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Libyan Newswire

Increased al-Shabaab attacks in East Africa a sign of weakness: Experts

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African securityIncreased al-Shabaab attacks in East Africa a sign of weakness: Experts

Published 24 April 2015

Somali-based al-Shabaab is increasing its guerrilla-style attacks in East Africa, but terrorism experts say the attacks are the results of the group losing its ability to fight and win on the battlefield. In the past few years, the United States has supported, with arms and training, an African Union force to carry out missions against al-Shabaab in Somalia’s major towns and urban areas. That has forced al-Shabaab to retreat to small villages, where they still collect taxes to fund their operations throughout East Africa.

Somali-based al-Shabaab is increasing its guerrilla-style attacks in East Africa, but terrorism experts say the attacks are the results of the group losing its ability to fight and win on the battlefield. In the past few years, the United States has supported, with arms and training, an African Union force to carry out missions against al-Shabaab in Somalia’s major towns and urban areas. That has forced al-Shabaab to retreat to small villages, where they still collect taxes to fund their operations throughout East Africa. These operations include a 2 April attack at Garissa University College in north eastern Kenya, which claimed the lives of 148 people, and a 14 April attack at the Somali ministry of education in which ten people were killed.

For many East Africans, the recent attacks represent signs of a desperate al-Shabaab. “I do not believe al-Shabaab is expanding,” said Hassan Nandwa, an Islamic Studies expert at Umma University. “Al-Shabaab seems to be heading to its ultimate end. The ability to make some terrorist strikes is not evidence of expansion. This is a sign of inability to fight in the battlefield, ” Nandwa told Xinhua News.

At its peak between 2007 and 2010, al-Shabaab ruled a large portion of Somalia, about the size of Denmark. “They were doing something like state building,” said Stig Jarle Hansen, author of “Al-Shabaab in Somalia. “They were administering territory. They were delivering services,” all while suppressing the local population by enforcing their interpretation of Sharia. Now the group recruits East African youths to help it carry out attacks in Kenya and parts of Somalia.

The Shanghai Daily points out that while East African governments have acknowledged that they must halt the Islamic radicalization of young people, religious and political leaders have failed to influence the region’s young Muslims, many of whom are uneducated and poor. “The lack of religious ideology to counter radical ideas and the absence of credible leadership able to win the support of the youth amongst the Muslims in Kenya is a result of the absence of a strategy to de-radicalize the youth,” Nandwa said.

The Kenyan parliament recently passed a law imposing stiff penalties for the crime of radicalization. Last Monday, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced a ten-day amnesty for radicalized Kenyan youths who may have joined al-Shabaab. The Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims (SUPKEM) has called for the extension of the amnesty period to thirty days. Kenyans are also debating whether the Kenyan Defense Forces should pull out of Somalia. Opposition politicians have blamed al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya on the country’s involvement in the African Union’s military operation in Somalia.

The attacks have also positioned the police against the civilian population. Law enforcement agencies claim civilians are shying away from sharing information, but many civilians and analysts say the police forces have been infiltrated by al-Shabaab supporters who circulate inaccurate intelligence to mislead police on the particular targets of attacks. The Garissa University attack came just four days after many universities in Kenya shared alerts of impending terrorist attacks with Nairobi, but the target was more than 400 kilometers away. Corruption within the police force, Nandwa said, makes it difficult to combat al-Shabaab in Kenya.

The East African countries are facing the corruption which is exposing the police to infiltration and inaccurate intelligence with the motives like revenge, business rivalry and even tribalism, ” Nandwa said.

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