After the Mogadishu Attacks

Will the Weakened Al Shabaab Rise Again?

Somali traders attempt to salvage some of their wares from the burning stalls at the main Bakara market in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 27, 2017. Ismail Taxta / Reuters

On October 14, a terrorist bombing shook Somalia, one of the deadliest since its civil war in 1991. Hundreds were killed and wounded after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-laden truck along a main road between Mogadishu’s K4 and K5 districts. It was but one such attack that day. The others had failed. Two weeks later, a second major attack rocked the capital on October 28, targeting the popular Naso-Hablod Hotel and killing several senior government and military officials. The gunmen who carried out the attack used uniforms and identity cards from the country’s National Intelligence and Security Agency to infiltrate the building.

After the first attack, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed called for three days of national mourning and thousands of Mogadishu residents rallied to condemn al Shabaab, an al Qaeda affiliate presumed to have carried out the bombing. (It has yet to admit or deny responsibility most likely because it does not want to be seen as having killed civilians.) The group did claim the second attack, however, and it continues to wage a bitter insurgency against the federal government, regional Somali state administrations, and the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Despite the new signs of public unity across Somalia’s divided society, the question remains: Is this violent episode a signal of a resurgent al Shabaab or will it finally trigger a fundamental and lasting change in the country’s ongoing insurgency and political situation?


Just weeks before the attacks, the federal government had withdrawn its forces from two districts in the Lower and Middle Shabelle regions south of Mogadishu because of their limited ability to permanently secure the countryside. But in late September, al Shabaab insurgents overran a government military base in the town of Bariire in the Lower Shabelle region, killing eight soldiers before occupying it two weeks later once government forces left. The attacks also came amid mounting political unrest caused by increasing dissatisfaction with the Somali cabinet and tensions between the federal

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