MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels on Monday launched two attacks on U.S. and European military targets, officials said.
In the first attack, an estimated 25 fighters of the al-Shabab rebel group were killed when they attempted to storm the Belidogle military airstrip which hosts Somali and U.S. forces, said a Somali intelligence officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The attack started with suicide bombings at the gate and around the airstrip and were followed by heavy gunfire across the air base in the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia, said Gen. Ahmed Yusuf, a senior Somali military officer based in Lower Shabelle region.
Al-Shabab, which is allied to al-Qaida, have claimed the responsibility for the attack.
The U.S. military uses the Belidogle airstrip base to launch drones that attack al-Shabab targets and to train Somali troops.
“This attack, though ineffective, demonstrates the direct threat al-Shabaab poses to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations, in a statement released later Monday.
The U.S. Africa Command carried out two airstrikes and used small arms fire to target al-Shabaab fighters fleeing the airstrip, killing an additional 10 rebels and destroying a vehicle, according to the statement.
The second attack was by a suicide car bomber targeting Italian peacekeepers in Mogadishu. The explosion missed a convoy of the European Union peacekeepers but injured Somali civilians who were nearby, according to reports.