Al-Shabab militants kill 50 soldiers in attack on Somalia military base

A general view shows wreckages of cars destroyed during an explosion near a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia March 28, 2019. REUTERS
Updated 14 August 2019

Al-Shabab militants kill 50 soldiers in attack on Somalia military base

  • One military officer said bombs exploded outside the base

MOGADISHU: The Islamist militant group Al-Shabab claimed to have killed at least 50 soldiers in a double car-bomb and gun attack on Wednesday on a military base in Somalia.

Civilians were also killed in the crossfire in an hour-long gunbattle at the base in Awdheegle, 70 km southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

“We heard two huge blasts and gunfire from the direction of the military base. I saw several soldiers running away to escape but we cannot know how many were killed,” Awdheegle resident Aden Abdullahi said.

Halima Farah, a shopkeeper, said government troops were in control of the town after the attack.  “We believe both the militants and government suffered great loss of life, but we cannot see their casualties. Stray bullets killed people in their homes.”

Al-Shabab, which is linked to Al-Qaeda, said it had killed 50 soldiers and lost only two of its members who drove the car bombs. Army vehicles were also burned, it said.

However, the Somali army’s operations commander Gen. Yusuf Rageh Odowa said his forces had repelled the militants, and that many of the attackers’ corpses lay at the scene while others were captured. 

“After the blasts they tried to attack the army defenses but were defeated. We are still pursuing them. Some soldiers sustained minor injuries from blast shrapnel but nothing major,” he said.

Capt. Hussein Ali, a military officer from a nearby town, said soldiers behind sandbags had stopped the car bombs from reaching the base by firing to detonate them.

“There are casualties from Al-Shabab and government forces, but we have no exact figure,” he said.

Wednesday’s attack followed last week’s recapture by government forces of most of Awdheegle district. Al-Shabab was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and has since lost most of its other strongholds.

However, the attack has renewed the focus on the militants’ links with Qatar. Evidence emerged this month that Doha colluded in Al-Shabab attacks in Somalia targeting the assets of other Gulf states.

A phone conversation between Khalifa Kayed Al-Muhanadi, a Qatari businessman close to Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and Hassan bin Hamza Hashem, the Qatari ambassador to Somalia, revealed Doha’s involvement in Al-Shabab terrorism in the port of Bosaso, which is operated by the Dubai company DP World.

“The bombings and killings, we know who is behind them,” Al-Muhanadi told the envoy. “Our friends were behind the last bombings.”


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 1 min 59 sec ago

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.