Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another dark day in Somalia

August 26 – Somalis living in Mogadishu woke up to yet another dark day on the 24th August after the militant group Al-Shabab executed at least 35 people including an 11year old boy, a woman and six lawmakers.

Many of those who died were fasting the Holly month of Ramadan.

The latest attack by the group claiming to be fighting a holy war in Somalia was intended to inflict maximum damage and kill as many people as possible. The way they executed their heinous intention is sufficient proof they intended to wipe out everyone at the Muna Hotel.

On that fateful day at around 10 am two Al-Shabab suicide bombers disguised as Somali security personnel and wearing uniforms stormed into the Muna hotel in Hamarweyne district. They then started firing at the bodyguards protecting the MPs killing 4 lawmakers and wounded 5 others before going into a civilian killing spree.

They executed almost everyone inside the building. Most of those killed were assassinated from close range and as if that is not enough they went ahead to blow themselves up just to make sure no one survived. In total they killed at least 35 people including an 11 year old boy shoe shiner and a Somali woman selling tea outside the hotel.

Without doubt this attack was intended to inflict maximum damage to the Somali population. Their murderous campaign left a trail of Somali-blood flowing in the corridors and even inside the rooms. This was simply a killing field.

Al-Shabab killed all these people in the name of Islam and on the pretext of fighting a holly war. Surely, who is clearly transgressing here?. The truth remains that their barbarism is totally against Islam which forbids killing a believer or even harming anyone during the holly month of Ramadan let alone killing him/her.

Instead of any remorse feelings they even had the audacity to claim for responsibility of the callous act. Bragging to have butchered so many enemies! What a cowardly act. Were the innocent lives they wasted who were merely poor Somalis trying to make a living including hotel staffs, an 11 year old teenage shoe shiner and a woman selling tea, the enemy?

I wonder under what Islamic Sharia law the innocent Muslim blood was shed. This is the stark reality many Somalis blindly supporting Al-Shabab don’t realize.

It is also no longer a secret that Al-Shabab commanders use under-aged children to spread their extremist beliefs. Many of these children come from poor families and were born and raised in the midst of the anarchy in Somalia and so have no knowledge of peace and have little or no formal education making them easy prey’s .

One of the Muna Hotel suicide bombers was 16 year Adan Hussein who was a former bodyguard to a senior Al-Shabab commander.

Their cruelty is unlimited. It was only on Dec 3rd 2009 when one of their suicide bombers blew himself up at a medical graduation ceremony in Mogadishu killing many would-doctors, the first the country produced since 1991. Four Ministers, several journalists and professors also died in the same blast.

Or the 18 June 2010 when yet another of their brainwashed suicide bombers killed the highly regarded late Security Minister Omar Hashi in Beletweyene together with 23 other people.

These and many other vicious attacks against civilians has forced Somalis to hate Al-Shabab. But again, few years ago people viewed them as saviours. How did they suddenly turn from heroes or villians? The answey is in their nature and purpose.

I remember back in 2006 and partly in 2007 when the Ethiopian troops were in Somalia the Union of the Islamic Court (ICU) enjoyed massive support. Then, Al-Shabab was the military wing of the ICU.

Somalis fell in love with them for simply turning Mogadishu into a relatively safe city and for fighting the Ethiopians who are traditionally reviled by the Somalis due to a long history of bad blood between the two countries.

Al-Shabab fighters were housed, clothed and fed by the public. During the long and bloody battles with the Ethiopians, their wounded were treated by the public and their dead preserved for simply bringing peace to Mogadishu that made them local heroes.

Howerev, that is no longer the case these days. They are loathed by majority of the public because they have turned against the same people who sheltered and supported them when they were weak and vulnerable. They have repayed the kindness and genuine love of the Somali people by killing so many innocent civilians. Some of who might have extended a hand during those days when Al-Shabab was weak and wounded. Is this how a person claiming to be religious return's favours?

Their support actually started to dwindle when the Ethiopians pulled out of Somalia in early 2009 and their former Chairman Sheikh Sharif Ahmed was appointed Somalia's next President. Many people expected them to join him to usher in a new Somalia.

But that did not happen. Why? Because peace is the biggest threat to their ascension to power. Why, because they are a minority in Somalia. No one would voluntarily support them and that is why they have to terrorize the people in order to submit to their foreign brand of religion and practices.

That is why they continue to fight to date against President Sheikh Sharif's government and the African Union peacekeepers who were deployed by the African Union to replace the Ethiopians

What many people don’t know is that Al-Shabab is led and mainly funded by a group of foreign fugitives calling themselves “foreign Mujahidiins“ who are wanted back in their home countries in the Middle East, Europe and North America.

The survival of these fugitives is dependant on Somalia being in chaos. That is why they would do everything to make sure the country never enjoys peace. The few Somalis who side with them are doing so purely on material ground and not on religious zeal as they might appear or sound to you.

In short, Al-Shabab does not care how many Somalis die. That is why they generalize whoever they kill as a "Murtid" or infidel. Who that 11 year boy or the woman selling tea, a Murtid? Surely not. They just want to wipe everyone and take over the country. So, whether they kill you for simply selling tea or shining shoes or worse in their eyes working for the government doesn’t bother them at all or even matter . In fact it simply excites them!

These are very hard times for the ordinary Somali man and woman living in Somalia and particulary the capital Mogadishu. Their country has been in chaos for almost 20 years. Whenever a little hope of peace presents itself they find themselves back to square one.

Yesterday, it was the warlords who were viewed as the biggest obstacle to peace in Somalia, today Al-Shabab tops as the biggest enemy of the Somali people towards achieving peace. Their barbarism has been revealed by their continous killing and maiming of civilians on flimsy religious grounds. I sometimes wonder what more they are capable of achieving if and when they ever take over the country.

Generally People seem to be pessimic of peace in Somalia. Well, they have their reasons. But for those poor people who continue to suffer under Al-Shabab, peace is their only saviour.

I strongly believe that Somalia has a chance. If every sane Somali and non-Somali who has an iota of dignity, faith and humanity joins or supports the ongoing efforts to stop these crazy fanatics from taking over the country. That way, we can be assured of a peaceful Somalia however long or treacherous that road to peace might look now.

But for us to actually see any changes we have to support the interim government of Somalia -- however weak it may seem -- because it is the only way out of the current mess spread by extremists groups whose survival depends on shading more blood.

That is what I think is the solution to the protracted war in Somalia. Do you have a better idea?

Please share.