Barawe, Lower Shabelle, Somalia –
Al-Shabaab, an extremist group operating in Somalia, continues to pose a threat to security in the region. This is evident from several recent attacks by this al-Qaeda’s ally on Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) belonging to the African Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
On Sunday, al-Shabaab attacked a FOB of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) operating in ATMIS’ Sector 1 on the outskirts of Barawe, Lower Shabelle. Although no casualties were reported, such attacks highlight the ongoing security challenges faced by the government and ATMIS forces in the region.
The Islamists claimed responsibility for the attacks through their Telegram channels, specifically mentioning targeting the airport and another base where ATMIS forces are stationed. Although not heavily impactful, these attacks have become a recurring occurrence and a sad reminder of al-Shabaab’s presence and FGS’ absence.
Insights from Barawe residents
Residents of Barawe, who talked to the Somali Digest, shed light on the frequent nature of such attacks and their impact on daily life. According to them, al-Shabaab frequently targets regional military bases, which results in restricted movement during the night. “Al-Shabaab is in charge of the [Barawe] outskirts at night,” said a person we interviewed.
Consolidating security in government-held areas becomes imperative to mitigate the threats posed by al-Shabaab. Both the government and ATMIS forces must prioritize efforts to make these areas safe, allowing unrestricted movement between towns. Establishing a perception of government control is essential to instil confidence among residents who rely on these routes.
No signs of decline
While primarily operating in rural areas, al-Shabaab still maintains the capability to launch attacks in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, as well as target military bases belonging to the ATMIS and extend their reach beyond Somalia’s borders into Ethiopia and Kenya, both of which are member states of the ATMIS. According to the Soufan Center’s recent IntelBrief, al-Shabaab “has proven itself as a capable insurgency and growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa, one that does not appear to be losing momentum anytime soon.”