Shabaab fighters in the town of Leego in southern Somalia before withdrawing.
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, has released a statement claiming attacks in the northeastern part of Kenya. The group also claimed to have temporarily gained control of a town near the border with Somalia.
The statement, which was distributed by Shahaada News, its official propaganda outlet, says that “Fighters from Shabaab launched military operations in the occupied Northeastern Province of Kenya, where the province has seen a variety of operations from the Movement [referring to Shabaab] in recent days.” The statement goes on to say that “Within these operations, fighters from Shabaab managed to temporarily control the area of Bulujul in northeastern Kenya near the border with Somalia.”
Additionally, Shabaab fighters are said to have lectured residents while roaming the streets “after the withdrawal of Kenyan security forces.” The jihadists are then said to have retreated back into the nearby forest.
In another “incident” earlier this week, Shabaab claimed to have targeted a “Kenyan [Defense] forces convoy with an improvised explosive device in the Jalamjala area of northeastern Kenya.” The blast reportedly “fully destroyed a truck” in the convoy and left “more than eight Kenyan soldiers dead.” However, Kenyan Defense Forces officials have disputed this number, and said that only three soldiers were killed.
These attacks occurred in Garissa County, which sits on the Somali-Kenya border. The main university in the region, Garissa University, was the scene of a brutal massacre perpetrated by Shabaab earlier this year. The jihadists stormed the university and killed 148 people and wounded many more. A spokesman for Shabaab said the gunmen deliberately separated Muslims from non-Muslims during the attack. [See LWJ report, Shabaab massacres dozens in attack on Kenyan university.]
Shabaab has been able to mount attacks in the region despite the presence of a large African Union mission in Somalia. The jihadist group has launched numerous suicide assaults on heavily guarded hotels in Mogadishu this year. It has also continuously targeted African Union troops in southern and central Somalia, and has taken back some territory in the process.
On Sept. 18, Shabaab took over Yaaqbariweyne town, according to a local official. It is unclear if Shabaab still controls the town. The capture of Yaaqbariweyne occurred while Shabaab was assaulting other towns in southern Somalia. On Sept. 6, Shabaab said it took over Buqda in the Hiran region. One day later, jihadist forces overran Kurtunwarey in Lower Shabelle. That same day, Shabaab reported that its forces took over the town of Muuro Gaabay, which sits close to the capital of Bakool.