A Kenyan security brief is quoted describing how women are considered by society to be less violent than men. This presumption affords them the luxury of undergoing less scrutiny in security checks when compared to their male counterparts. It is true that when you hear of a terrorist attack, subconsciously you picture armed men for whatever reason. It is this premise existing in people’s minds that is gradually becoming Al-Shabaab’s greatest weapon.
The most shocking function in ladies involved in the organization in recent developments is suicide bombers. Since the attack on Somalia’s interior minister Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan by his niece, there has been a steady increase in such instances in the region showcasing ladies ready to lay down their lives for the organization. These are, in essence, the ideal weapons, spies, and couriers as security officers point out.
However, like most situations, the situation is rather complicated. The involvement of women in terror organization can be analyzed from distinct viewpoints. One, there are the unfortunate victims of circumstances which have been compelled or lured to join the organization. There is a particular enticement to being the mujahidin’s wife in the Somali culture. On the other hand, the romantic adventurism, coupled with naivety can be attributed to the rise of women in Al-Shabaab’s ranks. For instance, three of the Kenyan women arrested a few years ago leaving the country to join the group were attracted by the same.
Investigations from the Dusit D2 attack, additionally, highlighted the bleak reality that privileged and educated ladies can also get entangled in terrorism. Although the two ladies implicated in the attack were not jihadist, they played a prominent role in the incidents as one was responsible for the weapons while the other oversaw the wellbeing of the attackers. Therefore, the organization is increasingly trusting women with roles that were typically reserved for men.
Security agencies have opened their eyes to the drastic change in Al-Shabaab’s tactics. Criminals, despite their gender, are handled with similar severity as evidenced by the on-going search of the two ladies from the Dusit assault. Accordingly, security officers exert the same scrutiny on everyone leaving or entering the country as well as those suspected of terrorist affiliations despite their gender. Moreover, the government has recognized the value of females affiliated to Al-Shabaab such as returnees from jihadist camps. In addition to the rehabilitation programs designed to address their specific situations, security officers have been getting invaluable intelligence on the terrorist organization. Accordingly, they are better informed about the changing status in the group’s ranks. Furthermore, the government has been conducting sensitization campaigns in vulnerable communities. Such moves have prompted women groups to mobilize in the said areas to combat radicalization.