Killing of Emirati soldiers in “terrorist act” in Somalia

The UAE officially began implementing a program to train the Somali Federal Government forces in 2014. A year later, they opened a training center in Mogadishu, where Emirati forces trained Somali commandos. The UAE also provided vehicles to the Jubaland forces, the Ministry of Internal Security, and the police in the federal government. By 2018, the UAE reported that they had trained thousands of Somali soldiers, built training centers and hospitals, and paid the salaries of thousands of soldiers.

UAE’s contributions in Somalia include assisting in funding the development of the Somali National Army and upgrading Berbera Airport, which is currently being considered for use by the “United States Africa Command.” The UAE also carries out some operations, such as those in Banadir, against Iranian arms smugglers.

Thanks to Abu Dhabi’s funding, they gained allies at various levels of the Somali political system, including President Hassan Sheikh. The Al-Shabaab movement has been engaged in armed rebellion against the Somali government since 2006, seeking to establish its own rule. Last January, at least three people were killed and two injured in a suicide bombing near the Mogadishu mayor’s office.

The UAE Ministry of Defense revealed that three of its officers and another from the Bahrain Defense Force were killed in a “terrorist act” in Somalia while performing their duties in training and rehabilitating Somali forces, while the extremist Al-Shabaab movement claimed responsibility for the incident.

The UAE Ministry of Defense announced on Saturday evening the killing of three of its soldiers and a Bahraini officer with the injury of three others after they were “exposed to a terrorist act” in Somalia, where these soldiers are part of a mission assisting Mogadishu in securing the domestic front and securing trade routes towards the Horn of Africa.

The Ministry, in a statement posted on its account on “X” (formerly Twitter), stated that the incident occurred “while they were performing their duties in training and rehabilitating the Somali armed forces.” The Ministry’s statement added that “the UAE continues to coordinate and cooperate with the Somali government in investigating the heinous terrorist act.”

Abu Dhabi is linked to Somalia through an official agreement for security cooperation approved in February 2023, to address the recent threats to Somalia such as internal terrorist movements and the instability of the security situation in Somalia, which threatens maritime navigation in the Horn of Africa. Somalia has witnessed for several years now a bloody conflict between government forces and militants of the Al-Shabaab movement linked to Al-Qaeda, seeking to control the state located in the Horn of Africa region.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud expressed his condolences to the UAE and condemned the attack witnessed in Mogadishu, calling for an immediate investigation into the incident, according to the Somali News Agency (SONA).

The Somali President visited the Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital to inquire about “the injured Emirati officers who were injured in the terrorist attack on the General Gordon camp,” according to the agency.

Mahmoud said, “We offer our condolences to the government and people of the UAE who lost their soldiers in the terrorist attack in Mogadishu. These officers came to our country to participate in rebuilding the Somali armed forces.” He added, “We are grateful to the UAE government and people for their continued support in rebuilding and developing Somalia, and we will remember the role they played in our country during this difficult time.”

Earlier, an officer told Reuters that the attacker was a Somali soldier who had recently undergone training and was shot dead at the Gordon military base managed by the UAE.

The officer, who identified himself as Ahmed, added, “The soldier opened fire on Emirati trainers and Somali army officials after they had started praying, and four Emirati officers were injured, while four Somali soldiers were killed.”

Two nurses and a doctor at Erdogan Hospital in Mogadishu said that a senior UAE officer was killed, along with four other UAE officers seriously injured.

They told Reuters, after requesting not to mention their names, that ten Somali soldiers were injured in the attack and transferred to the hospital.

The Al-Shabaab movement linked to Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement broadcast on its “Andalus Radio,” claiming that its militants had killed 17 soldiers.

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