Terrorist group Al-Shabaab have executed 18 Somali civilians and abducted 40 more in areas that they recaptured since September last year, according to a new UN report.
Al-Shabaab made some territorial gains following the withdrawal of Ethiopian and Somali government forces from Muqakoori, Ceel Cali and Halgen in the Hiraan region, on September 15th and October 11th and 23rd. The group also regained control of Tayeeglow in the Bakool region, following the withdrawal on October 26th of Ethiopian and Somali troops.
Some retaliatory killings by Al-Shabaab against perceived civilian supporters of the Somali government or AMISOM were reported last year, and the full death toll is now estimated at 18, according to a new report written by the UN Secretary-General to the Security Council.
“The human rights situation remains a source of concern, in particular the execution of civilians by Al-Shabaab after the withdrawal of AMISOM and national forces from areas in the Hiraan and Bakool regions. Since September, 18 people have been executed and 40 abducted on suspicion of collaborating with government security forces,” he said.
Ethiopia withdrew several thousand troops from south-western Somalia last year citing a lack of international support for the troops. Ethiopian troops that had been absorbed into the African Union Mission in Somalia and were paid with international support were not affected, only troops that fell outside the remit of the internationally-funded mission.
The terrorist takeover of areas in Hiraan and Bakool triggered the flight of thousands of people. “Civilians remaining in these locations have reportedly been subjected to retribution attacks, including apprehension, torture, killings and forced recruitments,” the UN humanitarian office in Somalia reported in October.
“The withdrawals have raised serious concerns among humanitarian organizations operating in the affected areas. In Tayeeglow in Bakool region which previously hosted 7,200 internally displaced people, humanitarian partners have temporarily suspended operations due to concerns over staff safety and assets,” the UN humanitarian office added.
Another 4,000 people fled from areas affected by troop withdrawals in the Galgaduud and Hiraan regions.
In the meantime, East African defense leaders contributing troops to the AMISOM mission have called for more funding for troop salaries and incentives. The AU mission is also seeking more military hardware including helicopters from Ethiopia and Uganda. Kenya has recently agreed to contribute three choppers to the mission.
In response to the Ethiopian troop withdrawal, AMISOM has said that it will try to reconfigure its forces to compensate for the lost ground, working together with the Somali national army. In mid-November, Somali forces sought to recover the town of Tayeeglow, but did not succeed. A joint AMISOM-Somali army operation on December 7th was more successful, capturing the town of Goof Guduud Shabelow in the Bay region, after it had been overrun by Al-Shabaab the previous month.
Ethiopia’s Communications Minister Getachew Reda says that Somali troops should have been prepared by the international community to take over from Ethiopian troops in parts of southwestern Somalia where they withdrew last year. “The international community has a responsibility either to train or to support the Somali National Army,” he told the BBC.