Is Al Shabaab Mercenary for Hire?

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Alshabaab file photo

The history of Al Shabaab can been traced back when the Islamic Court Union (ICU) ruled most part of Somalia including Mogadishu. The Al Shabaab was the armed wing of the Islamic Court Union which later splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006  by Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies.

Since then Al Shabaab have been mutating into different fighting groups where some factions within them pledges their allegiance to the Middle East based terrorist organization Al Qaeda and other faction to the Islamic State. In 2014, the militant group was estaimated to have between 7000-9000 fighters across Somalia. Although Al Shabaab have been weakened by African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops drawn from different countries, it still holds most of rural areas in Somalia.

Since then Al Shabaab has branded themselves as mercenaries for hire where different businesses are hiring them to attack their rivals. It has gone to an extent where different political and clan leaders in Somalia and North Eastern part of Kenya are using Al Shabaab to silence their rivals. For instance, last year link between Somali based telecommunication company Hormuud and the Al Shabaab militants detailed in a 50-page report published by the International Policy Group last month titled ‘Reaping the Whirlwind was released to public domain and this clearly portrayed how the militants are kind of an armed faction of business entities and politicians operating in Somalia and North Eastern Kenya.

Hormuud telecommunication company has been paying Al shabaab millions of dollars each year for them to attack Safaricom masts along Kenya-Somalia border since safaricom is the main business rival of Hormuud along the Kenya-Somalia border. By the end of last year, 14 safaricom masts along Somalia border were destoyed by Al Shabaab after they were paid by Hormuud.

In Lamu county, politicians have been using Al Shabaab militants to attack their opponents and non-locals in the region. For instance, the 2014 Mpeketoni attack which left around 60 people dead who were mostly non-locals was financed by local businessmen in Coast region among them Shahid Batt who was the owner of Modern Coast Bus Company.

After the Garissa University attack which occurred in 2015 and left around 150 non-local students dead, the Garissa township member of parliament Aden Duale came out and announced that he was going to name the Al Shabaab financiers and members in the region of which he never did up to date. This means, these politicians know the Al Shabaab members within the region but they hide them and use them when necessary.

The series of attacks of non-local teachers in North Eastern region can be viewed as organized attacks by the locals who claim that these teachers come to take their job opportunities. This can be justified by the clip that went viral on 30th of January 2020, where Sofia Abdi Noor Injara Member of Parliament was recorded saying that the non-local teachers are just cowards and should not be allowed to come in the area to snatch job opportunities from the local learned youths.

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