That brutal incident may help to explain why so few young Somali males are seen in the refugee camps. According to refugee aid workers, abduction is a frequent occurrence among new arrivals. As such, many say that most of the young Somali men stay behind in fear of being forced by al-Shabab to fight in the civil war against the forces of the TFG.
As one aid worker has explained, many refugees come to the camps to “escape the recruitment of child soldiers by al-Shabaab,” a recruitment effort that is taking place in mosques, schools and on the outskirts of Somali towns.
Of course, the notorious brutality of al-Shabab is well-established. In its efforts to remake Somalia into a Sharia-run Islamist state, al-Shabab has, among other things, stoned adulterers to death, cut off the hands of thieves, and murdered Christian converts from Islam. Al-Shabab has also subjected Somali women to forced marriages and gang rapes.
So, needless to say, it comes as little surprise that al-Shabab is now enacting a food ban that would purposefully starve to death huge numbers of Somalis. Certainly, al-Shabab’s current actions aren’t a surprise to those foreign aid organizations charged with providing humanitarian assistance to downtrodden Somalis.
Many of these organizations have witnessed al-Shabab kidnap and kill their workers, as well as seize food and other supplies meant for starving Somalis. Since 2008, 14 World Food Program employees alone have been killed in Somalia. So, in order for some of these foreign donors to go back into Somalia without fear, it’s now looking for some security guarantees.
As one UN spokesman said in a bit of a gross understatement, “The situation we have for humanitarian workers inside Somalia at the moment is not what we want it to be…Somalia is the riskiest environment we operate in the world today.”
Unfortunately, that disturbing reality seems unlikely to change anytime soon. Despite calls from the African Union for al-Shabab’s complete eradication, as well as a series of recent airstrikes from US Predator drones, al-Shabab has been increasing the effectiveness and scope of its work.
To that end, it has been reported that al-Shabab is transferring fighters to Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden, to reinforce al-Qaeda in Yemen’s (AQAP) attempt to overthrow the Yemeni government. For some, this move may be a precursor to al-Shabab and AQAP seizing control of the Bab al-Mandeb Strait, a key oil artery linking the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. As one intelligence official said, such a move would present a “nightmare scenario.”
Sadly, living nightmares are all too familiar to most Somalis and, as demonstrated by al-Shabab’s most recent action, ones not likely to end any time soon.
Frank Crimi is a writer living in San Diego, California. You can read more of Frank’s work at his blog, www.politicallyunbalanced.com.
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