Officials see Al-Shabaab ‘weakened’ in Somalia in spite of attacks

The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat visits Somalia on March 18th, 2017, and is received by Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheyre.

Somali officials and allied governments see the security situation as improving in the country in spite of several recent attacks by Al-Shabaab militants.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Thursday via video link, Francisco Caetano José Madeira, Head of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said that 80 per cent of the territory in the country has been recovered from militant group Al-Shabaab.

He credited efforts by the mission and Somali national forces for improvements in security.

Agreeing with this assessment, President of Somalia Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo, also speaking via teleconference, said that Al-Shabaab had been weakened through the sacrifice of Somali and AMISOM troops.

Yet even after suffering territorial losses, Al-Shabaab has continued to wage hit-and-run attacks that target civilians including government officials. Last Tuesday the group claimed responsibility for a deadly explosion that police say killed 10 people in Mogadishu.

The blast was caused by an explosive-laden vehicle about 150 meters from the entrance of Villa Somalia, the presidential palace in Mogadishu, according to police. Several women selling goods on the roadside were killed in the attack as well as a policeman.

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African Union officials are briefed by AMISOM on their activities during a visit (Credit: AMISOM)

Another vehicle fitted with a bomb exploded on Sunday in Mogadishu’s Dharkanley district, though nobody was confirmed harmed in the blast. A shooting incident was also reported in the city on Saturday involving the killing of an education official, though it was not immediately clear that Al-Shabaab was responsible for this attack.

AMISOM’s chief Caetano cautions that more must be done to ensure the security of ‘liberated’ communities in Somalia, including better screening and equipping of Somali soldiers, and regular pay for the forces. He says that the mission plans to draw down in 2018, after which the security of the Mogadishu government will be entirely in the hands of Somali forces.

President Farmajo agrees on the drawdown plans and emphasizes the need for Somalia to rebuild its army and security forces. “This is our goal and we will achieve it with your support,” he told the UN Security Council.