DUBAI,— Al-Shabab militants shot and killed a Maltese man Monday who worked for a Dubai government-owned port operator in Somalia, authorities said.
The attack on Dubai’s P&O Ports comes as the United Arab Emirates has rapidly expanded its port operations and military presence in Somalia and across East Africa.
Al-Shabab said it targeted the man in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region because he worked for a company that “occupies” the area’s Bosaso Port, likely a worrying sign for the Emiratis amid their expansion.
P&O Ports acknowledged one of its employees was killed and three others injured in an “incident” Monday at its operations in Bosaso, 1,100 kilometers (690 miles) northeast of the capital city, Mogadishu, on the Gulf of Aden.
The government-run Dubai Media Office tweeted the information on behalf of P&O Ports, saying an investigation was ongoing.
It did not explain the circumstances of the worker’s death, though it said those injured were receiving medical care. P&O Ports did not answer a phone call Monday seeking comment.
Malta’s Foreign Ministry identified the dead man as a Maltese citizen who worked as a construction project manager for P&O Ports. It said he had been “shot dead.” Al-Shabab separately claimed the attack.
Malta Freeport Terminals named the man as Paul Anthony Formosa, a former employee.
“Paul was a hardworking employee, lively, open-minded and loved by his colleagues,” CEO Alex Montebello said in a statement. “We are extremely shocked to learn of this attack and our thoughts are with his family during this most difficult time.”
Al-Shabab, or “the youth” in Arabic, is a Sunni Islamic extremist group in Somalia born out of that country’s years of anarchy following its 1991 civil war. The al-Qaida-linked group has launched attacks across Somalia and into Uganda and Kenya.
The U.S. has targeted al-Shabab leaders in drone strikes while Somali forces, backed by troops from African nations, regained control of Mogadishu in 2011. But suicide attacks from al-Shabab continue unabated,
challenging the Somali government even as investment and rebuilding take hold. On Monday, a suspected al-Shabab car bombing in Mogadishu killed at least seven people.
The UAE in recent years has increasingly invested in ports in East Africa, which lie along a crucial trade route for the federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula.
P&O Ports signed a 30-year, $336 million deal in 2017 to develop the Bosaso Port. Meanwhile, Dubai’s DP World also is operating a major port in Somalia’s breakaway territory of Somaliland.