Opinion and Editorial

Dark shadows on Somalia

Filed on December 26, 2010

With the joining hands of two hitherto adversarial militant groups, Somalia is heading towards further instability. Already the security situation in the troubled country is precarious.

With Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam coming together as a combined force, the situation is likely to further deteriorate. The merger, expected to take place this month also brings in its wake the promise of more attacks on the African Union peacekeeping force in the country. Attacks in Uganda and Burundi owing to the states’ contribution towards the forces are also on the militants’ agenda. An Al Shabab spokesman Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage has also voiced the intent to invite foreign fighters from across the world to join the insurgency which is expected to double in strength after the merger.

The pitch is that the Shabab-Hizbul Islamic forces are fighting an apostate government backed by foreign powers. Al Shabab as well as Hizbul Islam have branded the use of the Islamic card from some time now. While both groups were engaged in fighting each other previously, the new development is likely to prove a blow to Mogadishu.

Al Shabab has already proven its growing lethality by successfully staging twin suicide attacks in neighbouring Uganda on the eve of the World football cup final in July this year. The gruesome attack has killed at least 76 people and sent shockwaves in the region principally because of the fact that the militant group had emerged as an international terror outfit. It is no secret that Al Shabab has Al Qaeda links and has hundreds of foreign fighters in its ranks.

Somalia’s transitional government under Sheikh Sherif Sheikh Ahmed has failed to tackle these groups and wrest control of much of south and central Somalia from them. All this and daily attacks have added to the civilians woes. Trouble is naturally expected to escalate. This is why the United Nations Security Council gave the go ahead to the African Union to boost the peacekeeping contingent by another 4,000 troops. It is hoped that the additional forces may be able to contain the increasingly violent and now stronger insurgents. What is required is international attention to deal with Somalia on an urgent basis. The fact that the principal insurgent Islamist group has links with Al Qaeda and has boosted its strength and capability to emerge on the African horizon as a serious terror entity must not be ignored. Somalia has since more than a decade been suffering from violence. It is time to look for a real solution to the problem.

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