MS Risk Blog

Al-Shabaab Claims Responsibility for Attack In Djibouti and Threatens Further Bombings

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Days after a terrorist attack in Djibouti, al-Shabaab has released a statement, claiming responsibility for the attack and vowing to continue if the Horn of Africa nation does not withdraw its troops from Somalia and prevents the United States from maintaining its largest military base in Africa.

On Saturday evening, three people were killed, including two bombers and a Turkish national, while several foreigners, including seven French nationals, four Germans, three Spanish and several locals, were wounded after an attack on the La Chaumiere restaurant.  In the first attack of its kind in the small Horn of Africa state, a man and woman blew themselves up at a restaurant that was filled with Western military personnel.  Officials from Spain indicated Monday that three of its air force personnel, in Djibouti as part of the European Union naval mission EUNAVFOR Atalanta were hurt, one of whom was seriously wounded by shrapnel.  The Pentagon has indicated that no US Defence Department personnel were wounded.

At the time of the attack, many officials, including the Djibouti’s President, believed that the attack was linked to Djibouti’s ongoing military deployment in Somalia, where troops make up the African Union mission (AMISOM) force that is battling al-Shabaab militants and attempting to stabilize Somalia.  Djibouti also hosts military base’s for France and the United States.  These suspicions was confirmed Tuesday, when al-Shabaab released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack.

On Tuesday, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the weekend bomb attack on a restaurant in Djibouti, urging the Horn of Africa nation and key Western ally to expel foreign forces and to shut down the United States’ main Africa base, or the country will face a wave of more serious attacks.

A group statement released Tuesday indicated “as part of the ongoing Jihad against the Western-led Crusade against Islam, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen forces have on Saturday night carried out a successful operation against the coalition of Western Crusaders based in Djibouti.”  The group stated that the attack “targeted a restaurant frequented predominantly by French Crusaders and their NATO allies from the US, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, resulting in 35 casualties.”  The statement further added “the attack was carried out against French Crusaders for their complicity in the massacres and persecution of our Muslim brothers in the Central African Republic and for their active role in training and equipping the apostate Djiboutian troops in Somalia and their growing intervention in the affairs of our Muslim lands.”  While in its statement, al-Shabaab indicated that Saturday’s attack resulted in thirty-five casualties, adding that two “senior French commanders” were also killed, local officials have stated that only three people, a Turkish national and two suicide bombers, died in the attack, with several others wounded.

The group also indicated that the attack was carried out in retaliation for Djibouti’s hosting of the United States’ largest military base in Africa.  The US base is used for operations across the region, including drone strikes against the militant group in Somalia.  Troops from Djibouti are also part of the African Union (AU) force that is in Somalia to fight al-Shabaab.

A part of al-Shabaab’s statement was also directed at Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh, stating “having assented to the terms of the contract in the war against Islam with Barack Obama and having allowed access of your land and facilities to the Crusaders, you have voluntarily signed a deal with the devil,” adding “this attack is just the beginning; its merely the preliminary response that will soon follow – should you refuse to desist – will be far worse.”  Al-Shabaab has called on Djibouti to “pull your apostate troops out of Somalia immediately and expel all the Crusaders,” adding “failure to do so would incur far-reaching repercussions for your country, both in terms of your security and economy.”

The attack in Djibouti comes a week after al-Shabaab warned that its war would be moving to Kenya.  The militant group has also previously threatened Uganda, another country that has troops deployed in Somalia, that it will attack its citizens.  Al-Shabaab has carried out many gun and bomb attacks outside of Somalia, including an assault on a Kenyan shopping mall last year that killed sixty-seven people.  The militant group also demonstrated its capabilities of travelling long distances in order to carry out attacks.  The attack in Djibouti came on the same day as the attack on the Somali parliament in Mogadishu, which killed at least ten security officers.