The Federal Republic of Somalia experienced yet again another horrific terror attack from the terrorist group al-Shabaab when on Saturday afternoon in Mogadishu, two vehicles laden with explosives went off simultaneously near Soobe intersection, the same site of the biggest terrorist attack in Africa’s history. Although al-Shabaab took longer than usual to claim the attack, their fingerprints were all over the crime scene as pointed out by Somalia’s president, H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who blamed the group outright for the tragic event.
The attack happened in a series of two explosions as is a practice for the terrorist group, al-Shabaab. The first explosion targeted the busy Soobe intersection near the Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education which was initially believed to be the target. The subsequent explosion occurred as ambulances and civilians arrived to help their fellow Somalis. The explosions were so powerful that they blasted the windows of nearby buildings. Blood covered the streets. Debris, mainly the belongings of the victims such as shoes and bags, were thrown around everywhere. This area in the Somali capital is not foreign to such atrocities committed by this militant group as Somalia’s largest bombing occurred at this same place in the same month of October in the year 2017 claiming the lives of more than 900 civilians in a single afternoon.
This area has been the target of terror attacks by this group as it is lined with government offices, high-end restaurants, and kiosks. The attack coincidentally also occurred as high government officials including the President, Prime Minister, regional leaders, and other senior officials were conducting a meeting on to how best combat this very same extremism that has plagued Somalia for the past 15 years. Although the current number of civilian casualties is believed to be in the hundreds, the initial official account claimed to be over 100. It seems that Al-Shabaab’s strategy is to kill as many innocent people as possible.
The majority of the civilian casualties reported are women and children, some of the mothers died with their children on their backs, a horrifying scene for anyone to witness. One such horrific scene was that of a little girl, currently circulating on social media, being carried by one of the soldiers at the scene where her mother sadly perished. This attack comes on the heels of the attack on Hotel Tawakal in the southern port city of Kismayo which claimed the lives of nine people and the wounding of further forty-seven innocent civilians.
This militant group continues their over decade-long rebellion against the internationally recognized Federal Government which declared an all-out war against the group since the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. In response, the group has been responding by targeting clan elders, businesspeople, and other leaders to discourage the public from partaking in the war. Al-Shabaab remains one of Al-Qaeda’s deadliest affiliate organizations and continues to control large parts of central and southern Somalia.
The Federal government ought to continue the renewed offensive against the group. In partnership with local militias and the U.S., positive strides continue to be made including airstrikes in Bulobarde. However, although U.S. troops have been operational in Somalia since May upon the approval of President Biden and helping the federal government with airstrikes in rural Somalia, more ought to be done to protect the Somali public in major cities by the federal government. The current momentum and the “all-out war” against the terrorist group cannot and should not be altered or halted until they are rid of Somalia.
Recent developments in the advances against the group including the government involving the contribution from civil servants in the fight have been promising. This new strategy spearheaded by H.E. Hassan Sheikh’s administration in a bid to assist the Somali National Army and local militia by diverting moneys from salaries of civil servants to bolster the militia that has been working to defeat this group has been commendable. Such involvement by civil servants has also received support from the international community, however, as is evident, the fight ought to go on and increased to defeat this group ideologically and militarily to ensure complete annihilation as there is no room for terrorism in modern Somalia.
More recently, the federal government has asked the U.S. army to increase their strikes against the group to further the fight against terrorism in Somalia. Although President Joe Biden’s administration is yet to decide, hopefully, the further loss of lives in Somalia’s capital on Saturday afternoon will hasten this decision as it remains vital in the offensive against al-Shabaab. Hope and promise have been on the minds of many in Somalia as the offensive against the group have been bolstered recently with many believing Somalia to be turning a new leaf in its war against terrorism. However, attacks like Saturday, October 29th, continue to be a threat that chips away at the morale of the federal government and the Somali people in combatting terrorism.
Somalia and Somalis are resilient and will remain strong in the face of terrorism and will not fetter in its quest for a stabilized and peaceful Somalia. As one prominent Somali Analyst, put it, “Fifteen thousand misguided mischief makers will not hold twenty million Somalis hostage”. The fight goes on as we remember and mourn the lives lost on Saturday’s attack.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of this publication.