The capital of Somalia, Mogadishu, was once again the scene of a gunfight between the country’s security forces and the al-Qaeda-linked terror organisation, Al-Shabaab.
Somalia’s government announced on Tuesday that a group of Al-Shabaab fighters stormed a house owned by a senior military officer who was sheltering members of a pro-government militia, who had been injured in previous clashes with Al-Shabaab.
Ten people in the home were killed, as well as the four Al-Shabaab fighters, according to the Somali Ministry of Information.
Somalia’s government, together with allied local militias and with the support of international powers, launched in August 2022 a strong offensive against Al-Shabaab – which is holding several villages hostage throughout the country, in a bid to completely eradicate the terror organisation.
Secretary of the Somali Defence Committee, and federal Member of the Somali Parliament, Ahmed Abdi Koshin, who is also a former Director General of the country’s Ministry of Defence and Internal Security, told The Media Line that the government’s offensive has seen results.
“The Somali government successfully dislodged Al-Shabaab from many parts of the country – in particular their strongholds in Hiiraan region, Middle Shabelle and Galmudug – and, as we speak, that offensive is continuing with considerable gains on the ground,” he said. Somali security analyst Badri Haji explains that the government’s offensive against Al-Shabaab is not only military, but also financial and ideological.
How has the Somali government fought back against Al-Shabaab?
He told The Media Line how militarily, in addition to recapturing the territories mentioned above, the Somali government in recent months has managed to reduce the size of Al-Shabaab’s forces.
“More than 3 000 terrorists were killed, and the number of Al-Shabaab defectors significantly increased,” he said, pointing out that some of the top Al-Shabaab leaders were killed, among them, Abdullahi Nadir, who had a US$3 million bounty on his head in the United States.
“Abdullahi Nadir was one of the most important members of Al-Shabaab as he had been in a position to succeed the current Al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Diriye aka Abu Ubaidah,” Haji added. Regarding the financial sphere, Haji explains that, so far, the government has frozen 250 bank accounts linked to the terror group, holding millions of dollars, and more than 70 phone numbers used to receive money payments.
In addition, “the government publicly declared that anyone who paid money to Al-Shabaab will face punishment and will be considered a terrorist financier,” he said, noting that this has brought a severe shortage in funds upon Al-Shabaab.
The ideological war also has been embraced by Somalia’s government, which held a religious conference in Mogadishu with more than 300 influential Somali clerics from different ideological backgrounds who declared their support for the government’s war against Al-Shabaab, Haji explained.
“This was a nightmare for Al-Shabaab as they rely on twisting Islamic teachings to drive their ideology. The clerics can effectively counter that narrative by drawing the line between truth and falsehood,” Haji said, adding that at the end of the conference the clerics issued a fatwa, a Muslim religious ruling, against Al-Shabaab which said that “anyone who kills or is killed by Al-Shabaab is a martyr.”
Koshin explains that the Somali government has formed alliances to fight the group, as well as joined forces with local tribal militias that also seek to liberate the country from Al-Shabaab.
“For a long time, local militias have suffered at the hands of Al-Shabaab, and it has become inevitable [for them] to defend their locality,” he said. While the overall responsibility for security falls within the domain of the government, there are active coordination mechanisms between the government and local militias to be part of the offensive and cooperate to eradicate Al-Shabaab, Koshin explained.
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