Mogadishu, SOMALIA – A shocking attack struck the heart of Somalia’s capital on Tuesday, as explosions ripped through the bustling Bakara Market in Mogadishu. Gruesome videos emerging from the scene depicted bloodied victims crying out for help, cutting a stark contrast against the market’s typically vibrant atmosphere. As community members reeled from the unexpected tragedy, preliminary reports suggested more than 10 fatalities and dozens of injuries resulting from the attack. Bakara Market closed its doors shortly thereafter, leaving the city to grieve and question how such an assault could occur in broad daylight.
Deputy Governor Suggests Planted Explosives, Not Mortars, Behind Attack
While initial local reports indicated a mortar attack had precipitated the explosions, Banadir region’s Deputy Governor Mohamed Ahmed Diriye (Yabooh) refuted such claims in remarks offered to media from Bakara Market itself. Diriye instead stated definitively that explosive devices deliberately planted by the Al-Shabab militant group had caused the attack.
“There were no mortars that hit Bakara market. These were ordinary explosions orchestrated by the group,” Diriye confirmed. “The target seemed to be businessmen who, unfortunately, suffered casualties today after refusing to comply with Al-Shabab’s extortion demands.”
Other witnesses and sources largely corroborated Diriye’s explosives account over rumors of a mortar strike. No group has yet come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
Pattern of Al-Shabaab Extortion Tactics, Retaliatory Violence Behind Tragedy
While questions remain regarding the exact methods utilized in carrying out the assault, the strategic timing and location clearly reflect Al-Shabab’s established pattern of extorting Somali businesses to fund its militant operations. Bakara Market specifically has dealt with intensifying violence over recent weeks, as Al-Shabab punishes vendors for acquiescing to government demands around installing CCTV cameras. Just as Diriye indicated, the attack likely served to terrorize and punish those very business owners resisting the insurgent group’s regular extortion demands.
Unfortunately, Al-Shabab has increasingly turned to attacking civilian soft targets using planted explosives as its combat capabilities decline relative to Somali security forces. But even as the government consolidates territorial control and moderates Al-Shabab’s strength, the extremist group still maintains potent asymmetric attack capabilities – with explosives planted among crowded markets proving a relatively simple yet highly destructive tactic.
By hitting the economic heart of the capital in such a public manner, Al-Shabab reasserts its ability to retaliate against those who refuse to directly fund its militant operations through extortion payments. And despite causing mass casualties among ordinary Somalis, such fear helps guarantee Al-Shabaab can continue extorting shopkeepers that have not yet been attacked.
Bakara Market Attack Underscores Need for Enhanced Security
As Mogadishu contends with this latest tragedy, the harrowing attack on such a visible public space underscores the urgent need to enhance security measures across Somalia’s capital. Bakara Market attack emphasizes Al-Shabab still maintains ability to penetrate deeply into Mogadishu’s core commercial zones, inflicting damage through crude yet deadly tactics.
Somali authorities and security forces must further investigate this attack, identify those accountable, and bring any perpetrators to justice. But preventing such future attacks ultimately requires disrupting Al-Shabab’s violent extortion rackets underpinning its funding and strengthening defensive measures protecting civilian areas. Police and intelligence officials should particularly monitor potential threats within heavily trafficked public spaces.
Though Al-Shabab has ceded territory and combat manpower during years of counterinsurgency efforts, the extremist group still heavily relies on extortion practices to sustain its broader militant campaign within Somalia. Disrupting the underlying funding pipelines thus represents the most viable path towards reducing Al-Shabab’s retaliatory attack capabilities over the long-term. Coupled with enhanced defensive measures around likely target areas such as Bakara Market, Somali authorities can mitigate the threat posed by Al-Shabab retaliation against those daring to resist its demands.