Yet another blood bath in Mogadishu, where last night a car bomb was detonated outside of two popular eateries: Posh Treats and Pizza House. The attack claimed by Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militias ended with a budget of at least 31 dead civilians and the killing by the Somali security forces of the assailants. The survivors described horrific scenes in the Pizza House restaurant, which remained under the siege of five terrorists until dawn.
Over the last two and a half years, al-Shabaab has often attacked Mogadishu’s high-profile areas, including hotels, military posts, and areas near the presidential palace. And he promised to step up attacks after the new president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” government launched a new military offensive against Somali extremists.
The deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa
Al-Shabaab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The extremist group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes, against it. On Sunday, the US military in Africa said it carried out a drone airstrike in southern Somalia that killed eight Islamic extremists at a rebel command and logistics camp near Sakow.
The aerial attack, launched with the support of Somali special forces, is the first with the new powers approved by President Donald Trump last March, which allows the US Department of Defense to conduct legal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of partner force in Somalia.
According to analysts, the US forces bombing reflected the growing concern that the branch of al Qaeda in eastern Africa is strengthening to organize a large-scale attack against Western targets. Africom explained that the operation is part of the overall objective of degrading the Al-Qaeda affiliate’s ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America. Africom also acknowledged that in the past two years the African Union and Somali forces suffered significant losses due to al-Shabaab.
It is also to be noted that the day before the US raid at the Sakow training camp, hundreds of fighters from al-Shabaab attacked a seventy-kilometre military base from Bosaso, in Somalia’s semi-autonomous northern state of Puntland, killing 38 soldiers, wounding 18, and seizing a large amount of weapons, ammunition and 16 military vehicles.
The attack, deemed the most lethal for years in the region, has been claimed by the militant wing of the jihadist movement al-Qaeda linked, through Shahada News Agency, a jihadist-focused information center. In the state of Puntland there is also a strong presence of fighters linked to the al-Shabaab’s splinter faction, which became the Islamic State in Somalia headed by Abdulqadir Mumin, native of the region and coming from the Ali Saleebaan sub-clan.
Because the Pentagon raised the threat posed by Al-Shabaab
The terrorist group has been shown to be capable of mortar attacks even under numerical inferiority, thanks to the use of heavy weapons, armoured vehicles and explosive. Moreover, as demonstrated by the latest one on Puntland, its actions are not confined to southern and central Somalia.
These elements have certainly contributed to prompting the Pentagon to heighten the threat from al-Shabaab, considering the possibility of attacks on American territory, too. Especially after the explosion occurred on board of Daallo Airlines aircraft departing from Mogadishu on 2 February 2016.
The explosion took place before the aircraft reached the cruising height, limiting extensive damage, but the device introduced on board was very sophisticated and the attacker had carefully studied his position to maximize the damage.
The attack was one of the reasons that led the US government to ban the use of lap tops in the cabins of aircraft departing from ten Middle East airports. In addition, in recent years, al-Shabaab militia has been targeted by the Africom with various raids conducted by drones. In September 2014, for example, during a US raid, al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed.
It is increasingly evident that with the semblance of a relatively stable government in Mogadishu, the United States is now seeking to integrate Somalia into its plans for eastern Africa, mainly through the creation of an effective army and police force.
It is no coincidence that last April, to support the Somali military, Washington decided the first deployment of regular infantry since 1994, year in which the US military presence in the country (that had taken part in the disastrous Operation Restore Hope) ended.