Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Al-Shabaab has stepped up its harassment of civilians in the Somali
coastal town of Barawe following the attempted capture of a senior
al-Shabaab leader by US Navy SEALs earlier this month.
Each morning since the US operation, armed and masked al-Shabaab
fighters have forced their way into district shops and homes to harass
people, locals said, amid reports that more than 200 additional
militants have arrived to reinforce the town.
"This is not an easy situation. Ever since the American commandoes
carried out the attack on the beach home in Barawe, where I heard there
were al-Shabaab fighters and senior officers, the many problems we faced
have increased," said Asha Mumin, a 35-year-old mother of four who
lives in the town.
Mumin told Sabahi that the fighters have also ordered people to hand over their mobile phones for inspection.
In the early hours of October 5th, an elite unit of US commandoes
came ashore in Barawe in an attempt to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed
Abdulkadir "Ikrima", a Somali-Kenyan and alleged al-Shabaab commander of
foreign fighters. The mission was aborted when the commandoes came
under heavy fire and the risk of innocent civilian casualties was
assessed to be too great.
Ikrima is said to be directly linked to al-Shabaab's four-day siege
on Westgate mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 people dead.
Two days after the raid, al-Shabaab kidnapped five young businessmen,
whose whereabouts remain unknown, said 56-year-old traditional elder
"They took the young men from the city of Barawe in different ways.
Two of them were blindfolded and taken from their homes by armed men in
[armoured] vehicles while the other three were taken from shops they
owned in the market in Barawe," Ahmed told Sabahi. "No one dares to ask
al-Shabaab why they took those young men."
While al-Shabaab has always harassed people in Barawe, it has raised
its level of intimidation since the American operation, Ahmed said.
"Not only are they kidnapping and harming civilians and [young
business owners] of Barawe, they also kidnapped three young men who were
their own fighters accusing them of guiding the American operation in
Barawe [because] of their heavy internet usage," he said.
Citizens plead for government to intervene
People flee the local market and traders close their shops whenever
word spreads that militants are approaching, said Maryan Yusuf, 38, who
owns a clothing shop in the market.
"When the misled young al-Shabaab members come into the market with
their masks on, they intimidate the people unnecessarily by ordering us
to point out the ones among us who work with the infidels," she told
Sabahi. "We know nothing about that. Some people try to argue with them
and the response they get is to be blindfolded and taken away."
She said she did not understand why the militants would suspect any of the workers at the market of collaborating.
"They are causing us great hardship because they are forcing us to
report or help them search for people they describe as spies among
[innocent] business people who are just doing their work," Yusuf said.
"It is clear this is an exaggeration on the part of al-Shabaab as
they try to make excuses for the problems they are causing the people of
Barawe, who were already living under the difficult conditions that
have been imposed upon them for many years," she said.
"I am calling on the Somali government to come and rescue us and free us from al-Shabaab as soon as possible."
To that end, Somali Defence Minister Abdihakim Haji Mohamud Fiqi said
last week that the country's armed forces would soon begin operations
to liberate Barawe from al-Shabaab.
"We intend and plan to liberate them very soon," he said. "And as you
know, really, al-Shabab, wherever we attack them, they do not fight
back, they do not defend, they just evacuate and run."