US soldier hurt, two Somali soldiers dead in al-Shabab attack

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — A United States (US) soldier was wounded and two Somali soldiers were killed when an al-Shabab suicide bomber tried to pass a checkpoint and attack a military compound in southern Somalia but was stopped by the partner forces, the countries said on Monday.

A Somali Information Ministry statement said the attack occurred on Monday morning about 60 kilometres north of the port city of Kismayo. Three other Somali soldiers were wounded and an al-Shabab extremist was killed, it said.

“The US service member is in stable condition and receiving treatment for injuries that are not assessed to be life-threatening,” US Africa Command spokesman Christopher Karns said in a separate statement.

Al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Musab, in an audio message broadcast by the extremist group’s radio arm, Andalus, claimed multiple US and Somali deaths in the attack. But there was no independent confirmation, and al-Shabab often exaggerates casualties.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab remains the most active and resilient extremist group in Africa, controlling parts of southern and central Somalia and often targetting checkpoints and other high-profile areas in the capital, Mogadishu. It has fired several mortars this year at the heavily defended international airport, where the US Embassy and others are located.

The US military often advises and assists Somali forces on the ground, while carrying out dozens of airstrikes against al-Shabab this year alone. Last month, the US Africa Command said there are between 650 and 850 Department of Defence personnel, including military, civilians and contractors, in the Horn of Africa country.

The coronavirus pandemic has done little to curb al-Shabab attacks, while the US had to reduce its advisory work, according to a new quarterly report released last week by the Department of Defense Inspector General.

“Across Somalia, al-Shabab attacks continued at historically high levels,” the report said. Meanwhile, it said, Somali forces did not liberate any new territory from the extremist group.

Somali security officials, however, assert that al-Shabab attacks have declined in recent months because of significant military pressure by joint Somali and African Union forces along with regular airstrikes.