The most senior Catholic in Somalia has cautioned the international community against complacency over the resurgence of Al-Shabaab after the country was left reeling by two terror attacks in a week by the Islamists extremists.
The al-Qaeda-linked militant group killed more than 20 people on Thursday (21 January) during an eight-hour siege at a popular beachfront restaurant and hotel in the Somali capital of Mogadishu. At least three explosions were heard during the attack that prime minister of Somalia Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke described as “barbaric”.
The attack on civilians occurred just a week after the same group claimed responsibility for attacking a camp of Kenyan soldiers in the El-Adde area of Somalia, close to the Ethiopian border on 15 January, killing at least 63 soldiers serving under African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), injuring others and taking hostages.
The Most Rev. Giorgio Bertin, the Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu, made the stark warning that the Islamic terrorist group is doing more than regrouping and has proved that it is still lethal and has the capacity and inclination to strike again.
“Southern Somalia is still very unsafe. The international community has probably relaxed a bit, but the war is not yet over,” Bertin exclusively told thetablet.co.uk. “The political institutions are to be strengthened and as a consequence also, security,” added the bishop.
Kenyan Catholic bishops mourned the fallen soldiers, saying they had paid the ultimate price in the line of duty and their selfless service to the country. They expressed sympathies to their families.
“We assure them our prayers and support…. Let the blood…. shed in Somalia bind us together as a nation, with love, unity and solidarity,” said Bishop Philip Anyolo, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) chairman.
The bishop said that the only way to guarantee security in Kenya is to help restore peace in Somalia. “We call upon the international community to work with Kenya to help make this possible as soon as possible,” said Anyolo.
The Kenyan government has not yet released figures, but a spokesman for the ministry of defence said affected were a company size team of soldiers. A Kenyan company military unit is usually between 80 and 250 soldiers.
Al Shabaab were also responsible for the Garrissa University massacre in April last year where four gunmen stormed the campus of the Kenyan university and massacred 148 students, teachers and guards before Kenyan authorities killed them.