Al-Shabaab, winning hearts & minds of the public as they provide support to the IDPs
Mogadishu (Harar24) – Armed with Kalashnikovs in one hand while distributing aid and medicine with the other is the image Al-Shabaab is portraying while tending to the needs of refugees on the outskirts of Bulo-marer.
The Islamist movement has allocated areas on the outskirts of Bulo-marer for residents fleeing the town of Qoryoley where heavy battles have been occurring between AMISOM forces and Al-Shabaab. Temporary residences were already readied, as oil, staple foods, fruits, water were handed out by the masked men to support the refugees, while others dressed as nurses handed out medicine and provided shots.
Several sources have suggested that Al-Shabaab is spending a lot of its finances on the refugees and providing aid in an attempt to continue winning over hearts and minds. Many believe that the inhabitants of Somalia’s vast countryside and rural areas are growing more sympathetic to the cause of Al-Shabaab, and have eventually grown over the years to become Al-Shabaab’s backbone and loyal supporters.
Some analysts have implied that Al-Shabaab are doing well in winning over the hearts and minds of the local population, hence why the people are fleeing towards Al-Shabaab controlled territories rather than government controlled territories, despite the fact that an offensive is being undertaken against Al-Shabaab, in contrast with the federal government which had promised to support local residents in case they were forced to flee.
Among the notable Al-Shabaab figures who visited the refugees and provided words of comfort and sympathy were Abu ‘Abdullah, the Al-Shabaab’s governor of the Lower Shabelle, region, Sheikh Abdullahi Rabi & Jama Abdussalam, both whom are religious leaders supporting the Al-Qaeda affiliated group.
It’s not the first time the Al-Shabaab movement has carried out such a feat, in the summer of 2011 Al-Shabaab opened up one of its biggest refugee camps named “Aal Yasir” which housed thousands of refugees who fled regions afflicted by the then drought. With such manifest exploits the militants seek to send out a message to the world, that they are not just capable of fighting, but also managing the public’s affairs.
Here are some pictures published in an Islamist website