by Mohamed Omar Hashi and Bashir Omar Hashi
Tuesday, June 18, 2019
The photo depicts the National Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden, and the Somalia Ambassador to Ethiopia Abdikarim Farah Laqanyo, greeting local representatives in Beledweyne- the last picture before the assassination
On June 18th, 2009, Somalia marks the sad anniversary of the terror attack in Beledweyne that took the lives of innocent victims, including influential politicians, local community elders, traders and many women and children.
THE NAMES OF THE NOBLE VICTIMS:
· Omar Hashi Aden – The National Security Minister
· Abdikarim Farah Laqanyo – Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia
· Colonel Mohamed Abdi Yarow (Shanle)
· Colonel Mohamed Barre Fidow
· Colonel Omar Hasan Dhudi
· Colonel Yusuf Husen (Timacadde)
· Farah Abdulle Fidow – Clan Elder
· Hasan Biriqow – Clan Elder
· Hasan Ilmi Hurre (Dirir) – Clan Elder
· Ilmi Shire – Clan Elder
· Mohamed Abdi Ibar – Poet
· Abdi-dhuh Gure Ali – Poet
· Abdikadir Hashi Aden – Businessman
· Abdifitah Ali Haydar – Engineer
Beledweyne, located 335 kilometers North of Mogadishu is the capital of the Hiiraan region and one of Somalia’s largest and heavily populated cities. The city’s name has become synonymous for a tragedy that many hoped would mark the beginning of the end of terrorist attacks. On the morning of June 18th 2009 at approximately 10:30am, a Toyota car loaded with explosives was spotted in the vicinity of the Hotel Medina. The National Security Minister, Omar Hashi Aden, and his delegation, including the Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdikarim Farah Laqanyo, were about to depart from the site when a suicide bomber drove the car to the hotel entrance - obliterating and wreaking havoc in the entire area surrounding the hotel. A dark cloud of smoke and dust covered the entire city. First responders reported seeing charred corpses in the rubble while they were looking for the innocent, wounded people who needed immediate medical attention.
Ultimately, the city of Beledweyne was unprepared for a catastrophe of such proportions as it failed to have ambulance cover to transport the wounded. Moreover, the city did not have sufficient medics who were able to carry out First Aid to on site victims, which only increased the death toll of the bombing. Overall, 57 civilians, politicians, community leaders, and Army officials were killed in the attack, while 309 people were injured. The youngest victim was a two year old child. To think of her and all those who suffered from this hideous terrorist attack merely as symbols, ignores the complicated tapestry of sadness, fear and defiance that is now forever part of the city. The adversity faced by the people is deeply personal and for that reason, this tragedy should not be viewed only through the prism of its historical significance.
The deaths of Minister Omar Hashi Aden and Ambassador AbdiKarim Farah Laqanyo altered the contemporary history of Somalia. The African Union, European Union, InterGovernmental Agency on Development, The League of Arab States and The United Nations issued a joint statement condemning the attack, urging the government to conduct a swift investigation to identify those behind this assassination. Ten years later, no investigation has been conducted, no one has been held accountable, and those who lost friends and family members have never received any justice. Peace has yet to come to Somalia and the impact of this tragedy still reverberates with those who lived through it. In fact, the assault on Beledweyne created a new template for terrorists to plan operations across the country. A decade after the Beledweyne massacre the government’s Army is still failing to prevent or counter Al-Shabab, while thousands of AMISOM troops are still in the country.
The memory of the Beledweyne massacre may seem distant, but Somalia still has a lot to learn from the bombing that abruptly altered its perception of peace and safety. Terrorist groups continue to threaten the nation’s stability through vicious assaults and attempts to impose a new social order - using intimidation and extortion to prolong the conflict and implement their tyrannical ideologies into the Somali society.
Today, terrorism is deeply embedded in the memory of a nation that is still paying a steep price for the atrocities that took countless lives. Every citizen is exposed to enormous risk, while almost every family has suffered from terrorism in one way or another. Premeditated terrorist attacks that target urban areas have taken innumerable civilian victims since 2009 and they remain a threat to the country’s prosperity. Sadly, the deadly shootings and bombings are a cold hard fact that Somali people face daily. While the horrors of the terror attacks are well-documented by the mainstream media, they are rarely remembered by ordinary people, government officials and domestic and international mass media, having received only a modest cultural impact. Unlike the bombings and shootings that take place in the Western world, the carnage in Somalia does not receive enough attention from the mass media. Moreover, almost nothing is done to ensure that we, as a society, learn as much as we can from these tragedies. We know next to nothing about the victims, the children and peaceful citizens who were on their way to school or work at the moment their lives were ended, or forever changed, in the most horrific manner. The news from the communities and families affected by terrorist attacks often fails to reach us, thus we barely know anything about how difficult it is to live under the constant threat of terrorism.
The goal of these extremist organisations is to take control of the country with success measured through death tolls, the attention received from the public, or duration of the conflict. Complex attacks, like the Beledweyne massacre, however, require a degree of preparation, training, and coordination that cannot simply be downloaded from a jihadist chat room. The terrorist attacks that plague Mogadishu on almost a daily basis are a perfect illustration of the tactics these extremist groups adopt with the aim of terrorising the nation. The hybrid strategies they employ serve only the purpose of increasing the numbers of casualties and attracting greater media attention. A single terrorist can turn from an ‘Active Shooter’ script that initiates a prompt police intervention, to a ‘Suicide Bomber’ scenario that, in a matter of seconds, becomes far more deadly. Each of these scripts is repeated almost every day in different regions of the country and to make things even worse, these terrorist groups are highly efficient at concealing their plans and tactics from the police, military and intelligence service up to the point where all that can be done is to count the casualties and help the wounded.
Meanwhile, the Somali Law Enforcement is struggling to prevent the multi-layered terrorist operations and restore order in the nation’s capital and throughout various regions of the country. Police officers often react to distress calls in an unsystematic manner as they are instructed to concentrate their power on a miniscule area, whilst the terrorists are mobile and operate in smaller groups that can cover vast urban spaces. By doing this, they spread the police forces too thinly, leaving them with a brief period of time to prevent the mass murder of innocent civilians. Such a state of affairs raises the question of whether the Somali police have the capacity to deal with simultaneous attacks that unravel at an incredibly fast pace.
The military, the police and intelligence forces continually fail to obtain information regarding the attacks or to disrupt the lines of communication between the terrorists. Despite the fact that these extremist groups employ advanced espionage strategies, the government’s representatives refuse to adopt new approaches towards acquiring information and counterterrorism. Consequently, members of the national security forces are overwhelmed by the shootings and the bombings, even when they know that a general offensive is underway. For this reason, a terrorist group with only a handful of operatives can temporarily seize control over a city and attract the attention of domestic as well as foreign media.
A more recent example is the 14th October 2017 Mogadishu bombings, in which terrorists killed more than 500 civilians, often referred to as the Somali’s 9/11. Atrocities similar to this have done almost nothing to alter the strategies which the National Security Services or the Somali Police utilise to anticipate forthcoming attacks. The Somali government’s inefficient attempts to defeat the terrorist groups operating within the country’s borders have remained futile, and today it seems that both former and current representatives have exhausted all strategic and tactical alternatives. The nation’s leaders must take a long, hard look at their own mistakes since their inability to stop the nation’s enemies can only result in complete defeat.
So what can Somalia do to prevent this cancerous set of failures from metastasising into a broader defeat? The operational front must be tackled by civilian leaders. The responsibility for tolerating civilian facilities to be sitting ducks for terrorist attacks cannot be put on anyone except the civilian authority. The lives of at least some of the many citizen victims could have been saved if there had been an effective governance system, therefore there needs to be a change of policy. However, judging by its track record, this will fail to happen. The lack of accountability will convert an operational failure into a tactical defeat.
The Somali Army, the Police and the Intelligence Service must assess the situation on the field and determine what else can be done to upset and destroy the groups that have been terrorising the country for the last ten years. The constant allegations of selective justice will not simply vanish into thin air and every domestic failure will enable them to grow in both volume and intensity. The Army’s highest-ranking officials must ask themselves why the cloak of security which they are supposed to maintain is so susceptible to threats posed by terrorism. Without deep introspection and accountability, the tactical failure has the potential to advance into a strategic threat.
The assassination of the minister Omar Hashi Aden and the ambassador Abdikarim Farah Laqanyo was a critical juncture in Somalia’s history because it was an indication of the political instability that ensued. A symptom of this political and security decay in Somalia is the fact that ten years on, apart from the name of the suicide bomber and the terror group, Al-Shabaab, Somalia still does not know the terror cell that orchestrated the attack. A line of leaders, the Minister of Education, Ahmed Abdulahi Waayeel, Minister of Health, Qamar Aden Ali, Minister of Higher Education, Ibrahim Hassan Addow, Minister of Sport, Saleban Olad Roble, Interior Minister, Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, Environment Minister, Buri Mohamed Hamza, Former Defence Minister. Muhayadin Mohamed Haji Ibrahim, Former Foreign Minister, Hussein Elabe Fahiye, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Saqar Ibrahim Abdalla, countless Members of Parliament and other government officials, community elders, pundits, businessmen and women were later killed whose murder culprits never faced justice. If Somalia cannot protect the very people charged with protecting common citizens, what chance do ordinary folk have? The more nights our citizens spend awake pondering these fears, the greater the victory for the terrorists.
The Beledweyne massacre was concerted, calculated, and reasoned. For one moment, on one day, in one place, the terrorists beat Somalia operationally, tactically, and strategically. Their plan was effective but making the same old mistakes in countering the terrorists is a failure. This is why we cannot allow them to outsmart us again. We must act now, because time is not on our side any longer.
Mohamed Omar Hashi was a Member of the Transitional Federal Parliament of Somalia from 2009 to 2012 and holds an M.A. in International Security Studies from the University Of Leicester.
E-mail: [email protected]
Bashir Omar Hashi has an MA in Public Policy and Management from the University Of York.E-mail: [email protected]