Another Deadly Attack by Al-Shabaab

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The al-Qaida-linked militants orchestrated an attack on an African Union base in southern Somalia earlier today, killing at least 20 peacekeepers.

Reuters reported the militants drove a bomb into the base and then stormed it. The group said 70 AU peacekeepers were killed, though the BBC reports that the AU counted 20 fatalities.

An al-Shabaab spokesman told Reuters in a statement the base was under the group’s control. But the BBC reports the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, retook control of the base following a “tactical withdrawal.” Additional reports claim bystanders witnessed al-Shabaab looting weapons from the base.

The attack occurred at the Janale base, roughly 55 miles south of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Despite significant gains against the group by AMISOM, al-Shabaab has refused to go away.

The group—which wishes to impose its strict interpretations of Islam on areas it controls—continues attacks on targets within Somalia, including  a hotel in Mogadishu, as well as on peacekeepers. The group has also committed high-profile cross-border attacks, including the massacre at Garissa University in Kenya that killed nearly 150 and the infamous Westgate mall attack in 2013, also in Kenya.

The U.S. has played a large part in the fight against al-Shabaab, operating unmanned aircraft from bases in neighboring Djibouti.  It was also recently reported that the U.S. has been operating secret drone bases within Somalia’s borders and maintaining a small military presence on the ground for some time.

Within the last year, the U.S. has taken out the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, and a top member of al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing.

The U.S. has continued to increase its involvement in Somalia, shifting its previous strategy of counterterrorism operations to one seemingly of more direct support of ongoing military operations by AMISOM forces.