They “believed dying in battle while still fasting would ensure they ‘entered heaven without even taking their shoes off’.”
This report also notes another dimension to their denial of the famine and threats to Somalis fleeing it: “Al-Shabaab, which has regularly operated from civilian areas, has been left militarily exposed as the civilians flee from them. Without the civilians for cover Al-Shabaab is more at risk from a military offensive.”
Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN) — The Ramadan offensive has begun here, an obvious date to rally supporters of the al Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab militant group, but this year feels a little different.
I was in the Somali capital two years ago and every night, just before the call to prayer signaled the breaking of the fast, we’d hear a cacophony of mortar rounds and gunfights.
Somali friends told me back then the militants believed dying in battle while still fasting would ensure they “entered heaven without even taking their shoes off.”
This year Al-Shabaab’s grip on the capital and the loyalty of Somalis feels more tenuous. Since I was last here in 2009 the rains have failed and the drought has spread bringing with it famine and desperation.
Al-Shabaab insists that the famine crippling their families and communities is a “crusader” invention — an excuse for occupation. For al-Shabaab, the crusader term can apply to anyone opposing them and can include the U.N., international aid groups and the African Union.
Even as crops withered and livestock starved, Al-Shabaab kept its ban on aid groups operating in territory it controls in Southern and Central Somalia, and parts of the capital.
But Al-Shabaab, which has regularly operated from civilian areas, has been left militarily exposed as the civilians flee from them. Without the civilians for cover Al-Shabaab is more at risk from a military offensive.
Perhaps realizing that, they’ve tried to target the displacement camps in the capital — an attempt to scare people into returning home.
For now that tactic isn’t working but it has raised concern among U.N. agencies at the potential risk posed by Al-Shabaab to jeopardize aid deliveries.
Some people here now see Al-Shabaab as the architects of this famine. One man we met in a camp said: “Nature is always cruel but Al-Shabaab are the real killers.”…