Concerted action is needed
It has been barely two months since al-Qaeda leader Ayman-al-Zawahiri was killed in a drone attack (July 31) in Kabul. The world community thought then that there would be peace, at least in relative terms. But that wishful thinking proved to be short-lived when more than 100 people were killed and more than 300 injured in two car bomb explosions (October 29) in the Somali capital Mogadishu, as confirmed by its President Hassan Sheikh Muhammad. The feared terrorist group Al Shabab – an active affiliate of Al-Qaeda – has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The number of casualties was likely to increase. Among those killed were mothers with their children in their arms, fathers with serious health problems, students and others. The scene was grotesque, and the victims most unfortunate.
According to eyewitnesses, the first explosion hit the Ministry of Education. Subsequently, the second explosion occurred when ambulances arrived and people gathered to help the victims. The two explosions occurred within minutes of each other and shattered nearby windows. Blood from the victims of the explosions covered the tarmac just outside the building. It was a heartbreaking scene.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in Somalia condemned the brutal attack and offered its condolences to the bereaved families. Turkey also denounced the attack, calling it heinous while Qatar strongly rejected violence and terrorism. He expressed his condolences and wished a speedy recovery to the injured. However, there has been no substantial help from these two Islamic nations.
Coincidentally, earlier explosions had occurred at the same location, including Somalia’s largest bombing in October 2017, which killed more than 500 people. In that incident, a truck bomb was detonated outside a busy hotel at an intersection, which was lined with government offices, restaurants and kiosks. Additionally, in August this year, at least 20 people were killed and dozens injured when al-Shabab terrorists stormed the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu, sparking a 30-hour standoff with security forces. security before the final end of the siege.
Is it because it’s Africa that the killings don’t get the attention they deserve? There are regular killings, and we see noticeable apathy from the UN, the African Union (AU), the United States and other wealthy countries that usually make so much noise and cries if a terrorist attack of such magnitude occurs in the western part of the globe. It is time for the rich and powerful to step up their wits and root out Al Shabab and its affiliates for a peaceful continent, bringing a sense of relief to impoverished Somalia which is suffering from wanton killings, starvation, piracy and other myriad ills .
Coincidentally, very recently, India hosted the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC) which has been hailed as an effort to highlight the issues of terrorism. The meeting held in Mumbai and Delhi saw a crowd of UN officials, ministers and diplomats from all members of the Security Council (UNSC) discuss the looming issues emanating from terror. Perhaps it is time for New Delhi to take the lead as it has also endured the worst kinds of terror including the Mumbai attacks of 26/11 and has seen a completely indifferent attitude from the Pakistani establishment. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Hafeez Saeed, David Headley, Tahawwur Hussain Rana and their ilk roam free; there is also alleged ISI complicity. More importantly, China has refused to cooperate and continues to block the listing of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) leaders on the UNSC 1267 terrorist list. Under these circumstances, Pakistan is also removed from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) gray list.
Under the current circumstances, possibly with India’s political and national security leadership, a proactive plan can be developed to address the issues of addressing the continuing threat of religious radicalization, terrorist financing, terrorist recruitment by the through cryptocurrency, an unmanned aerial system including the use of drones for terrorist strikes, dropping weapons and drugs, etc. The same goes for Africa, with Somalia in mind. It must be intensified to contain the terror. India and its strategic partners can surely take the lead with a large number of professionals on their asset base.
Furthermore, it is perhaps appropriate now that the recent terrorist strikes in Mogadishu by an Al-Qaeda partner are not examined in isolation. All countries involved must join hands and fight the terrorist threat so that Africa too can breathe a sigh of relief, as the United States may be doing now after the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers. A holistic approach would seem more meaningful than repeated lip service statements devoid of any tangible action.
The author is a retired IPS officer, security analyst and former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Opinions expressed are personal