Gal’ad, Galguduud, Somalia –
Major clashes between the insurgent al-Shabaab and the Somali National Army (SNA) occurred on Wednesday near the Gal-Libah and El Quraq villages located on the border of Galgaduud and Middle Shabelle provinces. Both sides claimed victory and reported causing heavy casualties to the opposing side.
The Somali government claimed that its forces, aided by a U.S. airstrike, successfully neutralized approximately 100 al-Shabaab fighters who were planning to attack them. “In the operation, nearly 100 members of the Khawarij [as the Somali government refers to al-Shabaab], including leaders, were killed, while the place where they were plotting conspiracies was destroyed,” stated Somalia’s Defence Ministry.
However, according to the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the sequence of events differed, as al-Shabaab initiated an attack on government troops, leading them to seek assistance from the U.S. In their words, “The airstrike was in support of Somali National Army forces who were engaged by the terrorist organization.”
The statement also mentioned that, according to preliminary assessments, the airstrike resulted in the deaths of 5 al-Shabaab terrorists, with no injuries or fatalities among civilians.
Al-Shabaab, too, reported victory
The jihadist group, known for inflating its battlefield successes and concealing losses, issued their own statement. Al-Shabaab claimed to have killed 11 soldiers and injured 16 others.
“The battles were intense, and the apostate militias [as the group refers to the SNA] were defeated. The Mujahideen, by the grace of Allah, looted weapons and military supplies that the apostate militia left behind when they fled the battlefield.” These claims could not be verified.
The Somali Digest interviewed an SNA soldier, who confirmed that al-Shabaab was the first to attack the SNA troops. However, the course of the fight changed when the troops received air support from the U.S., which disrupted al-Shabaab’s forces and inflicted heavy casualties on their side.
Conflicting reports a norm
The recent clashes in Galguduud have highlighted the challenges in understanding the events unfolding on the frontline of the war against al-Shabaab. The jihadist group is well-known for inflating its battlefield successes and concealing its losses. It is a tactic that one would expect from a terrorist group that has long been intimidating, extorting and terrorizing (not only) the Somali public. However, the SNA has recently shown that its (mis)communication is no different.
The Somali Digest investigated how the SNA misinformed the public. Last Saturday, news outlets widely quoted the SNA, which reported how its Danab unit successfully eliminated 18 al-Shabaab militants in an operation near Budbud village in Galmudug State. The Somali Digest learned a completely different course of events after contacting its reliable source within the Ministry of Defence.
The reality was that the Danab forces faced a humiliating defeat that day. Danab’s (now former) commander Beeryare not only lost the battle but also ran away from his vehicle, leaving behind his deceased driver and an unspecified number of comrades. He was fired for that a day later. The SNA’s description of events was an utter lie and triggered serious concerns about the national army’s credibility and integrity.