Mogadishu, Somalia — The al-Qaeda affiliated East African terror group known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin, or simply, al-Shabaab have recently been trying to redistribute food and medicine stolen at gunpoint from humanitarian aid workers that are in the southern Somalia region desperately attempting to get ahead of the impending war that was declared last month by the Somali government and a devastating drought of biblical proportions already affecting some 2.9 million Somali citizens displaced by what the locals have grimly dubbed this latest mega drought as; “Odi Kawayn”, which is Somali for ‘something bigger than the elders.’
Al-Shabaab began blocking routes into and out of the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia as early as last month. The intent was to block foreign aid workers and their supply convoys, then steal the food, water, and medicine by any means necessary, and turn right around and distribute the stolen goods within their areas of control in the southern Somalia region. Al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing known as the Amniyat proclaimed these acts of kindness to the Somali people as a campaign to win “the hearts and minds” of the beleaguered and starving people in the terrorist occupied south of the Lower Shabelle. Their goal is to hopefully fill the ranks of al-Shabaab for the upcoming all-out offensive against the group.
Not satisfied with just highway banditry, al-Shabaab took to randomly killing and ultimately kidnapping foreign aid workers caught in their ambush. On April 3rd, after ransacking an aid convoy at gunpoint in the Gedo region of southern Somalia, in true al-Shabaab form, the group upped the ante and jumped into kidnapping and abducted five aid workers from the World Health Organization (WHO) with the intent of extorting a ransom from WHO.
The kidnapping of five World Health Organization (WHO) aid workers earlier this month went largely under-reported in the international mainstream media circles. And WHO stayed rather mum about the whole affair, then a few weeks later the five aid workers were released unharmed and just days later al-Shabaab groups were reported to be setting up ad-hoc food and medical distribution centers in six different central and southern districts of Somalia. It remains unknown whether the World Health Organization negotiated or “paid” a ransom that al-Shabaab assuredly demanded from the foreign aid organization.
Somalia is weeks away from the end of the Somali government’s amnesty period given for any al-Shabaab fighters that are on the fence with the jihad can turn themselves over to Somali authorities for guided reintegration back into Somali society, no questions asked. War is coming, and al-Shabaab is desperate to reconstitute its ranks for the brutal fight that is most definitely coming their way.
The terror group should be concerned for its well-being as Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) assigned to the U.N.-backed African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) claimed to have scored 52 confirmed al-Shabaab fighters killed in a raid on one of their hideouts in the Lower Juba region of Somalia last Friday. This prompted General Thomas Waldhauser, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), to declare at the end of the African Chiefs of Defense conference in Stuttgart, Germany, that AMISOM has all but defeated al-Shabaab militarily. “They (AMISOM fighters) have taken a lot of casualties over that time. They have removed Al-Shabaab from a lot of that country in terms of various locations,” Gen. Waldhauser said, “And I think the key is, that we really concentrate our efforts on training the Somali National Army Forces.”
Lt. Gen. Osman Noor Soubagleh, the commander of AMISOM was more bold in his statement saying that, “Whenever you fight [al-Shabaab], they melt with the population and they have not confronted the AMISOM. And we at the AMISOM, we are human. We look after the humanitarian and the human rights of the indigenous.” Lt. Gen. Soubagleh went on; “Al-Shabaab has no stronghold. That is why Al-Shabaab is now dividing.”
Gen. Waldhauser reiterated that AFRICOM’s main mission will re-focus and provide military training and prepare the Somali National Security Forces to take over the security of the East African nation sometime in 2020, when the next series of elections are set to begin.
Feature image courtesy of BBC