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Somali Forces Seek Out Terrorists Hiding in Shadows

  • Gabe Joselow

Somalia's special forces may be one of the few success stories in the country's feeble armed services, working overtime to nab suspected terrorists. But the national military still has a lot of work to do to ensure the future security of the country.

It's time for morning prayers in Mogadishu and security forces are just wrapping up a night-time raid.

Somali special forces have rounded up 10 suspected members of the al-Qaida linked militant group al-Shabab. The group is accused of assassinating government officials in the city.

Colonel Farah Ali said the suspects were targeted based on inside information.

“We are not looking for just anyone, we are looking for al-Shabab. We have intelligence from people on the ground about them. We are not harassing any other people except al-Shabab and al-Qaida,” he said.

Soldiers from the AMISOM peacekeeping mission work hand-in-hand with Somali military and police to bring security to violence-wracked Mogadishu.

Former militants also help, by locating and confirming the identities of the suspects, according to an AMISOM officer who declined to be named.

“Screening is going to take place later on, then using the very guys, the defectors and those guys we captured, those are the ones to come and assist us in identifying this is so-and-so and this is so-and-so,” he said.

Somali military officials say they have carried out about 50 of these raids in the past three months. Intelligence being one of the most effective tools against an elusive enemy.

But elsewhere, Somali forces are struggling.

Al-Shabab has been on the losing end of AMISOM's military operations during the past few years, but Somali forces have struggled to maintain control over territory reclaimed from the militants.

A lack of equipment and resources as well as reports of corruption and the diversion of weapons have all added to the military's woes.

The head of Somali Armed Forces, Brigadier General Dahir Adan Elmi, said the military still hoped to take full control of security from AMISOM in the next two years.

“We are planning to take over in 2016. We will have at least 30,000 [soldiers] in an official and built army that can take over the security of this country and we are working so hard, so hard actually to reach that goal,” he said.

One of the challenges is trying to restructure the army in the midst of ongoing operations.

After serving on the front-lines, these Somali soldiers are only now receiving basic weapons training. Here, under the watch of European Union trainers, they are learning to assemble PKM machine guns.

But building a unified force was still difficult in such a troubled nation, said the head of the EU training mission, Colonel Jesus Gonzalez

"This generation grew up during the war, so it's not easy for them and the challenges are there. They have a background of working for a clan, for a militia, but don't have this spirit of unity, of country, yet," he said.

The biggest challenge yet for these soldiers may be in overcoming old clan divisions and learning to fight for one Somalia.

The very future of the country depends on it.
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