All Africa 28 October 2014
By Shukri Mohamed
Mogadishu — Crippled by the Somali National Army and allied forces in the few remaining al-Shabaab-held territories in the country, the group’s fighters have resorted to targeting civilians in small-scale attacks in Mogadishu.
Most recently, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for car bomb attacks outside two cafés in the capital, saying its intended targets were members of Somalia’s intelligence services, the pro-al-Shabaab website Calamada reported October 15th.
“Both explosions claimed the lives of Somali people who were valuable within the society and [the attacks] were not the actions of people with any sense of Somali [patriotism] left,” said Benadir Women’s Association chairwoman Jawahir Barqab.
Although Barqab said she was grieved by the attacks, she said al-Shabaab’s tactics indicate its desperation on account of the heavy losses it has suffered.
Frustrated by its inability to face down Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops, al-Shabaab has resumed its attacks against the public, she said, adding that young people, doctors and intellectuals were among the dead.
“This shows the debilitation of al-Shabaab,” Barqab told Sabahi. “Since they have once again resorted to targeting civilians, it shows [the impact] of the losses suffered by the extremists.”
Despite al-Shabaab’s continued violence against the public, she said, the attacks will not deter the government’s efforts to rebuild Somalia nor the public’s support for those efforts.
“This will not change the progress and victories of the government. We have been through explosions and events that were more painful than these, and in each of those explosions we lost valuable people,” she said. “But the work to restore peace and progress in Somalia has never stopped because of explosions, and it will not stop now.”
Al-Shabaab has been carrying out attacks in Mogadishu to retaliate against the people of Benadir region who have stood up to the group in recent years, Barqab said.
“Al-Shabaab is engaged in a battle against Somalia, and especially against the capital city,” she said.
“As the people of Benadir, we are the ones who proved that al-Shabaab is nothing and can be fought against,” she said. “We are close to their demise and there will come a day when the Somali citizen will be able to live in Mogadishu, and in the rest of Somalia, without fear.”
Al-Shabaab’s indiscriminate killing:
“Two reasons are leading [al-Shabaab] to carry out explosions in civilian locations, especially in upscale restaurants,” she told Sabahi. “First, they want to eliminate anyone who displays enough intellect to reject their flawed ideology. Second, recently they have been unable to attack government centres like they used to before.”
“Al-Shabaab is against any Somali person living in peace, waking up in peace and going to sleep in peace,” she added. “Their biggest objective is to eliminate Somali people and their history.”
For his part, Somali International University President Yahye Ali Ibrahim said al-Shabaab’s failure to distinguish between the general public and those it views as the enemy has led to the loss of many civilian lives.
“The people al-Shabaab sees as the enemy — the government’s leaders and officers — and the regular civilians in Mogadishu are all mixed together and cannot do without one another,” he told Sabahi. “Therefore, while targeting one or two people who are part of the government, al-Shabaab takes the lives of dozens of innocent victims.”
“Currently al-Shabaab is unable to carry out the successive explosions and direct attacks they were famous for, so they will do anything that will make it seem like a relevant force, regardless of whether it is the public or the government that are affected,” he said.
However, the government’s intelligence apparatus has been lacking when it comes to preventing such attacks, Ibrahim said.
Intelligence agencies should know where the attacks are planned from and the perpetrators who plan them, he said. “They should have knowledge about each neighbourhood in Mogadishu and be aware of new people who move in there each day.”
Instead, intelligence officers too often duplicate the work of regular police officers rather than work undercover to gather information and dismantle al-Shabaab cells, he said.
“If the capital becomes fully secured, the rest of the country will follow suit,” he added.