Ethiopia and Al-Shabaab clashes

Ethiopia and Al-Shabaab clashes

Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ethnic tensions in the North of Ethiopia and a fresh push by Somalia government forces – and with US troops returning in limited numbers – appear to be emboldening terrorist forces in Somalia to push deeper into Ethiopia. Al-Shabaab (Al-Shabab) terrorists in Somalia have proven to be adaptable to the changing sands on the ground in the past. Therefore, with serious issues from drought blighting the region to conflict in North Ethiopia, al-Shabaab senses opportunities in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Regional African nations understand the menace of al-Shabaab. For example, several notable terrorist attacks left many dead in Kenya. Hence, the Somali region of Ethiopia and North Kenya are areas of hope for al-Shabaab. This concerns Islamist recruitment, infiltration, and places to evade when al-Shabaab is under fresh major military attacks. Also, wherever government forces are weak, then economic opportunities and the chance to spread Islamism are welcomed by al-Shabaab. 

Colonel Deeq Abdullahi (Ethiopian Special Police) told Channel 4 News (UK), “There are large numbers of fighters, especially now there is conflict in the North of Ethiopia…and they are recruiting new fighters.”

Associated Press reports, “Ethiopia has long resisted such cross-border attacks by the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab, in part by deploying troops inside Somalia, where the extremist group controls large rural parts of the country’s southern and central regions. But the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and its security forces have struggled with unrest at home especially since the Tigray conflict began in late 2020.”

Voice of America reports, “Late last month, hundreds of al-Shabab fighters crossed Somalia’s border with Ethiopia and clashed with specially-trained counterterrorism forces known as the Liyu police. The group entered Ethiopia at several sites from Somalia’s border regions of Hiran and Bakool.”

In the latest clashes, hundreds have been killed on both sides between Ethiopia and al-Shabaab. General Tesfaye Ayalew (Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces) claims that loyalist forces have killed approximately 800 al-Shabaab terrorists in Ethiopia.

However, al-Shabaab counterclaims that they have killed high numbers of Ethiopian forces. Similar to all wars, where propaganda hinders reality on the ground, individuals have to read between the lines. Yet, positive statements coming from General Tesfaye Ayalew and the regional president of the Somali State in Ethiopia (Mustafe Omar) – indicate that Ethiopia is upping its preparations to a higher level. 

In the Hudur district, a local political official (Mohamed Malim) notified AFP that the towns of Ato (Aato) and Yeed witnessed “the heaviest fighting ever.”

Al-Shabaab insurgents (terrorists) have proven to be adaptable to the changing sands on the ground. Thus for over 15 years, they have fought government forces in Somalia and the regional multi-national forces of the African Union. Therefore, if al-Shabaab is determined to gain a foothold in border areas inside Ethiopia, the government of Ethiopia must increase the regional budget of the Somali State concerning education, employment, social infrastructure, and regional defense forces. 

ABC News reports, “Somalia’s previous president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, avoided any major confrontation with al-Shabab. But new President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said his government will take the offensive against the group’s thousands of fighters, with the backing of returning U.S. forces.”

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