Burundi’s army announced Wednesday that ten Burundian peacekeepers were killed in an Al-Shabaab jihadist attack on an African Union (AU) post in Somalia on Tuesday. It added in a statement that 25 soldiers were injured and five were missing, while 20 Al-Shabaab insurgents were killed.
It was the first attack on a UN peacekeeping base since the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) took over from AMISOM on April 1. A pre-dawn attack on a Burundian military camp near Ceel Baraf, a town about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of the capital Mogadishu, led to helicopter gunships from the African Union (AU) being called in.
On Tuesday, a local military officer, Mohamed Ali, reported that the assault began with a vehicle bombing before erupting into a fierce gunfight. According to two Burundian military sources, 45 peacekeepers have been confirmed dead or missing, with another 25 injured. The provisional toll is 45 soldiers killed or missing, including a battalion commander colonel, a Burundian military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that another source confirmed the data.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming control of the camp and the deaths of 173 soldiers. For more than a decade, Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels have waged a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s frail central government. Somalia’s government condemned the “heinous” incident and urged the international community to do more to help the Somali military and ATMIS “fight terrorism successfully.”
The bloodshed emphasizes the country’s security problems, which are compounded by the fact that it is also mired in a serious political crisis due to postponed elections and threatens starvation. Mogadishu was under the grip of Al-Shabaab fighters until 2011, when they were pushed out by African Union soldiers. They, on the other hand, still hold land in the countryside and attack civilian, military, and government targets in Mogadishu and other places on a regular basis.