Al-Shabaab is now the most dangerous terrorist group in Africa. It has surpassed Boko Haram which has been causing havoc in the western region of the continent.
The reason it is not in the breaking news or in the highlights often is mainly that they haven’t paid enough price to be relevant. In other words, the haven’t killed enough westerners to be seen dangerous enough. The victims of AlShabaab are almost exclusively Africans -Somalis to be more precise. They haven’t managed to branch out and carry out terrorist attacks in the West yet although that is its end goal. Al-Shabaab does not control oil fields nor is it an imminent danger to the interest of the west.
However, AL Shabab is the leading cause of death and destruction in Somalia. According to Africa Center for Strategic Studies, more than 4,000 people were murdered in the hands of the group in 2016 alone. Considering the number of deadly attacks the group managed to carry out despite tight security in the first few months of 2017, the death toll could be much higher this year.
Their indiscriminate target of civilian populated areas and government outposts has tremendously increased the group’s danger. Despite the fact that Al-Shabaab controls small parts of the country compared to a few years ago, it continues to pose an immense danger to the public and the government’s efforts to revive the country. It is are able to carry out consequential attacks in anywhere in the country no matter how to save it perceived to be. With the help of its sophisticated assassins known as amniyat, the group is able to take out anyone they deem a threat except those who can afford heavy security guard.
All these are happening at the backdrop of the constant decline of the group’s presence in the country. It has lost a lot of ground in the last few years. It no longer has any significant revenue sources. Prior to the re-liberation of the port cities of Kismayo and Merca, the group used to control main cities and ports in the country. It had the ability to trade with the world whether it’s selling the banned charcoal to rich Gulf nations, smuggling sugar to neighboring countries or taxing the general population for using the ports and the other services it offered. However, that is not the case anymore. The group has no control over any port or any other main revenue source. The biggest town that still remains in its hand is Buale, in Middle Juba region with a population of about 25,000. The group has suffered a big loss yet they are as dangerous as ever.
One would think after all of these losses, the group would be weakened and finally beaten. However, the facts on the ground are far from that. Al-Shabaab is as strong as it was during its prime time. It is still able to recruit new youngsters from around the country who are not all radicalized but some join them for economic reasons. It manages to pay its fighters better than the federal government does with all the international support. The question that begs to ask is who funds Al-Shabaab?
According to our sources and previous reports, Alshabab sources of revenue are many, both local and international. According to the Organization of Global Economies, Alshabab drives a significant portion of its operating budget from Islamic organizations in the Gulf States. Mainly Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. The report claims, the majority of the funds come from individuals and non-governmental organizations but that’s not to say the governments are not part of the machine that’s funneling the money to this internationally known terrorist group. If they haven’t approved and encouraged it, they are aware of it and content with it.
Likewise, the group have been successful in taking advantages of unregulated finance and communication industry in the country. According to International Business Times, the group takes extortion money from local organizations, banks, big communication companies and the like. Some of these organizations and companies are threatened to be closed down if they don’t comply with the group’s demands.
Al-Shabaab are good at blackmailing businesses and individuals to coerce into submission. According to one local banker in the capital of Mogadishu, most of the business people and companies in the south and central Somalia pay monthly fees to Al-Shabaab to keep their business open and themselves safe.
It’s the government and its international partners’ job to ensure these sources are limited otherwise the group will never run out of money and resources to continue the destruction.