Al–Shabaab has claimed responsibility for many bombings—including various types of suicide attacks—in Mogadishu and in central and SomalilandFor example, in October 2008, the group carried out a series of five coordinated explosions that struck government offices, the Ethiopian consulate, and the United Nations Development Programme compound. Al-Shabab had used a combination of small arms attacks and suicide bombings, at least, 95 deadly attack since 2006. It had managed to strike the TFG ministers of Interior, Health, Education and Sports, at least, six members of the Somali Parliament and had caused serious damage to Mogadishu airport, port and presidential palace.
Al shabab also attempt to radicalise Somali youth who are unemployed due lack of opportunity within the region. For example the story of Shirwa Ahmed, an ethnic Somali graduate from a high school in Minneapolis, USA in 2003, who was radicalised, travelled to Somalia in 2007 and in the October 2008 attacks drove a truck loaded with explosives toward a government compound in Somaliland killing himself and 20 other people, including UN office in Somaliland and Ethiopian Ambassador to Somaliland s and humanitarian assistance workers.
To highlight the international aspect of Al-Shabab’s tactics, the groups’ first cross border attack was in Uganda and it was by suicide bombers in a rugby club where there was an international crowd watching. These attacks were retaliation for the Uganda sending troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) . Al-Shabab continues to conduct guerrilla attacks against the Federal Government alongside its use of suicide bombers. In effect, Al-Shabab combines a tactic of suicide bombing (internationally) and guerrilla warfare (domestically) in its spread of terror. Another element to Al-Shabab’s tactics has been in its creating training camps for suicide bombers.
This terrorist activity arose out of Al-Shabab’s increased involvement with Al-Qaeda and describes the tragic incident where a car bomb went off prematurely killing the foreign fighters and Al-Shabab Somali students involved. More foreign fighters have become more involved in Al-Shabab’s terror activities as a result of its tactics to spread terror domestically and internationally. Another tactic employed by Al-Shabab is in its use of information and technology communication (ICT) for propaganda purposes and communicating its ideology. Al-Shabab uses the internet as a key tool in recruiting and interacting with its recruits all over the world. Since 2008, the organisation’s media arm, Kata’ib Foundation, has released media productions like “Ambush at Bardale”, “At Your Service, Oh Osama” and “No Peace Without Islam” all released online .These productions have targeted a foreign audience and potential recruits communicating its link with Al-Qaeda playing up its influence and effectiveness in fighting its ideological enemies. In recruiting members from Western countries the group has used English speaking leader, Oman Hammami, in the production of these videos who, speaking in English, encourages more people in the West to join the organisation. The use of ICT is a key a part of its re-framing of the organisation as being part of an international fight against the West. It enables it to recruit members who otherwise may not have been interested in its nationalist aims and also raise funds from a broad audience. Without its ICT tactics it will not be able to benefit from its alliance with Al-Qaeda whose global recognition allows it to raise funds for its activities.
Official authorities have tried to stop Al-Shabab’s terrorist activities with force. Occasionally, it is reported that a terrorist has been killed by official forces. The most prominent of these announcements was the death of Osama bin Laden. Apart from killing those identified as dangerous terrorists there are other measures aimed at combating terrorism perpetuated by Al-Shabab and similar organisations. Following the September 2001 terror attacks the maxim ‘War on Terror’ was adopted characterising attempts at countering terrorist attacks perpetuated by groups like Al-Shabab. Although this term has now been dropped several of the measures adopted in countering terror remain in use. Some of these measures include the use of counter-terrorism legislations, military assaults on those identified as terrorists, detention and interrogation of suspects, raids, surveillance, diplomacy and so on. As a neighbouring country and often times the victims of Al-Shabab’s acts of terrorism .
AMISON and Kenya plays a major role in the counter-terrorist measures against the organisation as it has millions of Somalians living in Kenya some of whom help raise funds for Al-Shabab. Kenya’s need to intervene is precipitated by the absence of a strong central government in Somalia. In the last three years Kenya has adopted a more assertive and interventionist approach to combating the problem of Al-Shabab conducting a military campaign in its border town of Bulo Hawa . Kenya’s measures in countering Al-Shabab’s acts of terrorism goes beyond military assaults, it has since included the cultivation of alliances with Somali with a disparate groups of Somali fighters along its borders
Kenya, backed by the international community, supports these groups who fight Al-Shabab. Since 2012 Kenyan troops operating in Somalia have been incorporated into the larger AMISOM force of approximately 18,000 troops (Africa Research Bulletin, 2012). AMISOM is backed by Western countries like the US, the UK, UN and several other countries, and were mandated in recent conference to go on the offensive against Al-Shabab (Africa Research Bulletin, 2012). In essence, most of the measures rely on the use of force.
With the controversies brought about in the use of rendition, Guatanomo Bay and waterboarding, rightfully, questions have been asked to the legitimacy and effectiveness of various counter-terrism measures. In terms of effectiveness, the decision for the Kenyan army to directly intervene in the war against Al-Shabab has led to reprisal attacks in the form of threats, bombings and a greater feeling of insecurity in Kenya Still, the Al-Shabab organisation remains. Another effect of the counter terrorism measure on Al-Shabab is that it has acted as a means of rallying Somalis into joining the group and gaining sympathisers who might donate to the group as they are seen as fighters defending the country against foreign invaders. The invasion by Ethiopia was held to have has a similar impact and the present intervention Kenyan and other African troops may trigger the same response from Somalis. As Menkaus (2012) argues the announcement that Israel was supporting Kenya’s counter terrorism activities played into Al-Shabab’s propaganda. Whilst not many Somalis joined Al-Shabab as a consequence, it may yet have had a positive influence on its recruitment of foreign fighters. Since the launch of ‘War on Terror’ in 2001 many countries have followed suit in introducing their own variant of this war.
Al-Shabab forms a part of what is a global Jihadiust movement perched on the opposite side of this war and on the receiving end of measures of counter-terrorism. The introduction of measures of counter terrorism accompanied with the polarising discourses led to a re-arrangement of international relations and a re-styling of the governmental and institutions set to tackle perceived threat from terrorism.
The way in which the dangers posed of terrorism is often presented and the uniqueness of the threat posed often clouds what should be a broad debate on the legitimacy of the measures being taken in combating terrorism. Legitimate questions can be raised on key counter terrorism issues like “extended periods of detention without trial, sanctioned under new anti-terrorism laws; the use of torture to extract evidence; unfair trials and the abuse of anti-terror laws to detain and bring charges against democracy activists and opposition leaders; the application of counter-terrorist legislation and policies for unrelated domestic political purposes; extra-ordinary rendition processes; and bungled anti-terrorism police raids” (Howell and Lind, 2010: 281).
These issues can constitute breaches of individuals’ rights and the failure to properly discuss counter terrorism measures in civil society before adopting those casts doubts as to the legitimacy of these measures. As seen in the cases of rendition and the unfair incarceration of inmates at Guantanamo Bay over long period these matters raises grieve concerns within civil society bringing into doubt how legitimate the measures are in the first place. The killing of suspected terrorists without a fair trial like other criminals also raises concerns. Often without consultation with civil society in the formulation of counter terrorism measures these measures lack the due diligence required for them to be considered safe for use within civil society opening the door to their misuse. In adopting counter terrorism measures it does appear that the due process is bypassed under the smoke of hyperbole and official attempts at creating awareness of a unique terrorist problem.
In its bid to survive and find relevance Al-Shabab underwent a reconfiguration, one that saw it change from a nationalist Islamist organisation to an international Jihadist one. With this change it lost many sympathisers but gaining new ones. Its ideology of imposing a dated interpretation of the teaching of Islam is one it now shares with Al-Qaeda. But with this new ideology has come new enemies, international enemies that may yet bring about its demise quicker than it feared. As the international community continues to forcefully counteract the terrorist activities of Al-Shabab, questions remain as to the legitimacy of the methods used in their doing so. Counter terrorism may be taken as a euphemism, in some instances, for state sponsored terror as the measures taken are mostly not consistent with the ideals of civil society. They, essentially, mirror the disregard terrorists show the public. Without any major outcry in the case Al-Shabab, it would appear that two wrongs make a right!
1. Both Somaliland and Somalia must compact terrorism treat through:
2. Somaliland must Safeguarding its borders for any potently treat pose by al–shabab. Both must share security intelligence and information gathering.
3. Somalia must form, or build its police military forces capability for long term to compact terrorism as AMISON are only short term solution.
4. Identify Relationships – uncover interactions and relationships between terrorist groups and their members.
3. Link Group Members – understand formal and informal organizational structures.
4. Connect Networks – expose connections between group members, outside individuals, other organizations, locations, facilities and communication networks.
5. Expose Group Operations – show shared assets, materials and supplies for carrying out terrorist missions.
6. Track Technologies – track different types of technologies used as components for manufacturing terrorist weapons.
7. Understand Behaviors – track and analyze group behaviors for early detection of potential threats.
8. Assess Vulnerabilities – evaluate funding resources, recruiting methods, communication networks, storage facilities and other resources to uncover potential vulnerabilities.
By: Liban Mohamud Hussein
Criminologist, criminalist and security advisor
Bsc criminology & forensic science