Koustubh Tol & Sari Kattelus
On 27th January 2017, Al-Shabaab allegedly killed 57 Kenyan peacekeeping soldiers to seize the Kulbiyow military base in southern Somalia. Two Mujahideen fighters rammed suicide car bombs into the base before others stormed it. Both sides continue to argue that their enemy fled to the woods and that casualties happened to the enemy team.
An interviewed soldier said that 9 Kenyan Defence Forces soldiers were killed while 15 others were injured. Most likely, history will repeat itself and we won’t get official numbers from this incident either. This seems similar to what happened exactly a year ago. The extremist group conducted a similar attack on a Kenyan base in El-Ade town. Surprisingly, both attacks occurred in January, at dawn, and on a Friday. The Kenyan base is not an unexpected target. Former recruits of this complex terrorist organisation have revealed that as a part of ”education”, they were shown videos about how Amisom and Christian crusaders have invaded Somalia and turned Somalian children into Christians.
[su_pullquote align=”right”]Surprisingly, both attacks occurred in January, at dawn, and on a Friday.[/su_pullquote]
Kenya is one of the biggest contributors to the Somalian peacekeeping forces, providing more than 3,600 troops. Being the neighbour of Somalia, the country has faced enormous conflicts with the extremist outfit. On top of that, it is said that hatred for “invading” foreigners is a traditional trait of Somali culture.
The rise of Al-Shabaab
The origin of al-Shabaab comes from the civil war in Somalia in 2006. The government then fought with the US and Ethiopia, to tame Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and reclaimed territories such as the capital city. The remaining parts of the ICU developed their extremist fronts which are now known as al-Shabaab.
Meanwhile, the AMISOM was created by the African Union to help the government fight against the Islamists. Reoccurring fights between al-Shabaab and the AMISOM started to take place. A member of AMISOM revealed that at some point, Al-Shabaab engaged them for nothing less than 24 hours a day. In 2011, the government won Mogadishu back with the help of AMISON. This made the Al-Shabaab form a relation with Al-Qaeda.Al-Shabaab, comprised almost entirely by the youth, is well organised and protected. | Picture Courtesy: Al Jazeera
Many important Al-Shabaab leaders were killed in the 2014 operation led jointly by the government and AMISOM. In retaliation, Al-Shabaab started attacking innocent civilians of Somalia and Kenya. It could take years to eradicate the group entirely from the Somalian land.
Who forms Al-Shabaab?
Many Al-Shabaab entrants are young, orthodox people from poor conditions, with diverse reasons to join the militant group. Dressed in camouflage and covering their faces with black cloth, they sing: “because of our religion, we don’t fear death.” Many want to become suicide bombers but not all qualify. In fact, this organisation is surprisingly well organised and protected.
There are many different kinds of roles inside Al-Shabaab ranging from fighters, trainers, religious scholars, to departments like security and intelligence.
Moreover, Al-Shabaab police guard the areas that are ruled by them.
The ongoing crisis
In April 2015, the Somalian militants of Al-Shabaab shot and killed 148 students of the Kenyan university, marking it the worst terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombings. The recent attack on the Kenyan forces in southern Somalia comes as a wake-up call for the eastern African nations seeking peace in the region. The continuous attacks showcase the inability of AMISOM in counter-insurgency measures.
Need of the hour
[su_pullquote]Amison and Somalian security forces need more intelligence gathering capabilities.[/su_pullquote]
Amison and Somalian security forces need more intelligence gathering capabilities. On the other hand, Al-Shabaab’s possession of these attributes has made it successful. The counter-insurgency operations should be planned to cause the least amount of damage to the local people. People should be offered better living standards under an official regime.
The report titled ‘Radicalisation and Al-Shabaab recruitment in Somalia’ sums up the situation aptly: “It is the crucial to build trust through ‘winning hearts and minds’ while enhancing control.”
Featured Image Source: Pixabay
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