Beled Hawo, Somalia — In a pre-dawn assault, elements of the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group known as Harakat al-Shabaab (HSM) attacked and overran a military base owned by the Somalia National Army (SNA) along with three other key locations to include a local police station in the town of Beled-Hawo in southern Somalia on Monday.
Al-Shabaab first attacked the SNA compound which lays about six kilometers east, just outside the town Beled-Hawo which sits along the border of Kenya. The terror group initiated their attack by driving a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) into the compound’s front gate and detonating the suicide car-bomb producing a gaping maw where the security gate once stood.
Directly after the explosion, al-Shabaab fighters swarmed into the SNA base killing upwards of 14 before what was left of the overwhelmed Somali forces fled west and into the city of Mandera, Kenya that borders Somalia according to local sources in the area. Once the terror group gained control of the base, they then set their sites on the town of Beled-Hawo itself where heavily armed al-Shabaab fighters attacked the main police station using explosives and withering automatic gun fire to overtake that compound as well.
The insurgents continued the rampage and began attacking the mayor’s office with bombs and bullets within the main center of the border town, sending civilians fleeing for their lives as al-Shabaab seemed to have fully taken control of Beled-Hawo.
Al-Shabaab media spokesperson, Abiasis Abu Musab, claimed that the terror group killed possibly 20 to 24 SNA forces along with freeing 35 prisoners in the local jail. All of which was not confirmed by local sources or Somali officials.
The Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) stationed across the border in Mandera, who received the overwhelmed SNA forces who had escaped the al-Shabaab onslaught, responded within the hour and began shelling parts of Beled-Hawo that were reportedly under control of al-Shabaab along with close air strikes by KDF Air Force fast attack helicopters stationed at the KDF military compound situated on the southwest side of the city of Mandera.
Under heavy bombardment, al-Shabaab retreated from Beled-Hawo en masse, yet not before heavily damaging several government buildings and destroying radio and cellular communications towers in their path. Kenya’s northeastern regional commander, Mohamud Saleh confirmed today that the Kenya Defense Forces escorted about 180 SNA soldiers that fled the terrorist attack back to Beled-Hawo town Monday evening.
An unknown contingent of KDF troops have stayed in the beleaguered town to assist SNA forces in regaining control of the region along with reconstituting the compound al-Shabaab held for the better part of the day, with the KDF commander, Saleh in an interview with Reuters saying “Our troops took them back and they are now in charge of the town. It was badly destroyed and looted by the terrorists”
Somali military officials echoed the KDF commanders statement by adding that “[W]e are firmly in control of the Beled-Hawo town. We [the KDF along with SNA troops] managed to chase the militants out of town. We lost some of our soldiers but we also killed a number of their [Al-Shabaab fighters] while others escaped with injuries.”
Al-Shabaab has become emboldened as of late as they seem to be getting pushed out of most of the urban centers within the Lower Shabelle region by either coordinated U.S. air strikes or by joint U.S. and Somali special operations counter-insurgency raids. Most of the major city centers such as Baidoa and Dinsoor in the region are mainly under the protection and control of either the SNA, or the U.N.-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peace-keeping forces operation within the war-torn East African country. Yet, al-Shabaab maintains a choke-hold within the surrounding rural regions.
Al-Shabaab has also set its sights on increasing its presence and attacks within the northern region of Kenya as well, and by the looks of it, the Kenyan Defense Forces are attempting to become better equipped to deal with this increase in the terror group’s threats of increased insurgency operations into Kenya.
Feature image courtesy of: Associated Press.