Al-Shabaab ambushes Burundian troops near Leego
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, ambushed a convoy of Burundian troops on a road near the southern town of Leego. The jihadist group released a video highlighting the attack on July 13, but no date was given for when the ambush took place.
The video begins with a message that reads “From the French and those who followed suit, today we sign with the blood of the dogs from the Burundian crusaders. Tomorrow, we will sign with your blood, God willing.” After the short statement, several improvised explosive device (IED) attacks are seen on screen. Some of the vehicles targeted are African Union (AU) armored vehicles, while many others appear to be cargo or transport vehicles for the AU forces.
After the IED attacks, Shabaab official Abdul Qadar Mu’min delivers a short speech before the video cuts to a Shabaab military commander going over the battle plan with several fighters. These jihadists, and many others, are then shown ambushing and targeting the Burundian contingent of AU forces.
Shabaab fighters forced the Burundian troops to retreat. The jihadist group then highlights a number of the AU troops who were killed as well as some of the “spoils” gained in the fighting.
At certain points in the video, the jihadist group includes the voices of Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Ibrahim al Rubaish. Zarqawi was the founder and emir (leader) of al Qaeda in Iraq before being killed by the US in 2006. Despite his group eventually turning into what is now known as the Islamic State, Zarqawi is heavily revered by al Qaeda. Ibrahim al Rubaish was a senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader and Islamic scholar before his death by a US drone strike in Yemen earlier this year.
While the video details an ambush near the town of Leego, it appears to be separate from the attack on the AU base in the area late last month. That attack is said to have left around 70 Burundian troops dead out of the 100 that were stationed at the base. Shabaab also claimed that its “Sheikh Abu Zubayr Battalion,” which targeted the base, captured the town of Leego. Days later, Ethiopian troops reportedly recaptured the town from the jihadists. [For information on this attack, see LWJ report, Shabaab assaults African Union base and Threat Matrix report, Shabaab photo release verifies details of Leego attack.]
The video release comes just days after the jihadist group targeted two hotels in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. At least 16 people were killed in the attacks on the Weheliye and Siyad hotels, according to Voice of America. The al Qaeda branch regularly attacks hotels that hosts government officials and tourists. Shabaab also claimed to have fired mortars at the Mogadishu stadium, where Ugandan troops are based. No one was hurt in the mortar fire.
Despite being pushed out of its major urban strongholds of Mogadishu and Kismayo, the jihadist group still controls large rural areas in southern Somalia. It also retains the ability to launch large-scale assaults in the country, even with a major African Union mission present. Shabaab has also increasingly been able to mount attacks across the border into neighboring Kenya.