Saturday, August 31, 2013

Somalia’s once Al-Shabaab slaughter house town now enjoys peace.

If a horror movie about Al-Shabaab’s atrocious reign is ever to be made in Somalia, this little farming town would easily lead as the perfect venue for such a moving movie. In your way to the town, a grave yard is clearly visible just across the road with each grave marked with stones as a possible reminder of the ghastly Al-Shabaab rule.

August 27, AW-DIINLE, Somalia – Gone are the days when residents of the small strategic farming village of Aw-Diinle used to be terrorized by the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab militants who just a few months ago turned the village into a slaughter house where they would literally dump off dead bodies or simply chop off victims head’s.

Located approximately 274 km northwest of the capital Mogadishu, Aw-Diinle town is the last frontline in Bay region of northwest Somalia occupied by AMISOM peacekeepers from Burundi who together with Somalia forces captured the town 3 months ago from the much loathed rogue Al-Shabaab militants.

Since then, life is slowly returning to normal and residents enjoy an unprecedented peaceful spell as they go about freely tilting their farms and raring livestock. Even the camels of Aw-Diinle are these days looking healthier and produce abundant milk thanks to the stress-free life enjoyed by their keepers.

During a 5 year Al-Shabaab reign from 2009 to earlier this year, the town which lies in the busy and strategic road that connects Somalia to Kenya and Ethiopia was a major economic hub to the militants who used to extort money from the trucks and public service vehicles at a key junction in the town.

Aw-Diinle residents narrated their ordeal under Al-Shabaab saying that the militants chopped off the heads of 45 people including 8 from the same village during their reign which also saw hundreds of other innocent people simply sprayed with bullets and left for the dead and to rot in the open fields.

If a horror movie about Al-Shabaab’s atrocious reign is ever to be made in Somalia, this little farming town would easily lead as the perfect venue for such a moving movie. In your way to the town, a grave yard is clearly visible just across the road with each grave marked with stones as a possible reminder of the ghastly Al-Shabaab rule.

As if they never had enough blood, a few rogue Al-Shabaab members are still baying for more blood as they sometimes sneak into town from their hideout of Dambar village 8 km away from Aw-Diinle at dusk to try and disturb the peace the locals are enjoying by planting bombs and scaring off locals.

This month alone, two improvised explosive devices (IED) planted by suspected Al-Shabaab members at a restaurant frequented by government soldiers and officials have so far been unearthed and safely detonated by AMISOM peacekeepers. The bomb experts had to come all the way from Baidoa since those in Aw-Diinle do have the expertise and necessary gear to detonate the bomb.

Disturbing images of headless bodies, other mutilated bodies including some riddled with bullets often appeared by the day and were a common feature in Aw-Diinle town during the Al-Shabaab reign making life worthless and leaving residents to wonder whether they would live to see the next day let alone ever surviving the ordeal to one day narrate their harrowing story.

“Al-Shabaab slit my sister’s head in Aw-Diinle without any reason whatsoever and refused us to bury her headless body. I also know a male friend of mine who had to part with $3000 USD in order to avoid being killed. I cannot describe the anguish and pain we have gone through as a family because of Al-Shabaab. Every day we pray for their downfall because they are no good at all,” said one young man who did not wish to be named for his own safety.

The local District Commissioner summed up the Al-Shabaab brutality saying that the locals are elated to host the AMISOM peacekeepers who are not only keeping away rogue Al-Shabaab militias away from the tiny farming village but are also helping bring back peace in their locality.

“This town used to be an Al-Shabaab human slaughter house. Al-Shabaab slaughtered 45 people in this village, 8 of whom are from this town. Dead bodies used to appear with daylight and people were so scared. The village is surrounded by graves and used to be a ghost town then. Business is now back and we are slowly recovering thanks to the peace we enjoy. We are so glad AMISOM peacekeepers are here to stay because without them we cannot have the peace we are enjoying now,” District Commissioner Mohamed Abdullahi said.

Coincidentally Aw-Diinle has a religious connotation as “Diin” is faith in Somali language but even that did not clearly deter the militants from shedding innocent blood and turning the town into a slaughter house and an abode of racketeers who killed, maimed and robbed off residents and passengers alike.

Even the poor farmers and pastoralists of Aw-Diinle did not escape the Al-Shabaab jungle rule as they were often forced to bribes their way in order to avoid arrest or torture even. For those who did not have money they would be required to pay up with their farm produce and the little livestock they reared.

The local AMISOM commander Captain Alexis Budomo from Burundi says that they plan to take the fight to Al-Shabaab and is full of praise to the local population for working closely with him by voluntarily informing them of any suspicious characters in order to keep the fragile peace Aw-Diinle town is currently enjoying.

“AMISOM and Somalia National Army took over Aw-Diinle in April. We are here to facilitate activities of Somalia government. We are the last AMISOM soldiers, the last frontline and we plan to expand the area. The populations do their activities because of our help. They do their activities because they are facilitated by AMISOM. The population is very excited of our help,” Captain Alexis said in his remote base overlooking the tiny town of Aw-Diinle.

Asked whether he has enough men and firepower to ward off any Al-Shabaab threat, the AMISOM commander simply smiled.
“We are very well trained to deal with Al-Shabaab. So there is no problem at all,” he confidently responded.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mogadishu breaks Ramadan fast with grenades and mortar shells

Instead of the normal Ramadan menu of samosa, donuts and other Somali cookies and delicacies, Mogadishu residents broke their Ramadan fast on Monday with grenades hurled by suspected Al-Shabaab as soon as the evening maghrib call of prayer was made to indicate breaking of the Ramadan fast.

Normally Muslims break their fast with dates, samosas, donuts and other cookies and light meals, but it looks like the menu slightly changed on Monday night with a series of over a dozen grenade attacks and mortar bomb shells “distributed” by suspected Al-Shabaab adherents who themselves ought to have been breaking their fast at that moment when the call of prayer was made.

“We broke our fast today with grenades and mortar bombs thanks to Al-Shabaab kindness!” quipped one Mogadishu resident who only gave his name as Abdi for fear of reprisals.

“As soon as the call of maghrib prayers was made and we were preparing to break the fast all hell broke loose as Al-Shabaab decided to distribute their grenades and mortar shells across Mogadishu. I think in total there were over 15 explosions all together. These lads (Al-Shabaab) should know that not everyone literally eats grenades like them. I just hope they can leave us alone!” he sarcastically said with a broad grin.

The Somali capital Mogadishu has been enjoying its best peaceful spell since the ouster of the Al-Shabaab militants in August 6, 2011 by a combined Somalia and African Union peacekeepers forces from Burundi and Uganda until very recently.

In the past few months, Mogadishu has witnessed some sporadic attacks, grueling Iraqi-style suicide bombings and some daring commando-like assaults by Al-Shabaab militants like the June 19 United Nations common compound attacks and the April 14 Mogadishu courthouse attack.

Al-Shabaab attacks seems to have spiraled in the Holy month of Ramadan and specifically after their elusive commander Abdi Godane alias Abuu Zubeyr issued a rallying Jihad call to his adherents to increase their attacks during this holy month of Ramadan.

Whatever their plan is, I don’t think Al-Shabaab is going to bring back their old good days especially with such a blatant distribution of grenades and mortar shells during the Holy month of Ramadan.

Hell no, I don’t think I can take grenades for iftar, would you?