Somalia has been engaged in a long and bloody war with al-Shabaab. Some would claim the government is losing control; others would claim they were never in control. Currently, Somalia’s central government and the terrorist organization seem to be trading blows evenly. We hear of airstrikes killing hordes of al-Shabaab fighters one day, then the next day nearly a dozen people have been killed by an explosion in Mogadishu and al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al-Shabaab is a thoroughly trained and capable combat organization operating in Somalia, and they are extremely loyal to al-Qaeda and their cause. This was tested when the Islamic State approached al-Shabaab and called for them to side with their organization. In a 15-minute broadcast, al-Shabaab commanders ordered their fighters to cease communication with any Islamic State representatives, and those who didn’t would be punished. While this caused a rift within the organization, only a small number of fighters and one officer left al-Shabaab and retreated north to Puntland.
Al-Shabaab still commands respect and support from some Somali communities. The group’s fearless style of fighting and early morning raids on African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) bases have earned them a reputation as a fierce fighting force in Somalia. Their renowned intelligence unit is allegedly one of the most clandestine in the world, and their ability to continue to assault the central government within Mogadishu is a testament to their capabilities. Al-Shabaab is possibly one of the most fierce and enduring terrorist groups in Africa.
Their latest attack on the outskirts of Mogadishu has killed two colonels and nine soldiers from the Somali National Alliance (SNA). Their convoy struck an IED while in transit from Mogadishu to the Dhanaane area. Colonel Abdisalaan Aden has been named as one of the officers killed; he was returning to his unit after talks with the central government.
Things aren’t looking hopeful in the short term. Upcoming elections are not too far away and the African Union Mission will be drawing down forces in the region. Will the central government be able to deal a decisive blow to al-Shabaab, or will Somalia become another Afghanistan?