Al-Shabaab Video Reveals the Horrors of AMISOM Base in Janaale
By Harar24′s Editorials team
Al-Shabaab released a video of the attack on the AMISOM base in Janaale, Lower Shabeelle, in which more than 50 Ugandan soldiers are believed to have been killed by the Islamists, according to Somali and Western military officials.
The attack which took place more than two months ago at the Ugandan base in Janaale, about 80 km south of Mogadishu, was the latest of Al-Shabaab’s renewed campaign of raids and ambushes against African Union bases and convoys in the country and is thought to be the largest single loss sustained by the Ugandan contingent. Al-Shabaab said the attack was in revenge for the killing of 40 civilians by AMISOM forces in Marka in July.
In the new video, Al-Shabaab fighters are seen storming the base, killing and shooting Ugandan soldiers at point blank range. A vehicle loaded with explosives is used to breach the perimeter of the base, followed by sustained gunfire as dozens of Al-Shabaab fighters march through the base, killing Ugandan soldiers wherever they find them. Interspersed with the footage of dying soldiers, pools of blood and the macabre nature of the killings is the voice of the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, justifying the cause of his contingent’s defeat.
‘Our soldiers were asleep,’ the president says, ‘asleep, not alert.’
Ugandan soldiers – perhaps as an affront to their capability – are shown fleeing from the base as AMISOM commanders applaud their soldiers for a ‘putting up a good fight’. It is estimated that at least 50 Ugandan soldiers were killed in the attack. Majority of them are thought to have been killed inside the base by the Islamist fighters, while others who attempted to swim across the river were driven to a watery grave.
The few soldiers who successfully managed to flee the carnage at the base and swam across the river were later captured by Al-Shabaab fighters as they wandered in the forests of Lower Shabeelle. One of them – shackled and looking rather disconsolate – appears in the video and recounts the events of that fateful morning.
‘I was frightened by a loud explosion. I looked around and, to my surprise, none of my comrades were there. Then I realised that I was alone. I don’t even know how I made it out of there,’ says the soldier.
In another puzzling twist to the tale, the perpetrator of Al-Shabaab’s ‘martyrdom operation’ which opened the gates and allowed its fighters to storm the base on foot is none other than a former US-trained soldier with the Somali National Army (SNA) who had defected to Al-Shabaab. Until recently, the idea that US-trained Somali commanders could one day use their skills and training against the very people they were trained to fight for and defend might have been inconceivable, but Abdullah Ali Omar’s journey demonstrates the complex nature of Somalia’s battlefield.
Before joining Al-Shabaab, Abdullah was allegedly among a group of Somali soldiers specifically chosen to receive US training so as to spearhead the war efforts against Somalia’s Al-Qaeda affiliate: Al-Shabaab. After months of intensive training in Uganda and Djibouti at the hands of US instructors, Abdullah was deployed back to Somalia along with his unit to launch an offensive against Al-Shabaab. But instead of reporting for duty, Abdullah fled Mogadishu, joined Al-Shabaab and turned into what they describe as a ‘lethal human weapon.’
Like every other conflict, Somalia’s war is fought not only on the battlefield but also for the hearts and minds of the people, with each party attempting to muster support and highlight the righteousness of their cause. By responding to the deaths of civilians in Marka and carrying out such a large-scale assault against the Ugandan base in Janaale on their behalf, Al-Shabaab might have scored a tangible victory – a victory bolstered with highly sophisticated video releases such as these. But while clearly serving as a propaganda coup for Al-Shabaab, Somalia is highly volatile place and it is almost impossible to predict what the ever-shifting political landscape holds in store.
United Nations-backed AMISOM force consists of troops from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Nigeria.
Photos from Janaale