Somalia, the next Waziristan?
By Jamal Hadji Nur (Editor at Harar24)
Drone strikes & bombardments aren’t a new addition to the Somali war, however since the Westgate attack the West has stepped up its aerial activities over Somalia.
Recently two Al-Shabaab fighters were killed by a drone attack near Jilib, which was claimed by America. And not too long after that, the Kenyan military claimed to have attacked a suspected Al-Shabaab training camp, according to them they bombed it by a warplane; , they claimed it was in “retaliation for the Westgate attack”. Al-Shabaab however denied the occurrence of any such attack.
These sorts of attacks might be slickly taking out Al-Shabaab figures or targeting Al-Shabaab interests, but, what do the Somali people have to say regarding these flying objects constantly hovering above their heads and how is it affecting their lives? We’ve already seen the adverse effects of continuous drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan, Yemen and other areas, whether it’s innocent people dying, the trauma from it & the psychological effect, who’s to guarantee that the same won’t occur in Somalia?
Word is already out there and widespread that civilian casualties have been present in many of Kenya’s bombardments (especially in the Jubba regions) which supposedly target “Al-Shabaab commanders and training camps”. It really is atrocious and hypocritical on behalf of the Kenyan government to stay silent on the killing of these people, but from the way it looks, they may be just disregarded, or at best be labeled “collateral damage”.
If we look at some cities in Somalia and their surroundings including Kismayo, Barawe, Shalambod, Jilib, Marka and even Mogadishu we can see that different types of drones are circling their skies, and frankly, the people have had enough of it seems.
In the Jubba regions and Kismayo, the Somali population has to constantly put up with drones and aerial activities. Aerial vehicles have been flying over them for so long that people have started naming them and differentiating between them. The most common one that flies over the city of Kismayo and its surroundings has been dubbed as “niic” (lit. meaning “mini/miniature/small), it’s a small reconnaissance/spy drone that flies around the area, it’s known for making a very loud noise and whenever it flies around locals will tell you “Oh, it’s the niic at it again”.
However locals are more frightened by the AC-130, which is notorious for its even louder noise, this one doesn’t just roam around Kismayo’s surrounding, but also in the city of Barawe. And to make things worse and more frightening for locals it roams around at night. The city of Barawe, is one of the worst places affected by the presence of drones and other aerial vehicles. It’s true that at the moment Barawe is an Al-Shabaab hotspot, but really what are they expecting to gain out of flying so low above the local population heads, except terrifying the local population (it’s not like Al-Shabaab, a secretive organization, is going to place its top leaders in Barawe or plan attacks from Barawe).
Even the outskirts of Mogadishu and places like Celasha Biyaha (despite Al-Shabaab being ousted from there) aren’t spared from the nuisance of the drones, what are they trying to find there? Beats me.
If anything, the continuous drone and aerial activities are garnering support and popularity for Al-Shabaab amongst the population. They’ll tell the population: “Look, they trying to put fear in you, trying to scare you, terrorize you, your women and children! We told you so!” Who’s going to win the hearts and minds?
I remember sitting with my uncle when Fuad Shangole was targeted in a mosque bombing in 2010, my uncle exclaimed: “What’s up with all these mosque bombings, are we in Pakistan or what?!” If drone activities continue to increase and civilians die as a consequence of that I can imagine him saying: “What’s up with all these drone attacks, are we in Waziristan or what?!”
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