African Union lays siege to Al Shabab-controlled market in Somalia's capital
African Union troops aim to deny the militant Islamist group Al Shabab funds it receives from taxing shopkeepers and traders. An apparent surge of AU peacekeepers is challenging Al Shabab's tacit control of Somalia.
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Contributing the largest number of peacekeepers to AMISOM is Uganda, which has rededicated itself to the peacekeeping mission in Somalia despite Shabab threats to repeat its twin suicide bombing attack of last July, which killed dozens in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.Skip to next paragraph
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“It seems that the AMISOM offensive has been successful, and Al Shabab and its allies are in disarray,” says a Western diplomat in the region, requesting anonymity.
Al Shabab – a breakaway group that emerged after a year-long Ethiopian occupation force toppled the Islamic Courts Union government of Somalia in December 2006 – has fallen on hard times recently. Once the dominant force in southern and central Somalia, Al Shabab has seen a rival moderate Islamist militia – Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a – taking away territory in the central region of Galgadud. In the South, forces opposed to Al Shabab have declared their own autonomous state of Jubaland, an attempt to form a buffer zone that prevents Shabab’s easy access to arms, money, and recruits coming in from Kenya’s expatriate Somali community.
Yet as Shabab forces continue to be hemmed in, there is little sign of weakness or willingness to come to a negotiated settlement with the Transitional Federal Government of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. President Sharif’s government itself remains shaky and heavily reliant on the whims of a loose confederation of clan elders from across Somalia, most of whom are reluctant to cede actual power or to donate substantial numbers of fighting men to the federal government that they, in theory, serve.
Despite this, President Sharif continues to talk tough, and his government retains the military support of most of his nation’s neighbors, as countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, and Uganda provide military and police training for TFG forces.
"Al Shabab is on the verge of collapse," Sharif told reporters in Mogadishu as recently as March, after a recent surge of AU-TFG fighting against Shabab. "We shall also sweep them from Mogadishu. Our enemies have suffered a great loss, it is obvious they will run away from many towns."