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Al-Shabaab (Al-Shabab) - 2013

Somalia Political Conditions Map - 2013 March 25Al-Shabab steadily began losing ground in Somalia, and was weakened by a concerted military effort from a multi-national African Union force and Somali government troops. Once they controlled large portions of the country; by 2013 they were only been able to carry out hit-and-run attacks. The result was a fracturing within the group on how to re-invigorate the fight for its objectives for a greater Somalia under its interpretation of strict Islamic law. Some al-Shabab leaders wanted their fighters to operate within Somalia only, while others, like Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, pushed a more global Jihad or holy war.

In 2013 Al-Shabaab attacked the Mogadishu court complex, killing more than 30. Following the attack on 19 June, UN agencies, funds and programmes have a severely restricted capacity to plan and deliver programs. With AMISOMs present assets and with competing priorities, it was not realistic to substantially step up protection of UN installations and operations as these are to expand.

And two years after Kenyan troops deployed to Somalia to fight al-Shabab and help pave the way for the first government in 20 years, al-Shabab took its fight to Kenya. The group finally made good on that threat 21 September 2013, when armed men stormed an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing scores of people, injuring about 175, and taking others hostage. The Westgate Mall terrorist attack was an indication of the militant group's intentions and capabilities.

On August 6th 2013 Somalia marked the second anniversary since the liberation of the capital city Mogadishu from Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists Al-Shabaab. The expulsion of Al-Shabaab from fixed positions in the city was a significant strategic achievement and set the stage for other successes across the country. The city has since experienced resurgence in all aspects of political, economic and socio-cultural life. Shops have re-opened, markets and homes are being rebuilt. Many Somalis are opting to return home while the number of commercial flights in and out of Mogadishu is on the increase. Securing the capital city was the first phase of the original AMISOM concept of operations. AMISOM completed the second phase which included helping the government secure major towns like Kismayo, Baidoa and Beledweyne.

Kenya's Westgate shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, became the scene of one of the country's worst terrorist attacks. Members of the al-Shabab militant group stormed Westgate mall on September 21, 2013, hurling grenades and opening fire on shoppers and employees. Before the three-day siege ended, 67 people were dead. Al-Shabab said the attack was in retaliation for Kenyan troops' participation in anti-militant activities in neighboring Somalia.

The findings of the African Union-United Nations mission on security are clear. After 18 months of successful operations that uprooted Al-Shabaab from major cities, the campaign by AMISOM and Somali forces has, in recent months, ground to a halt. The AMISOM Force Commander told me that neither AMISOM nor the Somali army has the capacity to push beyond areas already recovered. Their hold on the existing territory would be tenuous if the current status quo continues.

While these forces remain largely static, Al-Shabaab is mobile and is training and recruiting substantial numbers of frustrated, unemployed young men. There has been a surge in deadly attacks. Although weakened, the insurgency is still able to conduct terror operations - not only in its areas of control, but in Mogadishu and Kismayo, and elsewhere - seen in the horrific attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. It was the joint recommendation of the Secretary-General and the African Union that AMISOM and Somali forces need a significant temporary boost to maintain the basic security required for peacebuilding, as well as to respond to the evolving threat from Al-Shabaab.




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