Islamic oppression Somalia | 08 August 2023

Somalia: Al-Shabaab uses civilian suffering as weapon

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According to government sources, operations by the Somali National Army’s commando units on 16 July 2023 (Goobjoog News, 16 July 2023) and 19 July 2023 (Somalia National News Agency, 19 July 2023) killed at least 18 and 30 al-Shabaab fighters respectively. Earlier in July, according to VOA reporting on 27 July 2023, al-Shabaab maintained a week-long blockade on the southwestern town of Baidoa, cutting off supplies in and out of the surrounding area, worsening hunger caused by the recent drought. The blockade, which began on 11 July, took place a week before the government renewed its offensive in the region against the militants.

World Watch Research analyst Yonas Dembele comments: “The military successes indicate a substantial blow to al-Shabaab's operational capabilities, but the group's continued ability to carry out actions like the blockade of Baidoa demonstrates its tenacity and adaptability. The blockade also underscores al-Shabaab's strategy of using civilian suffering as a means to leverage power, exacerbate existing crises, and create an environment conducive to its extremist ideology. Indeed, the Christian communities both within Somalia and the broader region remain in a perpetual state of vigilance due to the threats posed by al-Shabaab. The group has reportedly vowed to eradicate Christianity from Somalia*, making Christians a specific target for acts of violence. This promise of violent ‘religious cleansing’ instils a perpetual sense of fear and uncertainty, hampering the ability of any Christians in the region to live and worship freely.”

* Marchal R: Motivations and Drivers of Al-Shabaab, In: War and Peace in Somalia: National Grievances, Local Conflict and Al-Shabaab. Edited by Keating M and Matt W, Oxford, 2018.


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