Jihadists 'Storm' U.S. Air Base, Bomb Military Convoy in Surprise Somalia Attacks

Jihadists in Somalia have attacked a U.S. military base in the southern Lower Shabelle region of the country on Monday, while a second attack targeted a European peace-keeping envoy in the capital of Mogadishu.

In the first attack, two cars packed with explosives were driven towards the Balegdole air base before being detonated at its gates. Bursts of gunfire then followed as jihadists tried to breach the base.

Al-Shabab, Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group, said it was responsible for the attack in a statement and claimed its fighters had been successful in entering the base.

"After breaching the perimeters of the heavily fortified base, the mujahideen [holy warriors] stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight," the statement said.

Al-Shabab are known for often exaggerating their statements however, and a statement from the U.S. Ambassador to Somalia's office denied that entry was made.

"The United States condemns the attacks today in Baledogle and Mogadishu," the statement said. "We commend the Somali security forces who repelled the attack against the Somali National Army (SNA) Base in Baledogle, Lower Shabelle region.

"The security forces stopped this ultimately failed attack due to their alertness and swift response, not allowing the attackers to breach the outer defensive perimeters of the base."

The Bolegole base, roughly 100 km (60 miles) west of Mogadishu, houses Somali special forces, U.S. special forces and Ugandan peace-keeping troops.

In the second attack, a bomb blast targeted a peace-keeping envoy from Italy. The Italian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the convoy was hit by explosions, but stated that no injuries had been reported. Images of the attack seen by Newsweek showed that a light-armored vehicle had been sheared open from the attack and extensive damage had been caused to nearby buildings.

Mogadishu attack 2019
Bystanders gather at the site of a suicide car bomb explosion which targeted a European Union vehicle convoy in Mogadishu, Somalia, on September 30, 2019. Getty

The U.S. Ambassador's statement also stated that there were no injuries in either attack.

"We are thankful that there were no SNA causalities between the multiple attacks," it said.

"This attack yet again demonstrates Al-Shabab violently opposes progress towards peace and prosperity in Somalia. The United States affirms our strong commitment to the people and government of Somalia and to assist collective efforts to degrade terror groups and build a stronger and prosperous Somalia that offers a brighter future for its people."

Hussein Sheikh-Ali, a former national security adviser and founder of the Mogadishu-based security think-tank the Hiraal Institute, told Reuters that this attack was aimed at showing Al-Shabab's strength.

"It implies they have a high intelligence and a degree of capability just to get close to that place," he said. "They don't look like people on the back foot."

The attacks follow a relative calm from U.S. airstrikes in the country. Africa Command has only launched four airstrikes in the past two months, reported Reuters, in comparison to the 28 attacks launched between January and March of 2019.