Mogadishu(Faanoole)-I was among a few journalists who visited Halgan town in Hiiraan region in central Somalia on Friday, 10th June, 2016 where Al-Shabaab militants took attack against the African Union Peacekeeping Troops’ Ethiopian contingent base there early on Thursday morning.
Our visit to the area was to witness the reality on the ground as misleading stories were emerging on how something happened there in Halgan in terms of casualties and military gains.
When we reached there and landed inside the base, we, together with Acting AMISOM force Commander, Maj. Gen. Nakibus Lakara, AMISOM force Spokesperson, Col. Joe Kibet and other officials from AMISOM were received by AMISOM’s Ethiopian Contingent Commander in Hiiraan region, Col. Ayenom Mesfin and army officials there and they led us to the battle field at the base immediately.
We saw large amount of weapons recovered from Al-Shabab militants during the attack, they were in one area inside the base and included many kinds of guns with ammunition.
Then the officials showed us dead bodies of the militant group of Al-Shabaab who were killed near the camp, I could not count one by one, but it was my first time to witness and see such large dead bodies killed in one spot for ever.
The area of the battle field was plain where the two sides fighting could see one another clearly, and the possibility that AMSIOM troops backed by warplanes during the attack is very big, but the officials did not tell us whether or not.
I could not hear the sound of children or families around the houses near the base because they fled when the attack broke out there, but I could see the demolition of some houses which the car bomb explosion and crossfire destroyed.
After observing the situation there, AMISOM officials spoke to the media there.
“The casualties of the militants are hundred and forty, of course others fled, and fortunately they have attacked a well defended position , so Al-Shabaab claims are ridiculous, we’ve seen with our own eyes, it is pure propaganda to say that they overrun this camp”, AMISOM Forces Spokesperson said.
Col. Ayenom Mesfin, AMISOM’s Ethiopian Contingent Commander in Hiiraan region said that the militant group of Al-Shabaab attacked the base from four directions and the fighting lasted more than four hours.
“Very heavy fighting happened and the group attacked our base here in Halgan from four directions, the fighting lasted four hours and half, it is untrue that Al-Shabaab killed 60 of our troops, but they can claim hundreds or thousands which are not based on reality”, Mr. Mesfin said.
Acting Force Commander of AMISOM, Maj. Gen. Nakibus Lakara congratulated the troops at Halgan on their victory against Al-Shabaab, saying they did a very commendable job.
He said, “Let me congratulate Col. Ayenom and the troops for doing a very commendable job. We have learnt lessons from previous attacks and Al-Shabaab has been exploiting the AMISOM weaknesses but over time now we have been able to learn lessons and share the experiences, I think this is evidence over troops being able to pick those lessons from previous experiences, so we have come long way really and we shall continue to ensure that those weaknesses are addressed, so the troops have done very commendable job”.
Mr. Lakara added that there was Intel that the enemy was to attack the base from local population, saying the troops were vigilant and prepared to the attack against them and added it was an example of preparedness.
Somali Minister of Security, H.E. Abdirasak Omar Mohamed said earlier that five civilians were killed and nine others wounded in Halgan, but AU officials did not comment on whether or not.
The attack was the fourth major attack against the African Union Peacekeeping Troops base in the country according to Jamaludin Mustafa who is deputy ambassador of Ethiopian to Somalia.
Al-Shabaab militants took such attacks against AMISOM at El-adde in Gedo region southern Somalia on mid January this year, Janale and Lego bases in lower Shabelle region last year where many of the AU soldiers were killed.
The group claimed that it killed 60 Ethiopian soldiers in the latest attack at Halgan base in Hiiraan region in central Somalia.
Somali National Army backed by the African Union Peacekeeping Troops removed the group from many key towns in the south and central Somalia, but still carries out deadly attack against AU, Government bases and social gatherings mainly in the capital Mogadishu.
By Mohamed Osman Abdi “ Black Cobra”