Mogadishu, Somalia –
A suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest at the Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy in Mogadishu, causing heavy casualties among the Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers. The targeted united had recently been transferred from Lower Shabelle to prepare for the 2nd phase of the planned counter-al-Shabaab offensive.
The terrorist targeted military personnel from the 14th October Brigade as they lined up after breakfast, killing at least 30 soldiers and injuring at least 50 others. It remains unclear how the bomber managed to infiltrate one of the most secure military bases in the capital.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that he might have been part of the 14th October Brigade or might have disguised himself as a regular soldier and joined others as they filed into a military base.
In a statement, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they killed 73 soldiers and injured 124 others. The figures could not be independently verified, and it should be noted that al-Shabaab often exaggerates its battlefield claims.
The 14th October Brigade was established in commemoration of the victims of the single deadliest terrorist attack in Africa. The massive explosion occurred at Mogadishu’s Zobe Junction on 14 October 2017, claiming nearly 600 lives.
Ongoing censorship amid worsening security in the capital
The Jaalle Siyaad military base is one of Mogadishu’s most heavily guarded places. Residents state that it is challenging for people even to stand near the base. However, as today’s attack demonstrates, al-Shabaab is capable of infiltrating and targeting even highly fortified locations.
The security in Mogadishu has been steadily worsening, with al-Shabaab’s attacks taking place on a daily basis. Numerous soldiers and security personnel have recently fallen victim to various al-Shabaab attacks in the capital. The surge in violence alone is worrying, but how the Somali government communicates it is perhaps even more alarming.
A reliable source within the state media told the Somali Digest that the Deputy Information Minister, Abdirahman Al-Adala, who controls the state-owned media, imposed an information embargo on the Jaalle Siyaad attack. Several senior journalists allegedly strongly opposed the decision and raised concerns about the rationality of censoring the incident. Hiding details from the public will certainly not solve the alarming insecurity in Mogadishu.
Both the attack and the censorship efforts by the government officials are an expression of the government’s vulnerability when facing the worsening security situation in the capital.
Handed over from Burundians in 2019
The Jaalle Siyaad Military Academy was handed over to the Somali government from Burundian troops in February 2019. The contingent, serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM, now ATMIS), had occupied the facility since September 2008. It was the third facility to be handed over to the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) after the Somali National University in July 2017 and Mogadishu National Stadium in August 2018.