THREE African Union soldiers and a civilian were killed Thursday after al-Shabaab militants attacked the force’s heavily fortified headquarters in Somali as they marked Christmas.
The AU force known as AMISOM said troops regained control of the base in Mogadishu after a gunfight that left five of the attackers dead while three others were captured. “Three AMISOM soldiers and a civilian contractor unfortunately lost their lives,” AMISOM said in a statement, updating earlier information that said the four had been injured in the attack.
“AMISOM has regained control of the Halane base camp and restored normalcy. All African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN) personnel in the base camp are safe and secure,” it added.
The Shabaab group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The AU force headquarters is a fortified structure located on the grounds of the Mogadishu airport, which has also been placed under high security.
Shabaab quickly claimed responsibility. “Our fighters are inside the headquarters of the foreign troops in Somalia,” Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP, adding several AU soldiers had been killed.
A Western security source said between 15 and 20 attackers were involved.
Their evident success in managing to penetrate the highly-guarded compound was in itself a troubling achievement. The AU force headquarters is a fortified structure located on the grounds of the Mogadishu airport, which has also been placed under high security.
There are currently some 22,000 African Union troops as part of the AMISOM force, deployed since 2007. They have managed to push Shabaab militants out of the capital, but the Islamists still hold large swathes of territory.
Recent Shabaab attacks in Somalia have targeted key government and security sites in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities and African Union troops that they are winning the war.
Thursday’s attack came a day after Somalia’s parliament endorsed a new prime minister, appointed last week after the war-torn country’s president fell out with the previous premier amid bitter infighting.
The United Nations, United States and European Union—all key backers of Somalia’s fragile government—have all warned that power struggles in Mogadishu were a damaging distraction for the country as it tries to battle Shabaab rebels..