The US military conducted an airstrike in self defence following a complex al-Shabaab attack on Baledogle Military Airfield (BMA) complex in Baledogle, US Africa Command reported. The strike and accompanying small arms fire killed 10 alleged terrorists, AFRICOM initially reported – thought this toll was later raised to 15.
One US soldier was also injured, officials later admitted – receiving a concussion according to ABC News. The attack reportedly began around 10am local time.
According to an initial AFRICOM press release issued on the same date: “al-Shabaab militants conducted a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device attack at Baledogle Military Airfield (BMA) complex in Baledogle, Somalia, Sept. 30… In response to this attack and in self-defense, U.S Africa Command conducted two (2) airstrikes and used small arms fire targeting al-Shabaab terrorists. It is assessed U.S. and partner forces killed ten (10) terrorists and destroyed one (1) vehicle involved in the attack.”
A second release issued October 1st by AFRICOM reduced the number of strikes in this event from two to one: “UPDATE on Baledogle attack: Initial reporting published Sept. 30 regarding the al-Shabaab attack on Baledogle Military Airfield stated there were no U.S. personnel injured. One (1) U.S. service member was assessed and treated as part of standard concussion protocol. In addition, AFRICOM conducted one (1) self-defense strike during the engagement, not two, as originally reported. Currently, U.S. Africa Command assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this attack and airstrike.”
According to Military Times, the al Shabaab attack on the airbase consisted of two suicide bombings and heavy gunfire. “The base is believed to house U.S. special operations forces, a Somali commando force and a small airstrip for launching drone attacks.”
Reuters provided a more detailed account of the attack: “Cameras picked up the two white trucks carrying bombs and fighters through the bush towards Somalia’s most secure military base, home to U.S. special forces, foreign trainers and the Somali special forces they mentor. The alarm was raised. By the time the al Shabaab insurgents were a few hundred yards from the perimeter of Baledogle military airfield on Monday, Danaab – Somalia’s elite commandos – were waiting, their trainers beside them. One truck bomb detonated far from the perimeter fence. Eight attackers in uniforms jumped from the other, but Danaab soldiers gunned them down almost immediately, said a Somali security official. Then the second truck was hit by a U.S. air strike. The explosion was captured on video footage provided to Reuters by two security experts.”
Reuters added that “The base is home to U.S. special forces, Somalia’s Danaab and Washington D.C.-based Bancroft Global, which has a U.S. government contract to train Danaab. The Somali National News agency said the attack was over in 10 minutes…. Photos provided to Reuters by two other Somalia-based security experts show a number of men dressed in camouflage uniforms sprawled in the dust or piled in the back of a pickup truck, their injuries consistent with gunshot wounds. A pile of weapons recovered from the attackers included grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, light machine guns, Kalashnikov-style rifles and belt loads of ammunition. The attackers had also packed food supplies, including milk and apples. After the attack, al Shabaab put out a statement saying they had killed 100 foreign soldiers and destroyed five aircraft, including drones and helicopters. They provided no evidence to support their claims.”
According to the New York Times, “American helicopters based at the Bale Dogle base carry out airstrikes against the Shabab.”
According to al Shabaab itself, its forces had been able to penetrate the base as AFP reported: “In a statement, Al-Shabaab said: ‘In the early hours of Monday morning, an elite unit of soldiers… launched a daring raid on the US military base” in Baledogle. After breaching the perimetres of the heavily fortified base, the Mujahideen (holy fighters) stormed the military complex, engaging the crusaders in an intense firefight.’
AFP also cited a local witness: “‘Two heavy explosions occurred, the first one bigger than the other. There was also a heavy exchange of gunfire after the blasts but we don’t know about the details,’ Mohamed Adan, a Somali elder close to the scene of the attack, told AFP by phone.”
CNN noted among many others that there was also another attack on this date against international forces near Mogadishu: “The high profile attack on the US base in Somalia comes amid reports of another such attack on Italian forces participating in a separate training mission for local security forces. Earlier Monday, the Italian Defense Ministry said two Italian Army vehicles participating in a European Union training mission in Somalia were hit by an explosion on Monday morning in Mogadishu. No one from the Italian Army was injured, a ministry spokesperson said.” That attack near Mogadishu inhjured two civilians, according to reports.
A video posted by a Somali Ministry of Information official purported to show the destruction of a VBIED by an airstrike during the attack. Somali journalist Abdalle Ahmed Mumin also published images of the immediate aftermath of the Baladogle airstrike.
On November 5th 2019, al Shabaab’s leader Abu Ubeydah Ahmad Omar made a rare video appearance in which he praised the Baladogle attackers, and with statements from some of those who took part. A summary published by MEMRI noted: “The video then featured the sheikh, at a different time, delivering a ‘farewell address’ to the Baledogle attackers as they set out on their operation, identifying the latter as ‘part of Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized operations.’ He told them that the U.S. airbase that they were about to attack hosts drones and helicopters used to target Muslims: ‘It is from where the mercenaries from Bancroft Global launch their night raids against the Muslims. It is where the U.S. forces train their apostate puppets.’ He also noted that the ‘greatest target’ there was ‘the American troops'”.
Writing in Military Times, Brigadier General Miguel Castellanos countered al Shabaab’s claims that it had inflicted heavy losses on US and Somali forces. He also revealed that at least 15 al Shabaab fighters had died in the attack – and indicated that a third VBIED may have penetrated the base: “While the terrorists proclaim to have inflicted a significant blow, the truth is that on the morning of Sept. 30, a squad of al-Shabaab extremists attempted to gain access to the base — 15 al-Shabaab fighters were swiftly killed by the Somali and U.S. forces guarding the installation. They lost their lives as well as their weapons and equipment. Three vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were part of the failed attack, but they proved futile as two were denoted and destroyed before being able to enter the base. The third was destroyed by a precision airstrike. In the end, one U.S. service member was treated for concussion symptoms, but there were no other U.S. or partner-force casualties. This is why the terrorists have not released any photos supporting their propaganda or claims of profuse U.S. casualties, because they simply don’t exist.”
The incident occured at approximately 10:00 am local time.
Sources (23) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the vicinity of Kunya Barrow (حرمك) and was a response to an Al Shabaab attack on the Baledogle Military base, which are around 260 kilometers apart. The coordinates for the Baledogle Military base are: 2.665367, 44.791138, and the coordinates for Kunya Barrow are: 0.7928186, 43.3841839. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
U.S., Federal Government of Somalia respond to al-Shabaab attack No U.S. or partner force personnel were injured after al-Shabaab militants conducted a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device attack at Baledogle Military Airfield (BMA) complex in Baledogle, Somalia, Sept. 30.
"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. "Incidents like this will not compromise the pressure being placed on this terrorist network by the Federal Government of Somalia and international partners."
In response to this attack and in self-defense, U.S Africa Command conducted two (2) airstrikes and used small arms fire targeting al-Shabaab terrorists. It is assessed U.S. and partner forces killed ten (10) terrorists and destroyed one (1) vehicle involved in the attack.
Currently, U.S. Africa Command assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this attack and airstrike.
Al-Shabaab uses these tactics in an attempt to disrupt the Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. from making progress pushing violent extremist organizations from their strongholds. U.S. efforts seek to set the conditions for the return of civil governance in the region.
"This group is responsible for routinely placing innocent civilian lives in danger," said Gayler. "Our Somali partners continue to make progress against al-Shabaab while demonstrating considerable resolve. We will continue to place pressure on the al-Shabaab network."
The desired end state in East Africa is one in which terrorist organizations are not able to destabilize Somalia or its neighbors or threaten the U.S. homeland, U.S. citizens, or our international allies.
UPDATE on Baledogle attack [October 1st 2019]: Initial reporting published Sept. 30 regarding the al-Shabaab attack on Baledogle Military Airfield stated there were no U.S. personnel injured. One (1) U.S. service member was assessed and treated as part of standard concussion protocol.
In addition, AFRICOM conducted one (1) self-defense strike during the engagement, not two, as originally reported.