Residents of the Somali capital of Mogadishu have experienced a wave of deadly suicide and car bomb attacks in recent days at the hands of the local al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, which killed at least 30 people in about one week, starting on March 21.
The Long War Journal (LWJ), a component of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), noted:
Last Saturday [March 23], Shabaab militants launched a suicide assault on the compound of Somali’s Labor and Public Works and Reconstruction ministries. A suicide car bombing and subsequent assault left 15 people dead, including Somalia’s deputy labor minister.
Just two days prior to the suicide assault, a prominent civil engineer in Mogadishu was assassinated by a car bomb. While last Tuesday [March 26], a senior official with the Criminal Investigation Department of the Somali police was also assassinated by yet another car bomb in Mogadishu.
Between March 21 and Thursday alone, the East African jihadis killed at least 30 people in Mogadishu.
In a statement reportedly issued by the group in the wake of the latest attack on Thursday via its Shahada News Agency, the terrorists claimed they were targeting “agents and officers of the security apparatus,” referring to the African country’s intelligence agency, and “former representatives in parliament.”
On Thursday, al-Shabaab detonated a car bomb near a favored restaurant and hotel on one of the busiest roads in Mogadishu, killing at least 15 and wounding another 17.
Most of the people killed and wounded were reportedly dining at the restaurant at the time of the explosion.
Africa News pointed out:
Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has seen a deadly one week with sustained attack by insurgent group Al-Shabaab claiming the lives of close to thirty people. …From March 21 till today [Thursday], car bombs and Improvised Explosive Device, IED, attacks have been a regular feature except for 22nd and 24th. 23rd saw two different attacks.
Under U.S. President Donald Trump, the American military has launched a record number of airstrikes against the jihadi group — killing at least 225 terrorists already this year.
Last year, U.S. airstrikes in Somalia yielded the “third record high” annual death toll (326) of suspected al-Shabaab jihadis, the New York Times reported earlier this month, citing Pentagon data.
This year is on pace to eclipse the 2018 jihadi fatalities.
Trump’s executive order (EO) to intensify America’s air campaign against al-Shabaab, one of the largest al-Qaeda branches, ended former President Barack Obama-era restrictions.
Referring to Trump’s EO, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), declared in March 2017, “It’s very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of [the] decision-making process and it’ll allow us to…counter ISIS [Islamic State] or in our case in Somalia, al-Shabaab.”
While acknowledging that the unprecedented number of U.S. strikes against al-Shabaab led to a slight decline in the overall attacks by the jihadis, the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute noted in November 2018 that the group is adapting to the “increasingly lethal air campaign.”
Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union (AU) and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia – often after AU or Somali forces withdrew.
In addition, Shabaab remains a potent threat against both African Union and Somali military bases in central and southern Somalia. It also retains the ability to strike within heavily fortified areas of Mogadishu, as seen time and time again.
Earlier this year, the AFRICOM commander warned about the lingering al-Shabaab threat in East Africa in an annual assessment of the U.S. military activities on the continent in the region.
“Since al-Shabaab’s first external attack in 2010, the group has killed hundreds through external operations, with the most lethal attacks occurring in Kenya and Uganda,” Gen. Waldhauser wrote.