Is El-Lahelay al-Shabaab’s next target after the Somali government forces’ blunder in El Garas? Last night, the militant group attacked the El-Lahelay area in the Galgaduud region with artillery fire. According to our reports, the government forces managed to defend the place. However, based on the events in El Garas, how long will they be able to hold it?
El-Lahelay, Galgaduud region, Galmudug, SOMALIA. By Jama:
Al-Shabaab has not claimed responsibility for last night’s attack yet. However, considering their past operation patterns, there is no doubt that it was them behind the assault. El-Lahelay is just a few kilometres from El Garas, which is currently under the control of al-Shabaab. The group is expected to attempt to regain control over El-Lahelay as well.
Counterterrorism operation gone wrong
A cloud of uncertainty hung over last Wednesday’s counterterrorism operation in El-Lahelay, which claimed the lives of al-Shabaab leaders and several civilians.
Initially, the Somali government announced that it had successfully killed three al-Shabaab leaders. Simultaneously, another statement indicated that three members of a single family had tragically lost their lives while others sustained injuries. The state-owned Somali National News Agency (SONNA) reported that a mother and her two children died when the militant group al-Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in their home in El-Lahelay.
In contrast, al-Shabaab-affiliated websites made no mention of the alleged killing of their leaders. This is typical for the militant group, which always conceals its own casualties. Instead, they claimed that a U.S. airstrike had caused the death of six family members: a grandmother and her five grandchildren.
AFRICOM sheds light
On 8 September, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) also issued a statement. It asserted that the U.S. soldiers were not present in the area during the operation and did not conduct any airstrikes in support of it. Instead, the press release said U.S. soldiers were responding to a request from the Somali government to medically evacuate civilians who sustained injuries during an operation which killed three al-Shabaab leaders.
The conflicting accounts and the tragic loss of civilian lives have raised questions about the incident. Calls for transparency and accountability have emerged, with many urging the Somali government to provide a comprehensive account of the events.