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Fleeing Shabaab throw bombs to avenge for lost Somalia territory


Sunday November 6, 2022
By FRED OLUOCH


Somali Army soldiers on patrol during an operation. Somalia is warning of increased bomb attacks in the country as al-Shabaab militants flee from rural villages where they are losing territory to vigilantes and security forces. PHOTO | SOMALI ARMY | ANADOLU AGENCY VIA AFP

Somalia is warning of increased bomb attacks in the country as al-Shabaab militants flee from rural villages where they are losing territory to vigilantes and security forces.

Last Saturday, militants claimed a double explosion near the offices of the Federal Ministry of Education, targeting traffic and crowds of people that pass through the nearby roundabout in Mogadishu.

It was not the first attack, but was the heaviest in five years. At least 100 people died and another 300 were wounded, official reports from the Federal Ministry of Health show.

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“Today's cruel and cowardly terrorist attack on innocent people by the morally bankrupt and criminal al Shabaab group cannot discourage us,” Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud said on the attacks.

“This attack will further strengthen our resolve to defeat them once and for all. Our government and brave people will continue to defend Somalia against evil.”

For the government, it now means more vigilance in urban areas where the focus of vigilantes has been less. Since September when the federal government authorised organised militia groups to fight alongside Somali national forces, significant territory has been won back from al Shabaab in the villages.

“The country is at war, and at the moment I am talking to you, there is a war which will not stop until these criminals are all finished,” he told journalists in Mogadishu. “Our heroic troops are committed to it and I want to assure you we will not stop.”

The October 29 explosions came on the fifth anniversary of a car bomb that killed more than 570 people at the same Zoobe Junction, showing a tendency for Shabaabs to mark anniversaries with new attacks.

Three-pronged attack

Abdulaziz Ali Ibrahim, a former spokesman of the Somalia federal government, said al-Shabaab is reacting to the loss of territories in the countryside since President Mahmoud came to power in May.

He says that the militants have lost the revenue they derived from illegal taxation and that they are also reacting to current efforts by the government to debunk their ideology.

At his inauguration, President Mahmoud promised to clean the country of terrorist elements.

He has since launched a three-pronged attack that includes military, shutting down al Shabaab revenue sources and mobilising the masses to debunk the militant’s ideology.

Federal states

Unlike his predecessor, Muhammed Abdullahi Farmaajo, who had problems with Jubbaland and Puntland, President Mahmoud has not only appointed a prime minister from Jubbaland but is reaching out to all the five federal states to cooperate in the fight against the militants.

Abdalla Ahmed Ibrahim, the director of the East Africa Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, says that the choice of prime minister, Hamza Abdi Barre, was a wise move by the president who is keen on forging a united front.

Currently, al Shabaab is feeling the heat as President Mahmoud has deployed troops in Hiraan, Galmudug and Bay regions. However, the militants still control large rural central and southern Somalia territories.

Illegal taxes

A 2020 UN report says the militants collect more illegal taxes than the government, close to $15 million per month, especially from businesses, exports and imports.

The government has introduced the Financial Reporting Centre, an interagency financial unit that works with banks and remittance companies such as Dahabshiil to expose movement of money to al Shabaab and to protect the business community from coercion by the militants.

Abdullahi Warfar, an advisor on diplomacy to the Somalia ministry of Foreign Affairs, says the new approach to dismantle al-Shabaab’s sources of income is a major blow to the militant group.



 





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