By Ahmed Adel
As Somalia awaits the announcement of the second phase of the military operation aimed at purging the country from terrorist groups entrenched in Mogadishu for several years, the Somali Army has disclosed the outcomes of the first phase that commenced in August 2022.
Press Conference on Military Operations:
In this context, the Minister of Information in the Somali Federal Government, Dawood Oweis Jama, held a press conference in Mogadishu regarding the ongoing operations against Al-Shabaab. He revealed that approximately 3,795 terrorist elements affiliated with Al-Shabaab, including 57 leaders of the movement, had been killed since the initiation of the first phase of the military operation in August 2022.
Territorial Gains and Counter-Terror Measures:
The Minister highlighted the reclamation of over a thousand square kilometers of land previously dominated by Al-Shabaab, as well as the liberation of 120 key villages and towns from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated group. The Federal Somali Government also closed 350 bank accounts, 405 phone numbers, and 18 commercial accounts belonging to the Al-Shabaab movement.
Anticipating the Second Phase:
The success achieved by the Somali Army in the first phase is met with intense anticipation, particularly with the impending launch of the second phase against Al-Shabaab. The Defense Minister, Dawood, plans to initiate the second phase from the city of Dusamareb in central Somalia. This phase aims to penetrate southern Somalia, a renowned stronghold of Al-Shabaab.
Presidential Endorsement and International Support:
President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud officially endorsed the military operations, expressing Somalia’s determination to eliminate the terrorist group within five months. The first phase focused on expelling Al-Shabaab elements from central Somalia, yet the group maintains access to these areas and continues its operations.
Regional and International Cooperation:
President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud and the government are actively seeking regional and international support to sustain the war against Al-Shabaab, following the successful recapture of extensive areas during the first phase. Somalia hosted a summit for neighboring countries, including Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia, to strategize the eradication of Al-Shabaab. Additionally, the United States continues to intervene with drone strikes, the latest occurring on August 15, 2023, resulting in the death of five terrorists.
In addressing Al-Shabaab’s financing, President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud met with Brian E. Nelson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, in late July 2023. The discussion aimed to enhance cooperation on financial measures implemented by Somalia to target the terrorist group’s funding sources.
Military Composition and U.S. Involvement:
The Somali Army relies primarily on tribal militias that actively participated in countering Al-Shabaab in central Somalia. African Union forces and U.S.-trained troops have also played crucial roles. Since President Hassan Sheikh Mahmoud assumed office in May 2022, they actively participated in the first phase of the counter-terrorism operation in August 2022.
As Somalia prepares for the second phase of the war on terrorism, especially targeting the Al-Shabaab terrorist movement affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the government’s commitment to eradicating the group remains resolute. The success of the first phase underscores the significance of international and regional collaboration in sustaining the fight against terrorism in Somalia. The anticipated launch of the second phase signals a continued effort to secure and stabilize the country.