Dozens of Kenyan Soldiers Die in Somalia Base Horror – ‘The area was full of bodies’

During the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 15, several vehicles strapped with explosives drove into the perimeter defenses of the Kenyan base in El Adde in southwestern Somalia. With the perimeter breached, around 200 militants stormed the camp and killed dozens of soldiers.

The attackers were of course members of Al Shabab, a long standing Somali Islamist group that still holds considerable territory, while the Kenyan soldiers were part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, an African peacekeeping force that has been fighting Al Shabab for years in cooperation with Somali government forces and allied local militias…

Read more on War is Boring.

Nach Rückschlägen in ihrer Hochburg terrorisieren Islamischer Staat und Al-Shabab im Ausland

Inmitten des Entsetzens über die Terroranschläge von Paris fiel die Aufmerksamkeit der Online-Community auf einen sieben Monate zurückliegenden BBC-Artikel, der über einen Terroranschlag auf den Universitäts-Campus in der kenianischen Stadt Garissa berichtete. Der erneut in Umlauf gebrachte Artikel erreichte viermal so viele “Klicks” wie zur Zeit seiner Veröffentlichung. Dabei wurden Parallelen zwischen den 147 Toten (unter ihnen größtenteils Studenten) in Garissa und den 129 Opfern in Paris gezogen.

Das Garissa-Attentat wurde nicht von der Terrororganisation Islamischer Staat (IS), sondern von der somalischen Islamistengruppe Al-Shabab verübt. Neben Boko Haram, aus deren Reihen einige Splittergruppen der IS die Treue geschworen haben, stellt Al-Shabab die aktivste und möglicherweise einflussreichste terroristische Organisation in Afrika dar.

Trotz ihrer unterschiedlichen Ursprünge teilen beide Gruppen einige erstaunliche Parallelen — und einige wichtige Unterschiede. …

Read more on Offiziere.

After Setbacks at Home, Islamic State and Al Shabab Terrorize Abroad

Among the horror of the Paris attacks, a curious social media dynamic unfolded. Somehow, attention turned to a seven-month-old BBC article about a terror attack in Kenya, on a college campus in a town called Garissa. […]

The Garissa attacks were of course not committed by Islamic State, but by the Somali Islamist group Al Shabab. Apart from Boko Haram in Nigeria, of which some factions have sworn allegiance to Islamic State, Al Shabab is Africa’s most active and perhaps most influential terrorist organization.

Despite completely distinct origins, the two groups share some surprising similarities, but also important differences. …

Read more on War is Boring.

Well done everybody! Al Shabaab is now part of al Qaida

Al Shabaab fighters. Photo by Christian Science Monitor.

So the Somali islamist movement al Shabaab has now sworn allegiance to al Qaida. Several officials in the United States, Ethiopia, Kenya and in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia will have silently thanked their deity at this news, as it makes it much easier to justify the ongoing invasion of Somalia and the frequent targeted assassinations against radicals on Somali soil.

But this view is short sighted. It disregards the direct responsibility of U.S. anti-terrorism strategy for the ever-increasing radicalisation of fighters in Somalia. In a way Somalia and al Shabaab is the best example how the mantra of a militarized anti-terrorism campaign has been successful at nothing, except at creating its own enemies.

It may be hard to remember (it happened over five years ago), but al Shabaab was once part of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) – it’s youth movement to be precise. While the ICU was certainly no progressive, freedom-loving organisation, it was the first institution to return something resembling order and a functioning (albeit archaic) legal framework to large parts of Somalia, after years of often chaotic inter-tribal and militia fighting.

This of course ended abruptly when Ethiopia decided to invade Somalia in 2006. The Ethiopian government was suspicious of the islamist rhetoric of the ICU and was supported in this stance by the U.S. government, who saw every “islamic” movement as a potential safe haven for al Qaida terrorists (no matter that at this point no evidence suggested a link between the two groups).

The ICU proved to be unable to resist the technologically advanced Ethiopian army. After suffering a series of defeats, the ICU officially switched sides and today its former leader, Sheik Sharif Ahmed, is the President of the TFG.

But the grievances that gave rise to the ICU did not go away when the Ethiopian army invaded. So the most hard-core part of the ICU – al Shabaab – decided to keep fighting, but with a change of tactics. Suicide bombings against Ethiopian and TFG troops became frequent. I spoke to many people on my recent visit to Ethiopia who said that in these times you could here the cries of mourning of family members every day, when they received the news of the death of their son, brother or husband via SMS (!) from the army.

The new way of fighting proved to be successful and in 2009, Ethiopian troops began to withdraw from Somalia without adequate alternative troops being in place. The result was simple: soon, al Shabaab was in possession of much of the territory of southern Somalia, exactly the area that was ruled by the ICU before the Ethiopian intervention. Of course the laws and regulations enforced by al Shabaab reflected their fundamentalist interpretation of Islam and it is safe to say that many Somalis and also the neighboring states preferred the ICU in hindsight.

Not so the military strategists. They just saw al Shabaab as a new and even greater threat to “security and stability” and reacted in the usual way: targeted assassinations through U.S. drones, warplanes, special forces and even bombardment by U.S. Destroyers instead of negotiation.

This “strategy” culminated in 2011 with a renewed invasion of Somalia – this time Kenya made the start and Ethiopia joined after some deliberation (or persuasion by the U.S.?). History repeats itself as the troops of various African nations with U.S. support manage to use their technological superiority to achieve military victories (though so far this has not translated into territorial dominance yet).

With enough time, money and life spend, this campaign may defeat al Shabaab as we know it today. But it will not make anybody more “secure” – not the average Somali, nor Kenyans, Ethiopians or Westerners. Al Shabaab may cease to exist, but the proclaimed merger between the group and al Qaida points to the inevitable consequence: the most motivated and radical elements of al Shabaab will keep on fighting, one campaign richer in experience and many lost comrades less likely to ever consider a peaceful solution for their grievances.

WarIsBoring: Africa Round-Up

Tuareg rebels. Al Jazeera photo.

Mali

The regional repercussions of the fall of Gadhafi are beginning to come clear as Tuareg militants attacked a total of six towns since Jan. 17. The Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) — the group responsible for the attacks — has been formed only recently and is believed to have many former Gadhafi mercenaries in its ranks. The group has recently claimed to have shot down a MIG bomber, probably with ground-air missiles pilfered from ammunition depots in Libya.

The official objective of the MNLA is the autonomy of the Malian part of Azawad, an area that many Tuareg see as their traditional homeland. But the Sahel Blog points out that the Malian government tried to prevent an escalation by offering concessions to the Tuareg community before the attacks even started. It is also interesting that the MNLA seems to have no interest in liberating those parts of Azawad which are situated in Algeria. The conclusion might be that the string of recent attacks did not happen with the intention to capture territory, but to demonstrate the military strength of the group and to bolster its position on the negotiating table.

Nigeria

Over the last year the terrorist group Boko Haram has made its way from a little known splinter group to an international security threat. Its attacks have become increasingly more sophisticated and cover a much wider area than its original area of operation. The latest hotspot seems to be Kano, which saw a huge attack on Jan. 20 and a number of smaller incidents since then. […]

Read the rest (covering developments in Somalia, Sengeal and the Sudans) over at WarIsBoring.com.