Nahla Abdel Moneim
Over the past few years, al-Qaeda has been able to build a strong branch in Somalia, known as Al-Shabaab, and the movement has become a hotbed of danger in the Horn of Africa, threatening security and investments in eastern Africa.
Al-Shabaab is characterized by choosing vital targets for its attacks in the region, as it focuses on the army, police, and government officials to show its capabilities in penetrating security systems, as well as to send messages about its strength and the extent of its incursion into the country, seeking to compete strongly over the African presence and wealth of the region and to emerge as a tool that can be used for the benefit of greedy powers.
Al-Shabaab attacks military points in Somalia
On the morning of May 26, Al-Shabaab launched a violent attack using booby-trapped cars, explosive devices, and suicide bombers against an African Union military base in Buulo Mareer, southwestern Somalia.
The Uganda People’s Democratic Army (UPDA) suffered losses in its ranks, as its forces are stationed at the forward operating base within the peacekeeping force at the base. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) stated that Al-Shabaab militants attacked the base, but it did not mention the true size of the losses.
While the terrorist elements took the opportunity to publicize the strength of the attack and the extent of human losses in the ranks of the Ugandan army, as well as the capture of some soldiers, the movement was also keen to broadcast pictures of the prisoners and their weapons that were in their possession, as well as news about their ability to control the entire town during the period of the operation.
Terrorist groups exploit these news and images to promote their military and operational power in the areas they attack, seeking to shed media and political lights on their presence, in addition to mobilizing new elements to their ranks and consolidating the belonging of their old elements for working for a strong and effective group on the ground.
The attacks against military bases give a bad indication of the unrest in the security situation, which in turn affects the morale of the citizens and the extent of their confidence in the government in power, in addition to raising questions about the feasibility of foreign forces in the country and their real role in maintaining security, which supports parallel demands to replace international cooperation with what serves the global struggle based on influence in the region.
For its part, the US State Department condemned the recent attack on the military base and offered condolences to the families of the victims, stressing its support for Somalia and the African Union so that it could confront terrorism.
Al-Qaeda attacks escalate in Somalia
In May 2022, Al-Shabaab was able to attack a military base of the African Union peacekeeping forces in Middle Shabelle, killing dozens of Burundian troops.
Ali Bakr, a researcher of terrorist movements at the Al-Ahram Center for Political Studies, said in a previous statement to the Reference that al-Qaeda is trying through its strong branches in Africa to compete with ISIS in the region, taking advantage of the security weakness to carry out violent attacks.
According to the International Terrorism Index for the year 2023, issued by the Australia-based Institute for Economics and Peace, Somalia ranks third in terms of countries that have lost their citizens as a result of terrorist operations that took place in the country. It noted that the countries that suffer from political conflicts come at the forefront of the countries in which terrorists carry out massive operations that lead to the killing of a greater number of victims.
It added that al-Qaeda’s positioning in the Horn of Africa affects navigation in the region, as Al-Shabaab members engage in dubious piracy and restrict fishing operations for their own profits.