Analyzing the twin terror bombings in Mogadishu on October 15
OCTOBER 15 TWIN BLASTS
The entrenched presence of the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia has led to a number of attacks over the years. Repeated counterinsurgency operations has not had a significant impact on the security landscape of the country. Despite these prevalent conditions, the October 15 attack in the capital was unprecedented, out of the sheer number of people it killed. The latest reports suggest that at least 276 people were killed and it is likely to increase over the following hours, and approximately 300 have been injured.
The twin blasts occurred at the KM5 junction in the Hodan district of Mogadishu, which houses several shops and hotels and is an area that experiences heavy footfall on a daily basis. This is easily evidenced by the number of people the blasts managed to kill. The modus operandi used was a truck laden with several kilograms of explosives, which is most commonly used by al-Shabaab to perpetrate attacks in the capital due to its potential to have a high impact with minimum risk of exposure to the perpetrator. The factor that contributed in escalating the impact manifold was the location of the explosion next to a fuel tanker. This led to a twin blast killing 276 people and injuring another 300.
The truck laden with explosives was reportedly asked to stop for inspection at a security checkpoint at the KM5 junction when the driver of the vehicle accelerated and detonated close to a fuel tanker. It is interesting to note that on several occasions the exact series of events have taken place and there have been no reports of casualties. On a few occasions, the security forces were able to have a controlled detonation. While it is true that the vehicle was laden with several kilograms of explosives indeed aimed at securing a high casualty count, it cannot be denied that the magnitude of the attack was largely due to the consequent explosion of the fuel tanker.
ROLE OF AL-SHABAAB
While it is largely believed that the attack was perpetrated by the Somalia-based militant group al-Shabaab, it is interesting to note that the group, however, has not yet claimed it. Given past precedent, the group is quick to claim responsibility for attacks far smaller than this and those attacks are mainly aimed at killing military targets rather than civilian ones. However, the group is also cautious about the message coupled with every attack.
A maximum number of attacks in the capital have have been aimed at military targets to prove operational capabilities of the group even within the capital, which is reportedly more secure than the rest of the country. However, that is not to say that attacks aimed at securing civilian casualties have not been perpetrated by the group. The Bakara Market in Mogadishu has witnessed multiple such attacks that have claimed civilian lives.
In this case, the fact that the group has not claimed an attack of such magnitude is indicative of their apparent need for dissociation from it. In other words, it is plausible that the attack was not intended to be of this magnitude. Such attacks are also likely to garner media attention across the globe and bolster counterinsurgency efforts in the country, both of which indeed happen that is not particularly desirable for the group. This could also contribute to their unwillingness to claim responsibility of the attack.
ROLE OF ADMINISTRATION
While the administration under President Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed has been proactive in their efforts to secure the country from the menace of militancy, al-Shabaab’s entrenched presence in the country has proven to be more resilient than was anticipated.
It is likely that the Somali National Army (SNA) require additional amount of training to be able to counter militancy effectively in Somalia and hence, sharing of such expertise by Turkey, the US and the UK can prove to be beneficial in ridding the country of al-Shabaab.
In conclusion, it is imperative for the administration to counter the menace of terrorism considering it endangers the security of the Horn of Africa as a region. The inability of the Somali security forces to effectively guard the borders have led to cross-border attacks, especially in Kenya, making it absolutely crucial to uproot militancy in the region.