MOGADISHU – Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has published a series of photos from last week’s raid on a military camp in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia.
The photos detail both the attack and the destruction left on the Puntland military camp, which does not appear to have been well fortified. The jihadist group claimed last week that it killed more than 60 soldiers, however, Puntland authorities have put that number closer to 30.
The latter appears to be closer to the actual number, as very few bodies are shown in the photo set. Shabaab has often confirmed high casualty numbers in similar raids by showcasing dead bodies strewn across overran bases.
Shabaab did confirm that its forces overran the camp and took several weapons and vehicles as spoils. The camp, which was located in Af Urur in the Galgala mountains, appears to have been destroyed by the jihadists.
The Galgala mountains have long been a stronghold of Shabaab, which has carried out a number of high profile attacks there. Most recently, on April 23, Shabaab fighters killed eight troops and wounded several more in a complex IED attack.
The Islamic State also has a presence in Galgala. An estimated 20 fighters loyal to Abdiqadir Mumin broke off from Shabaab and swore allegiance to Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2015. Several months later, Mumin was featured in a video that promoted the “first camp of the Caliphate in Somalia.” A defected member of Mumin’s forces reportedly placed the number of Islamic State-loyal fighters in Galgala at 70.
Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia. Last week’s deadly assault in Puntland also shows that the jihadist group remains a threat in northern Somalia as well.