ATMIS training focus on IEDs – al Shabaab weapon of choice

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Mitigating the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), widely used by subversive elements including insurgents, militias, rebel and terrorist groups, was the focus of four days of intensive training for officers from the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) and the Somali National Army (SNA).

An ATMIS communique has it Al-Shabaab is losing ground and on the run and militants resorted to laying IEDs – their weapon of choice – on main supply routes, leading to civilian casualties and disrupting movement of people and goods. To mitigate this, ATMIS and SNA forces are enhancing counter IED capability, including identifying potential hidden devices and applying speed and surprise when acting on real time actionable intelligence to neutralise them.

The training was conducted by ATMIS and the United Kingdom mission support team (UKMIST) delivered via a mix of theoretical presentations and practical sessions.

Participants were trained on aspects including handling explosives and hazards, IED threat assessment and mitigation, processing information and actionable intelligence, planning convoy movement and troop protection.

ATMIS Chief Force Engineer Colonel Saheed Sadiq, training leader, said the support by UKMIST was timely, as ATMIS forces prepare to begin handing over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces.

“You have been equipped with practical skills to plan vehicle convoys in an IED threat environment. These skills are key especially as ATMIS and SNA conduct joint military operations to degrade Al-Shabaab, as stipulated in the Somalia transition plan and the joint concept of operations (CONOPS),” he told soldiers at the training.

ATMIS junior officer Second Lieutenant Rachel Anyango, said the training enhanced her counter-IED skills and knowledge to protect herself and her unit from threats posed by enemy combatant IEDs.

“The training was important because we have IED fundamentals and now we enhanced terrain understanding to detect if it’s safe to pass and when to employ IED detection capabilities in convoy,” Anyango said.

Also on the course was SNA second lieutenant Shakir Ahmed Hassan of the SNA who said training was key to mitigating the IED threat – al Shabaab’s weapon of choice.

The training followed last month’s United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) conference to take stock of current counter IED measures and develop a comprehensive IED threat mitigation strategy.