An attack on a UN base in Somalia and a Russian readiness to supply arms to Mogadishu
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov expressed his country’s readiness to supply the Somali army with the necessary military equipment to fight armed groups, saying that Russia will continue to train Somali police officers.
Lavrov said during his meeting with his Somali counterpart, Absher Omar Jameh, in Moscow, that the military equipment will be used to fight groups such as Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda.
Lavrov also said that he discussed with his guest the great importance of resolving humanitarian problems, such as the issue of the displaced in the country and the refugees who left for neighboring countries.
Russia provides humanitarian aid to Somalia through the World Food Program and other UN agencies, as well as through Russian non-governmental charitable organizations, according to Lavrov.
Attack on an African Union base
The Somali-Russian meeting comes at a time when the extremist Islamic movement, Al-Shabaab, launched an attack on an African Union force base in Somalia, about 120 km southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, as the force announced, without adding any details about the possible outcome of the operation’s victims.
The attack targeted the Polo Marer base, located 120 km southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, and was claimed by the al-Shabaab group linked to al-Qaeda, which has been fighting since 2007 the federal government supported by the international community, in order to impose Islamic law in Somalia.
The African Union force in Somalia said in a brief statement that “the Polo Marer base was attacked on Friday morning by al-Shabaab,” explaining that the force was “conducting an assessment of the security situation.” The African Union force rarely reveals its losses in attacks targeting its members.
A military commander in the Somali army, Mohamed Yero, told AFP: “A suicide bomber drove a car bomb targeting the African Union force base first, then clashes erupted with machine guns and the terrorists were forced to retreat… There was fierce fighting and the African Union force and Somali forces repulsed the attackers and returned situation back to normal.”
The African Union force in Somalia (ATMIS), which includes about twenty thousand soldiers, police and civilians from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, in April 2022 replaced the United Nations force that had been deployed since 2007 to combat the Al-Shabaab insurgency.
After the expulsion of its members from the main cities of the country in 2011 and 2012, the youth movement remained firmly stationed in vast rural areas, from which it launched attacks on security and civilian targets. In May 2022, the movement’s militants launched a major attack on a base controlled by the Burundian army in northern Mogadishu.
Neither the Somali authorities nor the African Union reported any death toll, but Burundian military sources told AFP that 45 soldiers were killed or missing.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who returned to power in May 2022, declared a “total war” against Al-Shabaab in September and launched a military offensive with the support of the African Union force and US air strikes.
These operations allowed the recovery of large areas in two states located in the center of the country. But Al-Shabaab militants continue to launch bloody attacks in revenge.
On October 29, 2022, two car bombs exploded in Mogadishu, killing 121 people and wounding 333 others, in the most serious attack in Mogadishu in five years.
In a report to the UN Security Council last February, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that 2022 was the year that witnessed the largest number of civilian deaths in Somalia since 2017. This is largely due to Al-Shabaab attacks.
In addition to this rebellion, Somalia is facing unprecedented drought, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Norwegian Refugee Council said last week that more than a million Somalis have been displaced within their country in more than four months due to a “toxic” combination of drought, conflict and floods.
Somalia and neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa, including Ethiopia and Kenya, are experiencing the worst drought in four decades after five lean seasons, leaving millions in destitution and destroying crops and livestock.