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Al-Shabaab attack leaves eight soldiers dead in Somalia

Somalia sinks into political crisis as opposition considers President Farmajo illegitimate 
Un ataque de Al-Shabaab deja ocho soldados muertos en Somalia

AFP/ABDIRARAZAK HUSSEIN FARAH  -   Somali soldiers  

A new car bomb attack has rocked Somalia this weekend. The Al-Shabaab terrorist group once again wreaked havoc on Somali territory on Sunday, leaving eight soldiers dead, including Abdirashid Abdinur, commander of the National Security Agency (NISA). The blast destroyed a military vehicle on the outskirts of Dhusamareb, a district in the centre of the country's capital, military officials and witnesses told AFP news agency.

Abdiweli Adan, another military official, said the soldiers were conducting security operations in the area when their vehicle hit an explosive device. "The explosion completely destroyed their vehicle and killed almost everyone in it. One or two soldiers survived, but they are seriously injured," he added.  

No terrorist group initially claimed responsibility for the attack, but Al-Shabaab was from the outset the main suspect. A jihadist group linked to Al-Qaeda since 2012 and controlling rural areas of central and southern Somalia, Somalia seeks to impose a Wahhabi Islamic state and frequently organises attacks in Mogadishu. 

Somalia is still trying to move towards stability, but the elements against it are too numerous. In addition to the fight against terrorism led by Al-Shabaab and the Indian Ocean piracy that usually starts from its shores, there is the fragile internal situation. Somalia has a federal character, due to the tension that exists between several of the states that make up its territory, such as Somaliland, Puntland and Jubaland.

Somalia, considered a failed state, has been in a state of constant war since 1991 when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown, destroying the state apparatus and leaving the country without an effective government and in the hands of Islamist militias and warlords. Added to this is the self-proclamation of Jubaland, Somaliland and Puntland as independent but unrecognised states. 

PHOTO/REUTERS - Soldados de las Fuerzas Armadas de Somalia
PHOTO/REUTERS - Somali Armed Forces soldiers

The Horn of Africa is in a situation of growing stability, despite having gone through a period that invited optimism, as the situation in Somalia is compounded by the denunciations of Kenya, the tension and clashes between Sudan and Ethiopia, and the internal instability in which the latter finds itself. 

Somalia faces an important electoral process on 8 February, after being postponed in December due to a series of differences. The Somali government was unable to agree with the opposition on the composition of the Electoral Board, which should be in charge of ensuring the proper conduct of the elections. Terrorism and internal clashes such as the one in Balad Hauo only make it more difficult for the country to move forward with reforms. 

Farmajo's four years in power came to an end at midnight last night, with no immediate solution in sight to the political crisis that has dragged this Horn of Africa nation down since the different political factions disregarded the roadmap agreed on 17 September. 

Both political and military clashes between the central government and regional authorities have been escalating in recent weeks. More than a dozen civilians have been killed in several towns in the Jubaland region following clashes between the Somali armed forces and armed groups linked to the Jubaland security forces and, according to allegations from Mogadishu, armed by Kenya. 

REUTERS/FEISAL OMARAR  -   El presidente de Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo
REUTERS/FEISAL OMARAR  -   Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo

Somalia's president is selected by the country's lawmakers, but polls to vote for senators and deputies to elect the head of state in a joint session of the bicameral parliament have already been postponed twice due to disagreements between the central government and some regions.

Somalia's opposition leaders have announced that they no longer recognise Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo as the country's president, after his mandate expired today without agreement on elections to choose his replacement.

"As of 8 February 2021, the Opposition Candidates Council does not recognise Farmaajo as president," the body said in a statement published today, Monday, by local media.

"The Council will not accept any form of mandate extension through pressure," the opposition, led by former president Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, added.

The UN Assistance Mission for Somalia (UNSOM) today urged the leaders of the Horn of Africa country to "resume their national dialogue urgently to reach a final agreement to allow elections to be held as soon as possible".

There were high expectations of this electoral process from the international community. However, the effort made in stabilising the country and fighting Al-Shabaab-led terrorism was yielding results. In addition, the European Union had expanded its operations in the country, seeking to shore up the country's security sector. However, the events of the late 2020s and the political beginning of 2021 did not augur well for such a process. Somalia must now announce the process to be followed for the election of a new date and see if external and internal relations can be ironed out by then.