In the aftermath of al-Shabaab’s New Year’s Day bombings at the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, Somali officials including Acting Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled and commander of the Somali police force General Abdikarim Dahir Said showed their support for victims by donating blood to Madina Hospital.
At least 12 people died and 37 others were injured in the blasts.
It was only days earlier when al-Shabaab’s “governor” for Banadir region Ali Mohamed Hussein (aka Sheikh Ali Jabal) issued a threat against “evil” Somali Diaspora, government officials, and troops and urged civilians to stay away from areas where these groups congregated–which arguably would include places such as Jazeera Hotel.
Al-Shabaab’s first major attack of the year occurred only hours after new Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed toured the Ministry of Defense and addressed new recruits at the likewise named Jazeera training camp, stating, “They serve their country despite the limited resources at their disposal and are an example to all of us.”
PM Abdiweli’s comments stand out amid the irony of his visit to the heart of institutions responsible for building on advances against al-Shabaab in 2013 made with significant support from AMISOM and Ethiopia.
The Somali police force has been making gains of its own against al-Shabaab’s ability to carry out large scale attacks in the capital, including the recent capture of rocket-propelled grenades and other arms in Dayniile district.
But in 2014, Somali security forces will not be able to make sustainable improvements unless resources domestically and internationally are focused on building the capacity of the police force and army–which remain complicated tasks amid the increasing number of troops and funds spent to maintain AMISOM troops.
Meanwhile, PM Abdiweli faces the obvious task of appointing ministers in his new cabinet that can help to professionalize forces prone both to infighting, sporadically going without pay, and other shortcomings. The cabinet in partnership with commanders in the police and army equally will have to ensure that lessons from the past are used to prevent disasters in the future.
For example, after already hitting Jazeera Hotel in 2012 on the second day of President Hassan Shiekh Mohamud’s tenure, al-Shabaab in its most recent attack repeated its strategy of utilizing one suicide bomber to draw security forces in before detonating another.
As a result, Somali security forces in the new year will have to prevent al-Shabaab from targeting the same sites and using the same strategies that succeeded previously in order to reduce the scale of the group’s attacks in Mogadishu.