On Saturday, a tragic attack took place at the General Gordon Military Base in Mogadishu, Somalia. The al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attack, which resulted in the deaths of four Emirati troops and a Bahraini military officer who were on a training mission. The details regarding the attack and any additional casualties remain scarce. Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud extended his condolences to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the loss of its troops.
In a statement released by the UAE's state-run news agency, WAM, it was reported that three Emirati troops and the Bahraini officer were killed in a 'terrorist act.' Later, a fourth Emirati soldier passed away while being transported back to the UAE. The news agency released heart-rending footage of three flag-draped caskets being received with honor at Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi. The deceased were identified as a colonel, two warrant officers, and a corporal.
Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati diplomat, expressed condolences for those who lost their lives and wished a speedy recovery for the injured. Gargash emphasized that acts of treachery will not deter their commitment to security, safety, and the fight against extremism and terrorism.
The military of Bahrain, an island nation in the Persian Gulf, also acknowledged the death of a major in the attack. Bahrain's official news agency, the Bahrain News Agency, carried a statement confirming the loss.
Al-Shabab, translated as 'the youth' in Arabic, is a Sunni Islamic extremist group rooted in Somalia's turbulent history following the civil war in 1991. At one point, al-Shabab held control over Mogadishu, but a coalition led by the African Union, supported by the United States and other nations, successfully pushed them out. Despite these efforts, al-Shabab has remained a persistent threat and continues to seek the overthrow of the Western-backed Somali government.
In addition to Somalia, al-Shabab has carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya, targeting the country due to its involvement in supporting the African Union's efforts in Somalia. Over the years, the United States has also launched numerous airstrikes against militants in Somalia, with the frequency reaching over 300, primarily under the administration of former President Donald Trump.
The United States Embassy in Somalia condemned the attack against the training mission, referring to it as a 'cowardly attack.' The embassy expressed its deepest sympathies to the families of those who lost their lives and praised the efforts of both UAE military trainers and Somali soldiers in their dedication to advancing stability in the nation.
Somalia has been a subject of interest for Gulf states, particularly during the diplomatic crisis involving Qatar that engulfed the region for several years. During this period, the UAE and three other nations boycotted Doha, leading to strained relations. In a previous incident, Somali troops seized millions of dollars of Emirati cash from a plane, triggering a diplomatic dispute with the UAE and halting the troop training program.
Recently, the UAE has been investing in ports in East Africa, including regions like Somaliland, which has declared independence from Somalia. Securing Somalia aligns with the UAE's broader concerns over security in the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, especially in light of the resurgence of Somali piracy and attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels on shipping due to conflicts involving Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
This attack serves as a somber reminder of the ongoing threat posed by groups like al-Shabab and the importance of sustained efforts to combat extremism and terrorism. The loss of these brave military personnel from the UAE and Bahrain is a heavy blow, and their sacrifice will be remembered as part of the international commitment to promoting peace and stability in the region.