By Ali Musa Abdi
The massive bomb attack in the Somali capital of Mogadishu was the work of the Shabab militant organisation but the terrorist network opted not to claim responsibility due to the unspeakable civilian toll.
The group responsible for dozens of attacks in various locations over the past years did not deny being behind the blast that killed more than 300 innocent civilians but stopped short of claiming it because they are afraid of discrediting their “martyr” and their organisation.
The group has long been disconnected from leading Somali clerics and the population but they retain some pockets of support in a few fiefdoms among misguided youth who has been fed a manipulated version of Islam.
“There is nothing worse in Islam than to shed the blood of someone for no apparent reason or in an unlawful manner,” a video released by prominent religious scholar Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Ummal said. The message was a direct reference to the killing of civilians by the Shabab organisation which has struggled to take power through violence and bloodletting.
The group rebuffs Sheikh Ummal as a foreign-manipulated anti-Islamic personality, a claim that has failed to convince a majority of Somalis around the world.
Al Andalusia Radio, a Shabab mouthpiece, and websites that advocate the group’s mayhem reported that no one claimed responsibility for the 14 October terrorist attack. But they are fully aware that the Shabab were responsible for the recent attack and many other suicide attacks that took place in Somalia and other neighbouring countries.
Shabab lost the conventional war and most of its strongholds were either taken by the Somali military forces or by the African Union troops known as AMISOM. AMISOM troops consist of contingents from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya as well as Ethiopia. The main task of the troops was to guard the fragile Somali government and combat the terrorist group.
A section of the Somali public is suspicious of the ‘geopolitical interests’ neighbouing Ethiopia and Kenya might be pursuing as part of their peacekeeping activities in Somalia.
“It was a political jackpot for the arch enemies of Somalia to be militarily inside our country, it is like appointing Israel to mediate the warring factions of Palestine,” said Ahmed Mohamed, a businessman in Mogadishu. “Though I hate Shabab the most, still the presence of Ethiopia and Kenya in Somalia is very negative,” he said.
US air support was also vital in hunting terrorist leaders and training camps.
Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed by US air raid in September 2014 after a seven-year hunt. Western intelligence also provides some assistance to the poorly-equipped and underpaid Somali forces.
“Lack of proper combatting weapons for the Somali troops is also a major setback for the military to make the necessary advance towards their enemies,” according to retired army officer Abdi Mohamud.
“The terrorists are carrying AK47 rifles and on the other side the army is equipped with the same gun. So who is going to win?”, Mohamud asked.
A businessman who declined to be named also said: “The army is careful about civilian casualties during operations but for the terrorists of Shabab everyone who is not on their side is an enemy target.”
Indeed, everyone is a moving target who should be eliminated. Intimidation is a crucial aspect of their rule in the few strongholds they control, with tactics in many ways similar to those of drug lords in Latin America.
“Families living in Shabab-administered areas are threatened if their relatives support the Somali government or refuse to provide vital information,” a Somali journalist, Bashir, 37, said.
The journalist who can’t provide his full identity for safety reasons said that the government is not able to guarantee safety to many neighbourhoods inside the capital of Mogadishu.
The Amniyat group of Shabab, the feared intelligence branch of Shabab, gathers personal information on people and sends messages on their phones to intimidate them and demand financial support.
The unit also organises targeted killings in Mogadishu and nearby villages, it plans roadside bombings and orchestrates bombing campaigns on restaurants, shops and hotels.
The Shabab maybe weak at the moment but can remain a killing machine for some longer than anticipated by foreign and local observers.
Corruption and mismanagement within the government, donor fatigue and poor coordination in the security apparatus are many ills that need to be remedied before a final blow can be dealt against the Shabab.
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