AMISOM, the Somali National Army (SNA), and Ras Kamboni formally ousted al-Shabaab from its lucrative hub in Kismayo in early October 2012, but al-Shabaab has maintained a heavy informal influence in the port city. The group has carried out improvised explosive device (IED) attacks fairly regularly in recent weeks with devices operated by both remote and pressure triggers.
AMISOM recently released a video documenting its counter-IED efforts in Kismayo and noted the difficulties in both locating the devices and coordinating with local communities to disrupt al-Shabaab’s shadowy IED network.
In the video, Captain Arthur Angiela of the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) and AMISOM shows how scouts use F3 metal detectors to locate mines planted throughout the city. Angiela states, “We got so many of them, and this makes us suspect that there is a production line for these IEDs. We are still investigating, and our people are out there trying to find some piece of evidence to destroy the IED network.”
Somali government-allied forces will need to continue efforts to minimize potential abuses against Kismayo residents in order to cultivate enough local trust to disrupt al-Shabaab’s insurgent networks.
Weapons and Strategy
According to some sources, al-Shabaab received a large cache of weapons and equipment originating in Libya and Yemen in October and November–including landmines, hand grenades, field radios, pistols, and ammunition. Some of these assets are helping al-Shabaab seriously contest some cities it has lost in the last several months, but the group’s IED attacks are incurring a growing number of civilian casualties that will hurt its level of local support.
Still, government-allied forces are also susceptible to creating rebellious elements among the local population by their haphazard way of dealing security threats–whether it is carrying out mass arrests of hundreds of al-Shabaab “suspects” or senselessly beating innocent civilians. These setbacks then become sources of al-Shabaab propaganda in its radio and online messaging campaigns.
In this way, the actions of AMISOM and its counterparts are as critical to the goal of stabilizing Somalia as its more direct efforts to counter al-Shabaab.