On 7 September 2013, al-Shabaab militants set off a car bomb near Ahmed Jama‘s Village Restaurant in Mogadishu, drawing onlookers to the scene before another suicide bomber detonated a suicide vest among the crowd. More than 20 people have died so far from the blasts.
Al-Shabaab used the same double suicide strategy in the past to attack one of his restaurants, which have become symbolic of Mogadishu’s recovery and a noted hangout for Diaspora, journalists, and government officials.
According to a pro-Shabaab site, the group justified the attack by claiming (without citing evidence) that the restaurant was frequented by MI5, MI6, and other Western intelligence agents.
The group has used these attacks to portray its strength in the capital post-“withdrawal,” to instill fear and insist that it shouldn’t be counted out, and as a complementary strategy to its string of assassinations in Mogadishu.
The attack also reflects how the group wants to be seen as “stronger” than pro-government security forces and that the only way to guarantee one’s safety is to live in its areas of control–where it has continued to drum up support (amid some infighting) that it can deliver the goods.
Al-Shabaab’s governor for Lower Shabelle Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdalla has been at the forefront of public relations efforts.
After a sponsored fun day in Barawe in which the group organized musical chairs and egg-and-spoon and potato sack races, Sh. Abdalla moved onto more practical efforts.
In pictures from early September 2013, the group can been seen cooperating with Lower Shabelle community members to repair and build irrigation channels in an ongoing project near Buulo Mareer and Wadajir to help local farmers. The work reportedly will cost about $31,000.
Al-Shabaab’s public efforts to implement social service projects come amid the international community’s (IC) excitement over a “New Deal” compact that is intended to transform how the IC can rebuild Somalia with local actors.
The Somali government has gone to some length to prove it can fulfill its end of the deal.
After the Somali government recently sponsored and released a lengthy report to disprove graft allegations brought by a July 2013 UN report, one online commentator provided some interesting commentary.
@SomaliaNewsroom V Intrst 2 c Govt spnds so much of what’re already limited resources on Dmg limitation when other deserving entities exis
— Bille (@MahamudBille) September 6, 2013
That is to say, one can imagine the confidence among local communities if President Hassan’s administration helped Banadir and other regional governments to focus on tangible evidence of credibility and development rather than attempt to calm the IC’s corruption fears through a government-funded report.
Chances are the results will speak for themselves.
Meanwhile, al-Shabaab remains not schizophrenic but content on bombing and building communities into submission and satisfaction.