Amid cracks in army, Al-Shabaab scales back terrorist attacks in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Al-Qaida linked group, Al-Shabaab, has renewed attacks in Somalia, after weeks of relative peace, coupled with political intrigues and divisions within the Somali National Army [SNA], which were precipitated by political differences in the country.

On Sunday, the group targeted a police station within Waberi District, killing five officers and a civilian, in one of the attacks that come ahead of the much anticipated pre-election meeting, which is scheduled for May 20, 2021, according to Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

Through their proxy media sites, Al-Shabaab confirmed that "our team targeted the police station, we killed government apologists besides confiscating weapons from the officers". The Al-Shabaab further warned that "it's not yet over".

Without giving many details, Al-Shabaab said it will continue to "rescue people from oppression" but did not clarify whether it meant the government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo or FGS allies especially the United States and AMISOM.

For weeks now, the group had scaled down operations in what is believed to be a strategy to study ongoing political intrigues in the country. Al-Shabaab had pledged to issue a statement with regard to continued stay in office by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.

Rashid Abdi, an analyst on the Horn of Africa matters, noted the resumption of the attacks in Mogadishu by the group, whose last known massive attack was in early April, which targeted two major Somali National Army [SNA] bases in Southern Somalia.

"Al-Shabaab scaled back on attacks for weeks as the political crisis deepened in Mogadishu and rival army units threatened to go to war," says Abdi. "It opted to conserve energy and to watch as its rivals slugged it out. AS is now back in action following the deal to mend intra-army splits."

The Mogadishu attack comes few days after mutineers SNA soldiers returned to their bases in Lower Shebelle and Middle Shebelle, where they had left for Mogadishu to "oppose Farmajo's term extension". The troops were persuaded to go back to their bases following a deal between the opposition and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

After being given 48 hours to leave Mogadishu, the government was also compelled to agree not to victimize them besides reviewing their salaries. But despite the happenings, the SNA soldiers are badly divided, a move which pundits say would lead to the expansion of Al-Shabaab bases.

The militants are known to take advantage of such cracks, something which have made them control large swathes of Central and Southern Somalia due to persistent differences between the federal government of Somalia and forces from peacekeeping missions.

A deadly attack in Mogadishu

Al-Shabaab is known to target security forces, top government officials, and even innocent civilians, some of who are linked with spy agencies, NISA, or even private individuals. The group uses Improved Explosive Devices [IEDs] or at times, ground combats.

Major Sadiq Aden Ali, a spokesman for Somali police, confirmed to the media that two police commanders are among those killed. A total of six people died in Sunday's deadly attack in the capital, Mogadishu.

Major Ahmed Abdullahi Bashane, the commander of Mogadishu’s Waberi district, and Major Abdibasid Mohamud Agey, the former deputy commander of Weliyow Adde police department, were killed along with three other police officers. A civilian who lived next to the station also died in the explosion.

The explosion was caused by a suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest who approached the officers outside the Waberi district station around 9:30 p.m. and local time, witnesses said. Six other people were injured in the explosion, according to the police.

A witness who could not be named for security reasons said Bashane died at the scene while Agey died of his injuries after being evacuated for medical treatment.

Three hours before the explosion, Bashane posted a Mother’s Day tribute to his mother on his Facebook page.

“May Allah protect her and give her health, amen,” the message read. Bashane was new to the job. He transferred from another police station within Mogadishu less than a month ago, officials said.

"I condemn the terrorist attack at Waberi Police Station. I extend my condolences to the families of the deceased persons. May God has mercy on the dead and heals the wounded," Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said.

Efforts to crash Al-Shabaab

For years now, the Somali National Army, the African Union Mission Forces in Somalia, and the US Africa Command troops have been carrying out operations against the militants in several hideouts across the country.

While the troops have managed to liberate many towns besides capturing or killing many operatives, Al-Shabaab still remains a major international security threat according to the Department of Defense, which works closely with Somalia.

Early this year, troops attached to the US Africa Command left Somalia following an order by the Department of Defense, which was sanctioned by former President Donald Trump. The move was widely condemned by local political operatives who said Al-Shabaab would gain ground.

But the US defended the move saying the troops were only repositioned elsewhere in East Africa. The US Africa Command is widely credited with airstrikes which help ground troops in their major operations against the Al-Shabaab militants.

With the exit of US troops, Somalia might struggle in the war against Al-Shabaab given that later on this year, AMISOM troops are expected to leave upon full implementation of the Somali Transition Plan [STP] which would see SNA take security responsibilities in the country.

To showcase her ability to the current challenges notwithstanding, the SNA troops have continued to carry operations against the militants. However, the most recent divisions could affect their ability according to security analysts.

"Somalia Army killed seven members of the terrorist group al-Shabaab and destroyed their hideouts in security operations at Qulale village, near Mahas district of Hiiraan region," state media reported on Sunday.



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