Issued by CEMO Center - Paris
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Al-Shabaab threatening East Africa as Somalia works to undermine it

Thursday 16/March/2023 - 12:18 PM
The Reference
Nahla Abdelmonem

Conflicts continue to rage on between the Somali army and the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab movement.

These conflicts assume a hit-and-run norm, amid Somali hopes to clear Somalia of terrorism. Al-Shabaab seeks, meanwhile, to strengthen its branches in East Africa.

The New Somalia magazine quoted Somali officials on March 4 as saying that special military forces and the forces of Jubaland state had carried out attacks against al-Shabaab in the Juba region.

The attacks, they added, left 13 dangerous elements of the movement dead, including a senior field commander.

The same officials noted that Somali forces had also staged intensive operations in various areas of the country.

In Hiran region, Somali forces, with the help of local and international partners, killed ten al-Shabaab members, including a health official, on February 28.


Terrorist organizations believe that the Somali government and state leaders do not have legitimacy.

They also fault this government and these leaders in that they do not follow the leader of al-Shabaab.

Al-Qaeda harbours direct hostility to regular forces. It carries out repeated attacks against the army and police, taking advantage of the political sagging and conflicts that the state experienced over the past years.

For his part, political science professor at the University of Florida, Christopher Daniels, believes that Somalia's power struggles which began with the removal of the regime of President Mohamed Siad Barre from power in 1990 are the root cause of civil wars and chaos in the country.

He wrote in his book 'Somali Piracy and Terrorism in the Horn of Africa' that this is especially true with the radicalization of the late President Mohamed Farrah Aidid.

Daniels notes that the political decline in Somalia made the African country unable to manage its internal battles, lag behind in economic development, and become more vulnerable to social deterioration.

This, he says, causes civil conflicts and foments extremist expansion.

As a result of this chaos, al-Qaeda succeeded in forming its African wing in Somalia, namely al-Shabaab.

It is important to note that al-Shabaab serves Iranian economic interests in Somalia.

Daniels' view is that Tehran helped al-Qaeda settle in Africa, having sent trained elements to Somalia from Afghanistan to pave the way for attracting extremists to the country to serve its goals in the Horn of Africa.

With the crystallization of terrorism in the region, he says in his book, rivalry between terrorist organizations, including ISIS, grew.

ISIS tried to establish an influential branch in East Africa, he says.

International cooperation

In February 2023, the US Department of State announced a reward of $5 million for those who provide information that would lead to the arrest of the leader of al-Shabaab.

The reward aimed at encouraging citizens to cooperate with government agencies to undermine extremism in the region.

Meanwhile, terrorism harms investments in the East African region, especially seaports.

This is especially true with the presence of Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Suez Canal in close proximity to the Somali coast.

The strait and the canal are used for the passage of around 12% of world trade.