DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab claimed an attack that killed three Emirati troops and a Bahraini military officer on a training mission at a military base in the Somali capital, authorities said Sunday.
The attack Saturday targeted the troops at the General Gordon Military Base in Mogadishu. Details about the attack and whether it killed others remained scarce Sunday, though Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud offered his condolences to the UAE for the loss of its troops in the assault.
Early Sunday, the UAE’s state-run WAM news agency reported the killing of three of its troops and the Bahraini soldier in a “terrorist act,” without elaborating. It added that the attack wounded two others. Bahrain, an island nation in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia, did not immediately acknowledge the attack.
Al-Shabab claimed the attack in a statement online, alleging it killed multiple people involved in the Emirati military effort. It described the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, as an “enemy” of Islamic Shariah law for backing the Somali government in its efforts to battle al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab, or “the youth” in Arabic, is a Sunni Islamic extremist group in Somalia born out of that country’s years of anarchy following its 1991 civil war. The affiliate of al-Qaida once held Mogadishu. Over time, an African Union-led force, with the backing of the U.S. and other countries, pushed the militants out of Mogadishu. In the years since, al-Shabab has remained a militant threat in Somalia as it seeks to overthrow the Western-backed government there.
Al-Shabab has carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya as well, since Nairobi provides troops and materiel to the African Union force in the country.
Somalia has also been an intense interest for Gulf states, particularly the Qatar diplomatic crisis that gripped the region for several years and saw four nations including the UAE boycott Doha in a political dispute. Somali troops once seized millions of dollars of Emirati cash from a jet at gunpoint, sparking a diplomatic incident between Mogadishu and the UAE that halted its troop training program there.
The UAE in recent years has increasingly invested in ports in East Africa, including in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region. Securing Somalia fits into the Emirates’ wider concerns about security in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, particularly as Somali piracy has resumed after years amid attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on shipping in the region over Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.