Defectors and captured al Shabaab members report that that group’s leaders are dismayed that other Islamic terror groups like ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant) in Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria are crowding al Shabaab out of the media. Al Shabaab needs that media attention for fund raising and recruiting, both of which are in decline for other reasons as well. Al Shabaab is seen as less attractive to Somali expatriates seeking to become Islamic terrorists. In part that’s because al Shabaab made itself very unpopular inside Somalia because of how the mistreated civilians, many of whom had kin in the West. This unpopularity made it easier for the UN and AU to get a peacekeeping force in and build a new Somali Army and government. What few Somali expats still seeking Islamic adventure now go off to Syria. Somalis are less likely to go to Nigeria because Somalis are less popular in the rest of Africa, but that’s another issue entirely.
The Somali expats are also a key source of cash, and that has dried up because of how al Shabaab tried to increase more donations by threatening kin inside Somalia. Just because you’re on a Mission From God does not mean you can get away with anything. The declining prospects of al Shabaab has also led to a government program of offering some form of amnesty to leaders who surrender and provide useful information. This approach has caused a growing number of al Shabaab leaders to surrender and for morale inside the organization to slide still more.
Al Shabaab also lost a lot of support from Somalis (both refugees and natives) in Kenya. Al Shabaab thought it had a right to raid into Kenya, as Somalis had done for centuries. While much of the past raiding was propelled by greed al Shabaab believed that largely Christian Kenya needed some attitude adjustment by Islamic terrorists. The Kenyans resisted and the end result was 709 dead Kenyans (including dozens of ethnic Somalis) since 2009. Nearly a quarter of those deaths occurred in 2014 which, judging from the sharply lower levels of Islamic terrorist violence in Kenya so far this year, 2014 may have been the peak year. The Kenyans have fought back officially (by sending troops into southern Somalia and sharply increasing security at home) and unofficially (via vigilante attacks on Somalis in Kenya). This has generated a lot of complaints from innocent Somalis living in Kenya. The government told their Somali citizens to be more cooperative in fighting al Shabaab or continue to suffer from the backlash. That politically incorrect approach worked, as it has so many times in the past.
March 13, 2015: In Mogadishu troops doing a sweep of a neighborhood were fired on by four al Shabaab men. The troops quickly responded and arrested the all of the attackers.
In northern Kenya, near the Somali border, al Shabaab gunmen attacked the convoy of the local governor. The Islamic terrorists missed the governor but killed four security guards and civilians. Al Shabaab took credit for the attack and made it clear that the governor was the target.
March 12, 2015: Some 240 kilometers west of Mogadishu an American UAV launched a missile that killed the al Shabaab planner (Adnan Garaar) of the 2013 mall attack in Kenya. Two other al Shabaab men died with Garaar.
In the central Somalia town of Baidoa five al Shabaab attacked the main gate of an army base. Three of the attackers used suicide bomb vests while the other two fired their AK-47s. One of these two was shot dead and the other was wounded and captured. One Ethiopian peacekeeper was killed by the three explosions. Al Shabaab took credit for the attack and declared it a success because it briefly disrupted a meeting between local leaders and peacekeepers.
March 11, 2015: In Mogadishu al Shabaab used a car bomb to attack a hotel and one person died when the remotely controlled explosives were set off near a rear entrance.
In Wanlaweyn, 80 kilometers northwest of Mogadishu, dozens of al Shabaab gunmen raided the town to loot. Before the Islamic terrorists were driven off they killed three policemen and several civilians. Al Shabaab lost control of the town in 2012 but some al Shabaab remained in the area, hiding out in small villages and cut off from regular supply.
March 9, 2015: At the request of the Somali government the United States has taken Zakariya Ismail Hersi, former al Shabaab chief of intelligence, off the U.S. “terrorists most wanted” list and withdrew the $3 million reward offered for his capture or death. Hersi surrendered last December, renounced violence and urged other al Shabaab men to follow his example. Some counter-terrorism experts believed Hersi surrendered to escape the murderous factional fighting that still goes on inside the al Shabaab leadership and was still a believer in his own version of Islamic terrorists. Thus the delay in the Americans agreeing with the Somali government and taking Hersi of the wanted lists. The Somalis believe that this will encourage other al Shabaab leaders who are on the wanted lists, and thus liable to death by UAV launched missile, will surrender. These losses hurt al Shabaab morale big-time and also make the al Shabaab leadership even more paranoid and ready to turn on each other. Defectors are expected to tell all that they know about the internal workings of al Shabaab and any future plans.
March 7, 2015: In Galguduud (385 kilometers north of Mogadishu) another senior al Shabaab leader (Abdullahi Ahmed Muhumed) surrendered. This time it was the terror groups’ chief bomb maker and the guy in charge of recruiting and using suicide bombers. Muhumed was trained in Yemen and is expected to provide useful information on al Shabaab and what he saw in Yemen in return for some form of amnesty. This approach has caused a growing number of al Shabaab leaders to surrender.
February 28, 2015: In the southwest (Wajid, 75 kilometers from the Ethiopian border) peacekeepers attacked a village held by a group of al Shabaab gunmen. There were over a dozen fatalities, most of them Islamic terrorists and the al Shabaab survivors fled.
In Mogadishu an al Shabaab car bomb went off and wounded two policemen.
February 27, 2015: Four Thai fishermen, captured off the Somali coast by pirates in 2010 were finally freed. It was unclear if someone finally paid a ransom. The four were among 24 serving on an ocean going fishing vessel. The owner of the fishing ship refused to pay ransom, thus abandoning the crew. Six of the crew died from disease and 14 from Burma were freed in 2011.
February 26, 2015: Al Shabaab fired several mortar shells at the presidential palace compound in Mogadishu, leaving one of the guards dead.
A Somalia native who became a U.S. citizen was arrested in Somalia and held for extradition back to the United States. There he is wanted for Islamic terrorist activities concerning al Shabaab. The suspect left the United States in 2012 and had already been identified as working with other Islamic terrorists.
February 22, 2015: Al Shabaab sought to get some media attention by issuing a call for Somalis in the West to attack local shopping malls. In response media in areas where there were a lot of Somali migrants had plenty of opportunity to interview Somali immigrants about how attacking a local mall is absurd because that could lead to prison or being sent back to Somalia. These immigrants pointed out that it was Islamic terrorism that drove most of them to flee Somalia in the first place. As media stunts go, al Shabaab struck out with this one, at least in North America. In Europe it was a different story because there are more Moslem migrants and more Islamic radicals (especially clergy) living there (often as “refugees” from prosecution back home) and assisting young Moslem men seeking to answer calls like this. Even so, Somalis in Europe expressed no interest in violence at the behest of al Shabaab or anyone else.