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Aug 14, 2020
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Al Shabaab, A Toothless Dog

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Harakat Al Shabaab Al Mujahideen commonly known as just Al Shabaab started its activities in 2006. After the fall of Somalia’s central government in 1991, clans started self-governing. This brought about the emergence of armed clan militias, for security against other competing clans and their tactics were ruthless. Evidenced by years of bloodshed, after an international outcry by the East African community, they finally agreed to have regional religious courts to govern them. This brought about relative peace in Somalia, the courts united to form a national outfit that was known as the Islamic Court Union (ICU). Its mandate was to give direction and settle disputes in a religious way.

The ICU was still opposed to the newly installed Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG).  Until the end of 2006, they controlled most of southern Somalia and the vast majority of its population, including most major cities such as Jowhar, Kismayo, Beledweyne, and the capital Mogadishu. By December 2006 the ICU had lost most of its territory to the TFG. The TFG was determined to eradicate the violent extremist scourge that had rid their country of peace and stability for years.

With their tails between their legs, the ICU retreated, defeated. The remaining leadership split into various militant groups, most notable being the Al Shabaab. The Al Shabaab gained notoriety after various brutal attacks against the Somali Muslim community in Khartoum, Mogadishu, and other towns in southern Somalia. Al Shabab struck outside of Somalia for the first time in 2010 when coordinated suicide bombings killed seventy-four people in the Ugandan capital of Kampala. “We are sending a message to every country who is willing to send troops to Somalia that they will face attacks on their territory,” said the group’s spokesman at the time. This was in response to Uganda’s partnership with the African Union to supply troops for AMISOM, the AU’s peacekeeping arm.

Despite other vicious attacks against countries in East Africa such as Kenya in 2013, in recent months, thanks to AMISOM the Al Shabaab militia has suffered setbacks, including territorial losses, high-ranking commanders killed, and defections. Drone strikes and ground operations have killed at least five Al Shabaab leaders as of 2016.

The United States, allied to AMISOM, has carried out more than 130 strikes since the start of 2017, compared with around 35 ordered by the Obama administration. A single strike on a training camp northwest of Mogadishu in November 2017 killed more than a hundred militants, according to U.S. Africa Command. With such constant attacks against the Al Shabaab militia has grown into a weak disillusioned group, a toothless dog, often barking but never inflicting any significant harm. Losing territory in southern Somalia has also freed the locals of their influence and at last, they can know religious freedom. Much like its origins in the ICU the Al Shabaab are yet to suffer a similar fate of loss and defeat. The name of Allah will no longer be spoken in the mouths of this evil militia.

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