Wednesday, December 29, 2010 0 comments

Al-Shabab admit to public cruelty and abuse of power

By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu, December 26 –The notorious Al-Shabab militants have finally admitted to mistreating the public blaming their barbarism to recent crushing defeats in the hands of the poorly funded Somali government and their backers African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

In a rare public appearance in the agricultural rich district of Afgoye, 30 km west of the capital Mogadishu, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf aka Shongole, a senior Al-Shabab commander warned his accomplices of a severe blow to their fading rule should they continue mistreating the public.

Al-Shabab rose from obscurity into power by default as an off-shot of the once powerful Islamic Courts Union which controlled Mogadishu and large swathes of land in southern Somalia between mid 2006 to late December after rooting out a US-backed coalition of warlords who had divided up Somalia into a patchwork of fiefdoms.

“The reason the Mujahedeen’s have failed to emerge victorious against the infidels is largely due to the bad relationship between the public and Al-Shabaab. If we are stronger than the public we should remember that Allah is also stronger than us… We need to fairly treat the people if we are to succeed,” Shongole was quoted on local radio on Saturday while addressing residents of Afgoye town, which they recently usurped together with Hizbul Islam their former copy-cat Islamist gang who were in charge of the sleepy town along the shores of river Shabelle.

The latest remarks by Shongole, a close confidant of Al-Shabab Commander Ahmed Abdi Godane – who is rarely seen in public and is believed to moving around dressed in a woman’s veil -- is short of admitting constant public mistreatment, killings, robbing and rape as they stand accused in the public opinion which has unfortunately became a way of life in many Al-Shabab held regions of southern Somalia.

Analysts say Shongole’s remarks is not likely to change the groups cruelty against the public largely due to the unlettered nature of the thousands of their underage militias who only believe in enforcing their strict application of Sharia law devoid of wisdom unto the war weary public many of who adhere to the more tolerant Sufist belief.

From the southern port city of Kismayu to the central regions of Somalia where Al-Shabab’s autocratic rule extends, the group is accused of widespread human rights abuses contrary to the same Islamic belief they so adamantly claim to adhere to.

For the ordinary Somalis who languish in poverty and have nothing to eat as a result of Al-Shabab’s ban on humanitarian aid agencies. Many have either fled or a contemplating fleeing from areas controlled by the group not knowing what next to expect in the immediate future under Al-Shabab’s terrible reign.

Just 15 km from Afgoye where Shongole was speaking, Al-Shabab militias were reportedly robbing people around the Elesha Biyaha internally displaced persons (IDP) camps located along what has come to be known as the Afgoye corridor in the humanitarian circles where the worlds biggest concentration of IDP camps are located with more than half a million people living in squalid camps in a 20-mile stretch of land along the busy Mogadishu-Afgoye road.

Many of these poor IDP’s were actually rooted from their homes in Mogadishu by Al-Shabaab’s unsuccessful attempts to unseat an interim government struggling to assert its authority in a country that has virtually become a byword of anarchy with an incessant war that span for 20 years since the ouster of the last central government in 1991.

Witnesses said heavily armed Al-Shabab militias riding heavily tinted vehicles kidnap anyone seen coming out of the various Hawala’s or money transfer companies located in the camps to secret locations where they lock their victims, robbed them of any US Dollars they had been sent by relatives abroad before beating them up in the pretext of punishing them for cooked-up crimes according to their scriptures.

“Al-Shabab militias kidnapped him and drove to an undisclosed location where he was robbed, kicked and accused of being a spy for the government and AMISOM. He had gone to pick our monthly bill of $100 sent by our sister living in the US. He was released in the evening and threatened to be killed if he revealed what happened to him. He has fled to Mogadishu and left us without food. There are many other victims of this daylight armed robbery,” said a young Somali teenager, speaking by phone from Elesha IDP camp sounding really worried.

If you thought this is to much wait until you hear of other merciless acts committed by Al-Shabab militias who seem to simply be getting away with anything they do in Somalia.

A poor potter is still struggling to survive from a harrowing experience with Al-Shabab after his tongue was cut-off with a live electricity wire for apparently being suspected to be a spy after he was spotted carrying goods several times on his wheelbarrow for a client from the insurgent held sprawling Bakara market to the government-held Hamarwayne district.

And as if that is not enough, they recently killed 2 pastoralists near Kismayu for refusing to pay Zakat or alms. A Mogadishu teenager was shot dead by an Al-Shabab militiaman after he refused to pick up his hair after it had been forcibly clipped. The reason, he had kept an un-Islamic hairstyle.

“If these ridiculous crimes are anything to go by, Shongole and his accomplices have a right to be really worried because Al-Shabab is slowly fading away. Since it is an ideological belief it is very hard to fight it head on. Their inhuman treatment of the same public who supported them yesterday will deprive them of recruits and the economic muscle they badly need. They stand no chance and the likes of Shongole cannot redeem their already bloodied hands with any public relations gimmick,” a Somali analyst said declining to give his name for his own safety.
Sunday, December 19, 2010 0 comments

Worst new year message for Somalia.

By Guled Mohamed

December 20, Mogadishu - Somalia's restive capital woke up to shocking news of the merger of two militant groups, Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab which continues to fight against government forces and African Union peacekeepers in the lawless country.

The word in the streets of Mogadishu is this latest amalgamation after it emerged on Sunday that Hizbul Islam has officially joined Al-Shabab, their former perennial rivals. There could never be a worse New Year message to the war-weary Somalis like this latest merger.

Hizbul Islam chairman Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and a few of his top commanders reportedly joined Al-Shabab following recent secret talks in a bid to save their own skin following recent battles with Al-Shabab which captured several towns from Hizbul Islam including Bur Hakaba.

Al-Shabab fighters were actually preparing to retake Afgoye town from Hizbul Islam before news of the merger emerged. Afgoye is a rich agriculral village located 30 km east of the capital Mogadishu. It is also a commercially important town as it is located at an intersection of the roads leading to Kismayu, Baidoa and the central regions of Somalia.

These two rival Islamist groups have been fighting for supremacy in Somalia at the expense of ordinary poor population. They recently squad-off in Bakara market killing dozens of one another. Assassination attempts of their top leadership had become a daily norm and they have also fought over the limited resources in Somalia.

Many people are wondering what their merger will add to the already volatile situation in Somalia. To be sincere their marriage of convenience will not add anything given that they were both fighting the TFG and AMISOM and that they had their own internal rifts and infighting.

Mohamed Osman Arus, a spokesman for Hizbul Islam confirmed the merger saying, "Yes, we have merged and we are now one group. Our forces are now fighting together," witnesses confirmed that Hizbul islam fighters in several locations in Mogadishu are now fighting as Al-Shabab militants.

The latest merger is however opposed by some Hizbul Islam hardliners including Maalim Hashi, Hassan Mahdi and a few other top commanders who are believed to be contemplating to join the government should the said merger materialize. This could not however be independently verified as both Maalim Hashi and Hassan Mahdi's phone numbers were off.

Mogadishu residents are skeptical of the latest merger of the two rival Islamist groups and believe it will only add fuel to the already volatile situation in Somalia.

“Somalia is so unfortunate and has so many enemies. The people were really enthusiastic about the new Prime Minister and his cabinet. I sometimes wonder because whenever there is a glimpse of hope in Somalia someone somewhere simply scuttles it. This merger between Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab will only add fuel to the fire. They have no good intentions for us, they simply want to finish off the few ordinary Somalis who have survived their unholy war,” Resident Osman Mohamed, 60, said looking pensive

These two groups have traditionally been Somalia's biggest opposition groups. They continue to jointly control large swathes of land in Somalia including pockets of the capital Mogadishu, Kismayu and most other parts of southern, eastern and western Somalia.

Some believe the merger is a plot by Sheikh Aweys, Somalia's cynical Islamist leader and the father of militancy in Somalia to topple Al-Shabab, his biggest opponents to ascending to power in Somalia.

But for Sheikh Aweys it looks like he has decided to take his worst enemy from within. Well as they say if you cannot beat them, simply join them.

Will it be easy for Sheikh Aweys or the Red Fox as he is known around for his red dyed beards to topple Al-Shabab from the inside? Many Somalis would gladly hope so but it will not be a walk in the park for Mr. Aweys.

Al-Shabab is led and financed by foreign fugitives who have no intention of seeing peace in Somalia simply because their survival depends on the raging war. The more fighting and people dying in Somalia, the safer they are. That is the unfortunate reality Somalis find themselves in.

"These fugitves are playing the religious card to their advantage. If the jihad they are propagating is really true why didn't they start it in their own home countries, I sometimes wonder who is fooling who. My Somali brothers who have fallen for this religious nonsense are either doing it for the money or simply too ignorant to know the truth," wondered Ali Abdullahi, another Mogadishu resident.

This is what might happen in the coming weeks if the said merger is true and is actually implemented.

Expect bloodier fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu meaning many innocent civilians will continue to die in this unnecessary war. The new Al-Shabab outift might not necessarily make any progress in the battle fields simply because the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia are too strong for the ragtag Islamist militias.

Worse of all for Al-Shabab is that the Somali government forces are said to be in high spirits following plans to finally pay them their dues or stipends in the coming weeks or so. TFG Soldiers often fight alongside AU peacekeepers and actually make up the first frontline. News of their long awaited stipends will surely given them a reason to resist any Al-Shabab offensive.

This can only mean one thing then, we should expect a stalemate in the ongoing battles in Mogadishu.

As it has always been it is the Somali public that has and will continue to suffer the greatest burden of this totally unnecessary war in Somalia and until the ordinary people say enough is enough the situation will unfortunately remain the same. More deaths and suffering for the ordinary poor Somali man, woman or child.

As I pen off, I can already hear loud explosions in Mogadishu. Perhaps it’s just another Al-Shabab reminder that they are still around and that the merger is a reality.

Whatever the case I just wonder when the Somali people will eventually realize that bullets, artillery fire and suicide bombers will only cause more deaths and suffering for the poor and further destruction to their already damaged and bullet-poked capital city Mogadishu.

Surely, when will this madness end?
Thursday, December 2, 2010 0 comments

AMISOM captures former interior ministry offices from Al-Shabab.

By Guled Mohamed

December 2, Mogadishu – African Union peacekeepers from Uganda on Thursday captured the former ministry of interior offices from Al-Shabab militants after several days of heavy fighting, AMISOM spokesman Major Ba-Hoku Barigye confirmed.

The interior ministry office is located in Bondere district and is located west of the former Italian embassy building in the Somali capital. This is a significant victory for the AU peacekeepers who have been battling Al-Shabab militants for some times now.

“Our forces have captured the ministry of interior offices from Al-Shabab just now. They are now securing it. Al-Shabab has been attacking the peacekeepers in the last few days and we took this opportunity to expand our areas of responsibility by capturing this important building. We know Al-Shabab deployed 70 women fighters in those areas and one of them was killed. This is all I can say at the moment,” Major Ba-Hoku said.

Al-Shabab, who have a pact with the global jihadist group Al-Qaeda, has been loosing public support in Somalia largely due to their brutal treatment of ordinary Somalis. At least 700 families of displaced farmers and pastoralists have fled into Mogadishu’s Dharkanlay district after Al-Shabab ordered them to pay taxes.

Majority of these families are so poor that they could not afford to pay the taxes Al-Shabab was demanding. They were threatened with a severe punishment and that is why they had to run away to Mogadishu.

There is an interim government in place in Somalia which is struggling to pacify the country with the help of AU peacekeepers from Ugandan and Burundi. Somalia’s last central government was ousted by clan militias in 1991 who plunged the Horn of African country into anarchy.