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Early Friday morning, January 15, 2015, the New York Times reported that Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affiliated group, forces had overrun an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) base in El-Adde, Somalia, located in the Southwest region of the country. Somalia National Army (SNA) and Kenyan Defense Force (KDF) soldiers occupied the base.

Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab, claimed dozens of AMISOM soldiers had been killed, but reports from AMISOM, claim these figures may be exaggerated.

The assault began when an Al Shabaab fighter detonated a suicide bomb at the gates of the African Union (AU) base. After the gates were destroyed, more Shabaab soldiers flooded into the complex starting a massive firefight. After hours of fighting the Shabaab fighters were repulsed.

According to VOA reporter Harun Maruf on Twitter, Al Shabaab was able to secure a large quantity of weapons and 13 military vehicles during the attack.

Mail & Guardian Africa news reported both Shabab and AMISOM have hid exact casualties figures in the past, so it unclear exactly how many soldiers each side lost. However, The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia, Ambassador Francisco, stated there were casualties on both sides.

The AU established AMISOM in order to bring stability to a country that has been racked by civil conflict for almost three decades. However, AMISOM has struggled with battling Al Shabaab since its arrival in January 2007. To date 22,000 AMISOM soldiers occupy Somalia, which far surpasses its original mandate of roughly 1,600 troops.

This attack does not mark the first time Shabaab has infiltrated an AMISOM base. In June 2015, Shabab raided an AMISOM base in Lego, near the capital of Mogadishu. Witnesses claimed to have seen dozens of AMISOM soldiers laying dead on the ground, yet, once again, AU commanders denied the large number of troops killed. Shabaab launched another attack on an AMISOM base in Janale in early September 2015. The attack was characterized as a suicide assault as Shabaab fighters rushed the base strapped with suicide vests. 12 Ugandan soldiers were killed as a result to the attack.

Aside from attacking AMISOM bases, Al Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the 2010 bombing in Uganda that left 74 dead, the 2013 bombing of a Somali UN office that killed 15, the 2014 attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya that killed 64, and, as of most recently, the attack on Garrisa University that killed 147.

BBC news and Somali President Yoweri Museveni both have claim that Al Shabaab is on its last leg. While the group may have just recently suffered a recent defection of a small group to the Islamic State (IS), there is no reason to believe they are defeated or even on the run.

Al Shabaab’s decentralized structure makes the organization one of the most difficult to combat. The ability for different clans to act independently makes targeting killings of leadership rather ineffective. The U.S. has targeted several key members of Shabaab recently, and the group has still seen growth. U.S. ground forces have entered the country, as well as continued its drone campaign in the region. Aside from providing military support the U.S. has donated billions to the Kenyan military to keep the pressure on Shabaab.

While Shabaab continues to move on the offensive, AMISOM forces continue to retreat from Somali territory. This gives Shabaab the ability to hold valuable territory in the region, and further exert its control.

Al Shabaab poses, and will likely continue to pose, a dangerous puzzle to Somalia for the foreseeable future.

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