When Shabaab swiftly withdrew most of its forces from Mogadishu several weeks ago, Somali officials were quick to announce the defeat of the terror group. But Shabaab has characterized its withdrawal as a tactical shift, where it would no longer confront heavily armored African Union forces. Shabaab said it would continue to conduct attacks in the capital, and it has. Shabaab has clashed with Somali and African Union forces in select engagements, and has also carried out IED and other small-scale attacks. The al Qaeda-linked group has also terrorized the local population. Over the past two weeks, 11 people have been beheaded in the capital.
The Al Jazeera video above provides supporting evidence that Shabaab remains a potent force in Mogadishu. As the video makes clear, Shabaab is openly celebrating the end of Ramadan with hundreds of supposed supporters in the capital. Shabaab and its supporters march through the streets untouched. In the video, dozens of armed fighters with heavy weapons and battle wagons (or “technicals”) are also shown. And Shabaab’s top leader from the Banadir province appears on the video along with the group’s top spokesman, which indicates that the top leaders do not fear being seen in the capital.
Shabaab remains far from defeated in Somalia. This, from a Threat Matrix article on Aug. 6, still applies:
Despite the withdrawal from Mogadishu, Shabaab still remains in control of much of southern Somalia, including the southern port city of Kismayo and the southwestern city of Baidoa, which was once the seat of power of the Transitional Federal Government. Outside of Mogadishu, the Somali government maintains little control, save in some areas where the pro-government Sufi Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a movement holds Shabaab at bay. The African Union does not have the resources or the mandate to move against Shabaab in the outlying areas.
Keep in mind that Shabaab’s predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, pulled out of Mogadishu in late 2006 after the Ethiopian invasion. Shabaab then launched an offensive in the provinces, taking over most of southern Somalia. Its forces then re-infiltrated the capital and retook control.
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