Somalia: AU says Burundi peacekeepers killed in al-Shabab attack

The African Union and the Burundian army commented on the attack, breaking from tradition.

Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia peacekeepers stand in formation
Burundian African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers stand in formation during a ceremony as they prepare to leave the Jaale Siad Military Academy after being replaced by the Somali military in Mogadishu, Somalia, February 28, 2019 [File: Feisal Omar/Reuters]

The African Union says a number of Burundian peacekeepers were killed in Tuesday’s attack by rebels who targeted a remote military base in Somalia.

The continental body condemned the attack and paid “tribute to the Burundian peacekeepers who lost their lives helping to bring peace and stability to Somalia” in a statement issued on Wednesday.

It did not say how many peacekeepers were killed. But the Burundian army also said on Wednesday that 10 of its peacekeepers were killed at the base.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack on the base in El Baraf, a small town 150km (93 miles) north of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, in the Middle Shabelle region. The group circulated a video purporting to show the bodies of peacekeepers as well as military equipment seized in the attack.

Al-Shabab claimed to have killed 173 soldiers, but the group regularly inflates death tolls after attacks by its fighters. The death toll and al-Shabab’s purported video from the scene could not be independently verified.

Tuesday’s attack was the latest by al-Shabab, which opposes the presence of foreign troops in Somalia. The group, which is fighting to impose Islamic law across the country, has stepped up its attacks in recent months amid political tensions as Somalia tries to elect a new president.

Burundi is one of the countries contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia, also known by its initials – ATMIS. Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti also have soldiers deployed to the mission.

The African Union statement urged the international community “to increase support to the Somali security services and the ATMIS mission commensurate with the security challenge at hand”.

Source: Reuters