WASHINGTON, DC – The latest outrage by the Somali jihadist group al-Shabaab – a truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 100 people, targeting students lined up for news about scholarships to Turkey – has produced condemnation from the United Nations, Western states, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and Somali civic groups.
That makes no difference at all. Al-Shabaab’s leadership wears criticism from the West like a badge of honor. As for the Somali people, al-Shabaab treats them like cannon fodder, and uses their country as a platform for jihad and as a base for a small financial empire based on extortion and environmentally rapacious charcoal exports.
Most of al-Shabaab’s fighters are forced conscripts – young boys offered up by frightened, destitute households in lieu of taxes. Worst of all is its shocking handling of the massive famine now taking place in southern Somalia.
Al-Shabaab is blocking most international relief agencies from accessing famine areas, preventing famine victims from reaching help, and forcing farmers back to their barren land, where most will die unseen and unrecorded. A half-million people could perish on al-Shabaab’s watch.