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Walls Hinder Somalis’ Fight Against Al-Shabab


Somalis gather near the wreckage of a car used in an attack outside a beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, Aug. 26, 2016. Experts call for a unified counterterrorism effort.

Somalis gather near the wreckage of a car used in an attack outside a beachfront restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, Aug. 26, 2016. Experts call for a unified counterterrorism effort.

Leading security experts in Somalia are calling for a review of strategy and security policy against terror group al-Shabab after three major attacks in the past week.

"It takes a network to defeat a network," Abdi Hassan Hussein, former director of the Puntland Intelligence Agency, told VOA’s Somali service. "We need to build the network from district level to connect security agents with police, investigations, community police and local government. Then we will transfer that into the regional and federal level."

The recent attacks include separate suicide attacks in Mogadishu and the north-central city of Galkayo, plus a car bombing in Baardheere town. In all, 36 people were killed and more than 100 injured.

Mogadishu's Banadir beach was among recent targets of violence in Somalia.

Mogadishu's Banadir beach was among recent targets of violence in Somalia.

Experts say these attacks reflect increased capabilities with explosives.

The Galkayo bomb's weight "was estimated to be 150 kilograms," Hussein said. "In Mogadishu, they have detonated a 260-kilogram bomb, but we know they started it with less than 10 kilograms" of explosives.

The Galkayo Medical Center’s director, Dr. Abdulkadir Mohamud Jama, said most of the victims had at least five pieces of shrapnel in their bodies.

"These shrapnel are unlike anything we have seen before," Jama said. “These are big [pieces of] metal shrapnel, with about 10 sharp edges that pierced in body. It’s even harder to remove them."

Complex planning

The complex planning reflected in recent attacks has also raised concern.

The former director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, said collaboration between federal and regional levels generally is "nonexistent and, at best, minimal."

"Al-Shabab can attack any region without fearing that another regional administration may come to their rescue," he told VOA. "That gives al-Shabab freedom to choose their targets and put the weight of their force against whoever challenges them."

But the current NISA director, General Abdullahi Gafow Mohamoud, said security agencies do share information.

"Whatever we learn from the public and foreigners we share with them. Likewise, they pass on information," he said, adding that several attacks were foiled in July.

Hideouts enabled

Gafow conceded that lack of information sharing between the federal and Somali regional agencies means al-Shabab suspects wanted by one region can hide out in Mogadishu or other regions. But he said in those cases, the population also needs to share more information with authorities.

"Our people are not yet mature to consider such person as a security threat, because someone believes they are a clan mate or their brother," he said.

Al-Shabab has threatened more attacks in the Puntland area.

"Al-Shabab benefits from division – whether that is among the security agencies, regions or clans," former NISA director Fiqi said. The militants represent “a mobile organization like birds or fish. They have mobile equipment. They are not static. One day, they are in one region. The next, they are in another. It’s inevitable: They will attack."

Network proposed

Fiqi proposes the creation of a national counterterrorism network to bring together intelligence and security agencies from federal and regional levels.

Security experts who spoke to VOA said the political process, with elections expected in October, has diverted funds from security.

However, the current NISA chief, Gafow, said the problem is not politics or policy but rather the nature of the insurgents themselves.

"Let me ask you a question: What can you do about someone who wants to die?" he asked. "You can [only] do something about someone who wants to live but wants to kill you."

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