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Al-Shabab’s Return to Mogadishu Signifies a Change in Strategy

Posted By Morgan Lorraine Roach On October 4, 2011 @ 5:54 pm In Security | Comments Disabled

When al-Shabab withdrew its frontline forces from Mogadishu last August, the terrorist group vowed to launch a wave of asymmetric attacks against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). On Tuesday morning, an al-Shabab suicide bomber attacked the Ministry of Education, killing 70 [1] and wounding dozens. Among the casualties were young students waiting for notification on their acceptance for a scholarship in Turkey.

Though al-Shabab targets primarily AMISOM troops and TFG officials, the group has been known to launch attacks against Somalia’s academic community and educated elite. In December 2009, a suicide bomber attacked [2] a university graduation ceremony in Mogadishu, killing 23, including government ministers, medical students, and doctors. Three months prior to the attack, al-Shabab warned [3] the Ministry of Education about its use of “un-Islamic” textbooks. Al-Shabab’s educational methods [4] range from awarding children fully automatic assault rifles and live hand grenades for their knowledge on al-Shabab trivia, to outlawing bells in schools because they sound too similar to church bells. According [5] to al-Shabab’s deputy commander in chief, Shiekh Mukhtar Robow, “Youths should use one hand for education and the other for a gun to defend Islam.”

Al-Shabab’s close affiliation with al-Qaeda has made its fighters more sophisticated in their use of guerilla tactics including suicide attacks and the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Many of al-Shabab’s top leaders have trained and conducted operations with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and have applied such experiences to Somalia. Al-Shabab has also imported al-Qaeda’s public messaging skills. Immediately following today’s attack, al-Shabab took responsibility on its website. Al-Qaeda has publicly reached out to al-Shabab, acknowledging its support for operations in and outside Somalia. Recently deceased al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlaki [6] captured a wide Internet audience and used online forums to engage with al-Shabab members and encourage his audience to financially support its operations.

AMISOM and the TFG should not treat al-Shabab’s August withdrawal from Mogadishu as victory. Rather, they should have taken advantage of al-Shabab’s absence and improved their capacity. Al-Shabab has switched strategies in Mogadishu, transitioning from an occupying force to one based on guerilla warfare. Al-Shabab will continue to expand its efforts to destabilize AMISOM forces by applying its strengths to AMISOM’s weaknesses. Although AMISOM has improved its capabilities within the past year, al-Shabab is a flexible organization that can easily adapt to challenges with limited resources. To prevent al-Shabab’s reoccupation of Mogadishu, AMISOM must do more to minimize potential threats by expanding its presence throughout the city and taking aggressive action to counter al-Shabab’s evolving terrorism strategy.

Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2011/10/04/al-shabab%e2%80%99s-return-to-mogadishu-signifies-a-change-in-strategy/

URLs in this post:

[1] killing 70: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/oct/4/rescue-official-truck-bomb-somalia-kills-70/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS

[2] attacked: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL33911.pdf

[3] warned: http://www.criticalthreats.org/somalia/terror-threat-somalia-internationalization-al-shabaab-feb-12-2010

[4] educational methods: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/21/world/africa/shabab-gives-unusual-prizes-for-somali-children-in-contest.html

[5] According: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/al-shabab-somalia-andulus-radio

[6] AQAP) leader Anwar al-Awlaki: http://blog.heritage.org../../../../../2011/10/01/awlaki%E2%80%99s-death-what-does-it-mean-for-the-horn-of-africa/

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