by Abdihakim Hassan
Monday August 8, 2022
Al-Shabaab’s recent incursion to Ethiopia may
well be the most important discussion in East Africa these days. This incursion
exposed the serious security risk of terrorists crossing the Ethiopia border,
and vulnerabilities of expanding their terrorist attacks in large portions of
Ethiopia. Even though the definition of terrorism has different interpretation,
most definitions involve violence, targeting civilians and those who are
non-combatants. The term “terrorism” is defined as act of violence, which is a
normative concept, used to describe illegitimate uses of violence. Most of us
accept that the use of violent force may be legitimate in some contexts.
Despite the challenges
and obstacles, the Somali government encounters, Al-Shabaab cannot be defeated
simply by the military overpowering them. As Somalia adopted a federal
government system, the existence of prolonged political turmoil, constant
conflicts between the federal government and its Member States supported
Al-Shabaab far beyond their operation capacity. Al-Shabaab emerged from the
power vacuum that is created by the absence of good governance and a failed
However, conflicts and
weak institutions facilitated Al-Shabaab to control most of the southern and
central regions in Somalia where they committed violent insurgency. The
president of Somalia called Al-Shabaab an African terrorist in his recent
article published in The Economist. Contrarily, the notion that classifies
Al-Shabaab as an only African terrorist group is not a valid assessment.
Al-Shabaab affiliates with Al Qaida, and recruits jihadist from transnational
boarders. Their fundraising history proved that they had clandestine
fundraising activities beyond international borders.
As Al-Shabaab wants to
establish an Islamic State in Somalia, they engage in domestic terrorism in
Somalia, and in neighboring countries. In a series of occurrences, they have
claimed the assassination of innocent people, and the responsibility for many
Winning the war
against Al-Shabaab requires comprehensive terrorist strategy. Some countries
focus on the prevention of extremism, rather than the prevention of terrorism.
Somalia needs both strategies to fight Al-Shabaab. The attacks by Al-Shabaab
near the Ethiopian’s border with Somalia is a new strategy, methods and tactic
which indicates the transformation of Al-Shabaab into a transnational military
operation. As of now Al-Shabaab controls 75% of south and central Somalia, and
the effectiveness of liberating those areas is not easy and it is difficult to
measure in the short term as it requires collaborations and resources.
Regardless of the
analyses of why Al-Shabaab crossed the Ethiopian border and the motive behind
this attack, Al-Shabaab is a part of Salafi- Jihadist organizations. Their ideology is based on the Sunni sect of
Islamism, seeking to establish a global caliphate. And now Al-Shabaab has
stepped out and followed Al Qaeda’s strategy, seeking to be a mentor in East
Africa's Salafist, particularly in Ethiopia where two years long civil war has
bitterly divided the society and Al-Shabaab is emerging new threats.
It is almost
impossible to counter every terrorist attack, there will always be new attacks
regardless of precautionary security takes. It is also impossible to win the
war against Al-Shabaab beyond the battlefield. Here are some long-term
recommendations and strategies to combat and eradicate Al-Shabaab’s threats.
Al-Shabaab’s recruitment process, as the recruitment is the long-term
sustainability of terrorist organization, Al-Shabaab’s survival and prosperity
will always depends on their ability to recruit new members. With a good
counterterrorism strategy in place, enlisting new members may decrease due to
the effective counterterrorism operations. Evidently, Al-Shabaab have been
forcing young boys to join the group, in many situations, Al-Shabaab uses
conscription style to recruit new members. The absence of community policing
activities and lack of federal police support makes the situation even worse.
With the little resources available in regional governments, the federal
security agents should monitor the social base of al-Shabaab and detect the
secret gathering to attract outsiders for recruitment.
Secondly, like every
other organization, terrorist organizations rely on ongoing financial resources
to continue to their day-to-day activities. Al-Shabaab generates millions of
dollars of revenue from a diverse source of activities. Money is an essential
part of terrorist operations to achieve the long-term objectives. Money is the
lifeblood of Al-Shabaab's operation. Without money this group cannot be
functioning. Scrutinizing the mystery about Al-Shabaab’s taxation scheme and
intercepting how the funds are collected are essentially important for
preventing future terrorist attacks. Does Al-Shabaab receive donations from
international groups and local businesspeople? Have they used the local banking
system or Hawala for money transfer, to counter Al-Shabab’s activities? All
those questions need to be addressed.
consistently uses weapons and ammunition, which includes explosive row
materials. What do we know about the source of weapon supply? Ironically, no
traceable evidence shows how those weapons were purchased and delivered into
Somalia. It appears no one even knows the weapon smuggling network exists in
Somalia. This is an important issue, for the dynamics and circumstances that
might lead counterterrorist agents to prevent and reduce such attacks. Al-Shabaab engages with the Somali
government and crosses border to attacks neighboring countries.
loves propaganda and wants to share their advertisements, grievances, and goals
to the public. Sometimes they demand respect, in order to legitimize their
cause. Al-Shabaab uses terrorist attacks to spread propaganda. As well as the
internet and social media networks to disseminate propaganda, ideology and to
recruit new members. Many internet companies are trying to wipe terrorist
content from their platforms, it is impossible for internet companies in
Somalia to conduct some form of censorship for Al-Shabaab’s activities.
According to Voice of America, Al-Shabaab controls cell phone network towers in
many places in Somalia, and this would give Al-Shabaab privilege and authority
to control and manipulate the communication systems. In a recent attack on
Ethiopia, Al-Shabaab switched off all the cellular network towers to mask their
terrorist attacks require deep analytic understanding of Al-Shabaab’s terror
activities. Intelligence agencies must constantly feed live intelligence,
connect to reliable intelligence, all the while sharing intelligence with the
appropriate partners. We must know and understand Al-Shabab’s tactics, methods,
what kind of weapons and explosives they use, recruitment and training schemes,
social media activities and posts. More importantly, we must know their past
activities and attacks in a given jurisdiction.
is very important within the government agencies and sharing with partners,
particularly neighboring countries. The recent Al-Shabaab attacks in Ethiopia
have once again highlighted the contradiction between the seemingly free
movement of Al-Shabaab across neighboring countries and the lack of wide intelligence
sharing. Rumors speculated Al-Shabaab’s intent was to help an ethnic Oromo
insurgent group inside Ethiopia, and it seems no one detected and knew about
these activities ahead of time.
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