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Mogadishu Residents, Troops to Safeguard Peace During Ramadan

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mogadishu residents have condemned al-Shabaab's continued call to violence during Ramadan after attacks at the weekend resulted in at least six civilian deaths.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack Friday (July 12th) involving a suicide bomber who drove his explosive laden sedan into an African Union convoy travelling along the busy Maka al-Mukarama Road near Aden Adde International Airport.

Four people died and 14 were injured, and dozens of privately owned businesses along the road were also severely damaged by the explosion, Benadir administration spokesperson Mohamed Yusuf told Sabahi.

Soon after the car bombing, unknown insurgents threw a grenade into the Barwaqo hotel in central Mogadishu, killing two people and wounding at least ten.

"Most of the people who were injured or lost their lives on Friday were Somalis who were trying to make an honest living and who were fasting to observe the holy month of Ramadan," said Ali Mohamed, 28, of Wadajir district.

"Al-Shabaab tell us they are carrying out jihad against the infidels fighting us, but the truth is that people they are killing are innocent people," he said, calling on the group to stop causing chaos and allow Somalis to fast in peace.

Hamar Weyne district resident Aisha Salad, 52, urged young men fighting on behalf of al-Shabaab to repent and reject the militant group's erroneous ideas, adding that al-Shabaab's actions are un-Islamic.

"When I saw the aftermath of the explosion on television I cried," she told Sabahi. "Seeing how those people's body parts were shred to pieces during Ramadan was horrifying."

Al-Shabaab, however, did not allay any fears, saying via Twitter that "the attack is one of many" to come.

Increased security during Ramadan:

A few days before the latest attacks, authorities had already begun deploying additional soldiers throughout Mogadishu based on intelligence that al-Shabaab planned to double its offensive during Ramadan and target high traffic areas.

"We are aware that they are on a campaign to encourage the youth that work for them to carry out terrorist acts, and we are ready to fight them," said Benadir Deputy Governor for Security Affairs Warsame Mohamed Hassan.

"To ensure security in the capital, we ordered the deployment of additional troops on the streets of Mogadishu neighbourhoods and intersections to conduct heavy patrols at night [and] to crack down on terrorist elements," Hassan told Sabahi.

For the operation to be successful, he said, residents must also double their commitment to work with authorities to prevent future al-Shabaab attacks.

The new troops will work tirelessly against the dangers posed by al-Shabaab, said 32-year-old police officer Safia Ali.

"I am standing here so that the public understands how we are bolstering security," she told Sabahi while on duty at Maka al-Mukarama Road.

"Al-Shabaab uses every shady tactic in its attempt to carry out terrorist attacks," Ali said. One of her duties, she said, is to check vehicles with women drivers to ensure they are not al-Shabaab fighters in disguise.

Ali asked for the public's understanding when experiencing delays at checkpoints as it can take more than half an hour for officers to thoroughly check a vehicle and verify the identity of its occupants. "It is possible that [motorists] will be frustrated, but I urge the public to be patient with that, while helping us in ensuring security," she said.

In addition to a driver's license or identification card, drivers are required to provide other identifying information such as place of employment and details about their commute, police officer Muse Hassan said.

"I always try to ask the driver for an identification card, place of employment, where he is coming from and where he is headed to make sure it is not a person who is trying to disrupt the peace," Hassan, 27, told Sabahi.

"If the person does not have an employment card and has conflicting stories, I order the driver of the vehicle to pull over so I can carry out an additional search," he said. "If this person is identified, I allow him to leave."

Mogadishu resident Mumin Weheliye, a retired army colonel, welcomed the added security measures.

"I was very happy to see how [checkpoints are managed] to ensure peace, because al-Shabaab explosions cannot be prevented without searching vehicles and the public," he told Sabahi.


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