed a suicide car bomb into an African Union army base and stormed inside.
There were no immediate reports on casualties, and the rebels said in a statement that the African Union Mission for Somalia (Amisom) troops had fled the base, situated in Janale district, 80 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu in the lower Shabele region in Somalia.
The base is thought to be manned by Burundian soldiers.
“There was heavy explosion and fighting broke out at the Amisom base in Janale. We don’t have details but we are hearing that Al-Shebab militants attacked the base,” said Mohamed Shire, a Somali military commander based in the region.
A local eyewitness said Shabab fighters stormed into the base.
“Heavy fighting broke out after a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into the camp,” said local resident Ali Moalim Yusuf. “I saw heavily armed fighters chanting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is greatest’] pouring into the base.”
The militants, who are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed and AU-protected government, confirmed they were behind the attack.
“Mujaheddin fighters captured the base after a suicide bomber struck it, the enemy fled,” the Islamists said in a brief statement.
In June, Shebab fighters killed dozens of Burundian soldiers when they overran an Amisom outpost northwest of the capital. The militants also stage frequent suicide attacks inside the capital.
But AMISOM, the 22 000-strong AU force in Somalia, has also made key gains against the Shebab in recent months, pushing them out of several strongholds in the southwest of the country. – AFP
Islamist al Shabaab militants killed at least seven people including a regional official and local police commander in an attack on a government convoy in southern Somalia on Wednesday, officials and the group said.
Al Shabaab attacked the convoy between Garbaharey and Baladhawo towns in the Gedo region, near the Kenyan border.
The al Qaeda-allied group frequently launches attacks on officials in its bid to topple the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam on the nation, which is struggling to rebuild after two decades of war.
The group now controls increasingly smaller patches of territory since an African Union force and Somali troops drove it out of major strongholds in an offensive launched last year.
“We ambushed them but it turned into a fierce battle later,” al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters. He said 18 people were killed.
Senior Somali police officer Elmi Nur said three militants and seven others, including a deputy district commissioner and a regional police commander, were killed.
“We have been launching operations to eliminate al Shabaab from the region. More police and military were sent after the ambush to chase the fighters hiding in the forested areas,” he said.
Al Shabaab often cites higher numbers for those killed than official figures.
At least two senior commanders from the Islamist militant group al-Shabab have been killed in a drone strike in south-west Somalia, residents say.
Several loud blasts were heard in the town of Bardere at dawn and the bodies were found later, they said.
A Kenyan official has withdrawn his statement that one of those killed was the mastermind of April’s deadly attack on Garissa university.
Bardere is one of the few Somali towns still controlled by al-Shabab.
The al-Qaeda-linked group has not yet commented, but a source in the group told a BBC reporter that those killed were al-Shabab commanders.
Al-Shabab carried out the attack on Kenya’s Garissa university which killed 148 people.
Kenyan Interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka has tweeted that he was mistaken when saying a “mastermind” of that attack was among four al-Shabab commanders killed.
He said he had mixed up the mastermind, known as Gamadheere, with the al-Shabab commander, named Jamaa Adhere.
African Union and Somali government troops are reported to be advancing on the area in Gedo region.
The US has killed several senior members of al-Shabab in drone strikes in the past.
The BBC’s Moalimu Mohamed in the capital, Mogadishu, says the telecommunications network to Bardere has been cut off since the attack, but residents in the village nearest the town have been contactable.
They said that after the blasts, well-armed al-Shabab fighters rushed to the scene in Bardere, near the Juba River about 460km (285 miles) west of Mogadishu, where the dead men were found.
The names of the commanders believed to have been killed are Ismael Jamhad and Jama Dere, a Somali military officer travelling with the African Union troops in the area has told the BBC.
Somalia has seen clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants battle for control since the fall of long-serving ruler Siad Barre in 1991.
African Union troops have been in the country since 2007 helping various UN-backed governments fight al-Shabab.
Over the last four years, the militants have been driven from most of the key towns they once held but they still control rural areas in the south.