The fact that it was carried out in a hotel near the presidential palace also speaks volumes. Not only does it raise serious doubts over the dismal security, it also draws attention to the deteriorating law and order and growing terrorist threat.
As expected, the hardline militant group Al Shabaab has taken responsibility for the attack. Believed to be an affiliate of Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab has of late demonstrated a more lethal capability with some high profile attacks not only in Somalia but also neighbouring Uganda. This fired speculation that eastern Africa is on its way to becoming the next Al Qaeda hub. The lethal Kempala suicide bombings in neighbouring Uganda last month is a testament of the group’s ability to stage regional attacks. Because of deployment of troops in Somalia as part of the African Union security force, Uganda was a choice target.
The latest attack, however, should not have come as a total surprise. Only on Monday did Al Shabaab declare a “massive war” on “invaders”— the 6,000 strong African Union (AU) force. While the past two days have seen an outbreak of conflict with at least 40 people getting killed, Al Shabaab plans on taking this war to another level. Suicide attacks are, of course, a favourite. The difficulty of preventing such attacks makes it even more attractive for those planning the operations. Besides, attacking soft civilian targets creates a bigger impact, as witnessed.
As Somalia continues to simmer with the central transitional government struggling to maintain control, things are expected to worsen. The AU, has in response, promised to send more troops to Somalia. While this is positive, it also raises apprehensions over escalating conflict. On the other hand, it is hardly going to dissuade Al Shabaab fighters that have vowed to rid the country of these forces and to overthrow the existing government. It will not be surprising that even Western states get involved at a later point in case the AU force is unable to control the situation. The risk is too great to ignore.
Somalia falling in the hands of an organisation like Al Shabaab is hardly going to be conducive for regional security and stability. It also poses a danger to the neighbouring Gulf States. Yemen is already battling a resurgent Al Qaeda that has established a functional network with like-minded groups in eastern Africa.
It is hoped that the Somali government is able to reverse the tide with the help of the AU force. The international community must note these developments and extend cooperation in intelligence and with resources help fight.
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