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Al Shabab agents infiltrate state agencies and Somali government is trying to root them out

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Abshir Garane Ahmed. Photo l NISA
   

Somalia’s intelligence agency, NISA, has arrested a singer it said has links with al Shabab militants on Wednesday.

NISA said the musician, identified as Abshir Garane Ahmed, confessed to his al Shabab membership, claiming he was part of the group since 2013, working in the group’s intelligence and finance wings in the capital, Mogadishu.

Abshir was part of a local music band financed and backed by Banaadir (Mogadishu and its environs) regional government.

There are so many people in different professions in Somalia working with al Shabab.

Three weeks ago, a college lecturer was sentenced to death for leading an al Shabab team tasked with carrying out assassinations in Mogadishu. Mohamed Haji Ahmed confessed to carrying out high-profile assassinations, targeting government and military officials as well as citizens. Mohamed is a son of a senior police official.

According to NISA, it has been trailing Abshir for a long time before he was apprehended.

The Somali government has, in recent weeks and months, been conducting secret operations to flush out al Shabab operatives in Mogadishu. Those arrested include an al Shabab real estate agent, a bomb-maker, and a tax collection officer.

As Al-Shabaab has stepped up its attacks in Mogadishu so has the government’s operation to hunt down members of the group, which it believes to have infiltrated government agencies including the military and intelligence units.

Al Shabab has infiltrated both the federal and Banadir regional governments, and recruits government employees working in sensitive offices. In July 2019, a staff member carried out a suicide attack on Banaadir regional offices, killing several people including the mayor of Mogadishu Abdirahman Omar Osman.

In 2016, a court convicted Abdiweli Mohamed Maow, the head of Mogadishu airport security, for helping to smuggle a laptop computer bomb onto an outbound flight. The bomb exploded 15 minutes after takeoff but failed to bring down the plane, which safely returned to the Mogadishu airport.

In 2014, a top NISA official, Abdisalam Mohamed Hassan, was found guilty in 2014 of providing photos of agents and other identifying data to al-Shabab.

Al Shabab infiltrates in three ways; facilitate the recruitment of one of their own into a government agency, try to recruit a government employee, and secure the service of an agent who they will pay.

In July 2018, the government top intelligence officials earlier this month and a new military unit took charge of the security of Mogadishu, as the government struggles to restore security in the capital.

The changes follow deadly Al-Shabaab attacks, including suicide attacks at a military checkpoint near Villa Somalia, Somalia’s presidential seat, and in the compound of the Ministry of the Interior. Twenty people were killed in the attacks. The government suspected the attacks were carried out with the aid of insiders.

In the same month, the head of NISA, Hussein Hussein, suspended his two deputies, Abdalla Mohamed and Abdikadir Jama’a, with no reason being given for their suspension. Reports suggested they were linked with an al Shabaab attack on a checkpoint near the Villa Somalia a day before their suspension.

After the attack on the mayor’s office, President Mohamed Farmajo ordered a comprehensive plan to root out individuals in government agencies who are ‘aiding al Shabab in their mission.’

The Somali government must do more to secure Mogadishu and the country in general. It needs to reform its security sector and seriously vet members wishing to join the military and the intelligence agencies.  As long as al-Shabaab has its “Amniyat” officials within the government, no strategy to defeat the group will work.

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