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In March alone, the death toll included TFG officials, elders, journalists, social workers, women, children and students. Many more are injured. Most of those directly responsible for these crimes remain free, despite al-Shabaab claiming responsibility for many of the murders. For example, Sheikh Mohamed Hassan, al-Shabaab chairman for the Banadir Region, told al-Shabaab-supporting Radio Andalus recently, “Our fighters have killed at least 15 TFG intelligence agents in different districts of Mogadishu over the last few weeks, and we will not stop targeting all these people.”
TFG sources say that al-Shabaab has at least 150 well-trained young men in Mogadishu, assassins who, to hide their defeat by allied troops, target civilians and to cause havoc amongst people. The danger in Mogadishu affects the entire population since the assassins usually strike when it is dark; most people go sleep or stay inside at night.
“Somali people recognize that al-Shabaab are devils hiding under the cloaks of the Somali people, and we must protect ourselves against from them,” Ahmed Ali, a resident of Mogadishu, told Somalia Report. “Their goal is to erase the life of the Somali society. If suicide bombings are good, then why don’t their leaders participate?"
Residents complain of fear of retaliation if they speak out.
“I cannot inform the TFG if I see al-Shabaab members inside the city, because the TFG can’t protect me. My safety is in keeping silent," said a resident in the Hamarweyne district in Mogadishu.
Another resident described the climate of fear.
“The security condition is getting worse in Mogadishu as assassinations increase in the city at night,” Hassan Sharif, a resident of Shibis district told Somalia Report. “Every night, two or three people are killed in different districts in Mogadishu by armed groups of young men. It’s clear al-Shabaab are behind this, but no-one dares to inform the police.”
TFG officials killed in Mogadishu on March include:
On March 26, 2012, unknown gunmen killed Mohamed Hassan Ciro, a TFG official. That night, other unknown armed men shot and killed an official in the TFG Criminal Intelligence Department, Mohamed Deeq, near his house in the Wardhigley district. In both murders, the gunmen escaped before TFG security forces arrived on the scene.
On March 27, 2012, Muhyidin Weheliye, a TFG official working with the TFG National Security Service (NSS) was assassinated in the Shibis district near the Hamar cinema. Nearby on the same night, Yasin Ali, a senior staff member in TFG presidential palace was shot near Geed Qalooc village in the Shibis district of Mogadishu.
Has al-Shabaab Been Defeated?
Some Somali analysts have asserted that al-Shabaab militants have been defeated both militarily and ideologically, as the Somali people have turned against them after enduring al-Shabaab harassment for a long time.
“Al-shabaab’s time has ended. Now it is only revenge that al-Shabaab seeks in killing innocent people, accusing them of being spies or treason to al-Shabaab. Most assassinations in Mogadishu and other cities have targeted civilians, including journalists,” Abdihakim Abdi, a Somali analyst in Puntland, told Somalia Report.
Mohamud Hassan, a Somali scholar in Puntland, said “al-Shabaab may be military defeated now, but they will be difficult to defeat ideologically. These are not small issues. Al-Shabaab has lost cities but they haven’t lost all their fighters. They aren't a new movement, their ideology has been spreading in Somalia throughout the civil war.”
Other Somali analysts have asserted that al-Shabaab's withdrawal from Mogadishu indicated a strategic weakness, and that these assassinations and attacks are aimed at regaining Mogadishu. Additional attacks, such as car bombs or suicide operations, are intended to satisfy those foreign fighters who had joined al-Shabaab and who decided to leave Mogadishu after they lost Salah Nabhan and other foreign leaders.
Internal al-shabaab disputes have reputedly led to division, and reportedly this is what has caused al-Shabaab to lose most of their former strategic strongholds. Sources inside al-Shabaab say that Hassan Dahir Aweys and Mukhtar Robow are planning to establish a new Islamist movement and will split from al-Shabaab in opposition to alignment with al-Qaeda and foreign Islamist movements. In support of this, Hassan Dahir Aweys said in a sermon last week, “No group can claim they alone are the only group rightly fighting for Islam."
The former strategic towns which al-Shabaab held and has lost in central Somalia include Beledweyne, Baidoa and Hudur. Al-Shabaab fought allied troops in Beledweyne but they abandoned Baidoa and Hudur with minimal resistance. This may also indicate Mukhtar Robow's reluctance to sacrifice his fighters for al-Shabaab's cause, as he asked his fighters to leave the towns.