Despite increasing concern that Al-Shabaab has become even more daring after attacking the Halane Base Camp, the African Union peacekeeping force says the group is gambling with mortar bombs to strike fear. Mortar bombs fire explosive shells at close targets.
The Halane Base Camp houses the headquarters of high profile institutions and agencies in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
According to an Amisom statement on October 13, Al-Shabaab fired mortar bombs into the Halane Base Camp, injuring three Amisom staff.
Amisom spokesperson Lt Col Charles Okongo Imbiakha told The EastAfrican that this was the second time the terrorist group had fired mortar bombs at the base camp.
“In January, they fired a mortar bomb in an attempt to hit key targets in this area but it fell a distance away,” he said.
The base camp is a highly secured area of Mogadishu that houses the international airport, Amisom headquarters, the United Nations, embassies of major Western powers and other international agencies.
For a long time, Al-Shabaab’s weapons of choice have been homemade improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and car bombs.
“If they had breached our security and gained access, we would not be talking about injuries but casualties,” said Lt Col. Imbiakha.
“It will be very dangerous [for us] to think that Al-Shabaab has abandoned IEDs. They just change tactics because IEDs are not as effective as before, but I highly doubt they can sustain mortar bombs,” he added.
Since the start of 2018, Al Shabaab attacks have increased in different regions of Somalia where the militia group is active especially Banadir (where Mogadishu is located), Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba (whose capital is Kismayo), Middle Juba and Hiraan, prompting calls by elders in the country for a delay in withdrawal of Amisom troops in 2021.
Amisom remains upbeat that it will carry out its mandate of bringing lasting peace and security to Somalia despite such daring attacks as this recent one that targeted the base camp.
In all meetings, in recent months, to review the peacekeeping force’s exit strategy and eventual take over by the Somali National Army, African Union officials and Amisom commanders have remained optimistic that the country will remain intact when the force’s mandate ends.
For instance, in July the Special Representative of the chairperson of the AU Commission Francisco Madeira praised the Somali National Army—working alongside Amisom—for liberating the strategic towns of Sabiid, Anole and Bariire in April and May.
Meanwhile, Amisom commander Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn said that joint operations in Lower Shabelle region have seen reduced incidents of IED explosions and mortar attacks.
Still, sources say it will come down to a joint assessment by the AU and UN to advise whether the SNA is ready to take over.