Street FIGHT:Conflict
Intelligence Wars: TFG vs Al-Shabaab
Al-Shabaab's Intelligence Operations Extensive with 600 Operators in Mogadishu
By MOHAMED SHIIL 10/07/2011
Al-Shabaab Fighters (File Photo)
Al-Shabaab Fighters (File Photo)

Many residents of Mogadishu blame Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) security forces of negligence, inefficiency, and the inability to maintain security or gather useful intelligence to counter possible attacks.

This week's suicide truck bomb attack in which at least 100 people were killed raised many questions among local residents, leaving many to ask why the TFG's intelligence officials were unaware of the attack in the midst of government-held areas. Others argue that al-Shabaab simply has a better intelligence organization.

Ahmed Abdi, a former intelligence official in Mogadishu, told Somalia Report that al-Shabaab’s intelligence unit known as "Amniyatt" seems to be more active than government intelligence units for two fundamental reasons:

- The Amniyatt is capable infiltrating government-held areas almost without interruption because they have spies in almost all the areas under the control of the TFG. On the other hand, government infiltrators rarely have access to the al-Shabaab controlled areas.

- The Amniyatt has fewer leaks than the government's intelligence organization.

“The government system of intelligence is not strong enough right now. Al-Shabaab infiltrators and agents have access to information inside the government,“ Ahmed Abdi said. “Reliable sources indicate that in Mogadishu alone, there are at least 600 agents from al-Shabaab’s intelligence unit of Amniyatt and other infiltrators scattered across café restaurants, government offices, universities, schools and even marketplaces."

The TFG proclaimed al-Shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu in August as a victory, but meanwhile the insurgents were busy preparing other types of deadly suicide attacks, including this week's blast targeting young students at KM4 intersection.

It is the second major suicide attack in Mogadishu after the Hotel Shamo attack in which more than 50 people were killed, mostly university graduate students, and also at least four government senior ministers.

The government has reportedly recruited and trained a large number of intelligence operatives and infiltrators, possibly hundreds of men, since early this year but was hampered by information leaks, executions, and arrests by the al-Shabaab after some men fell into insurgent traps.

Government agents are aware they need to do better to defeat the insurgents and stop any future attacks.

“If we (government) have a strong intelligence apparatus, things would be different and there would be less attacks inside government territory. The insurgents would not be able to assassinate a key government minister inside his home,” said Mohamoud Ghedi, a government security official, referring to Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan Farah, who was killed by a suicide bomber.

“Nobody is safe since al-Shabaab can blow up ministries, hotels, schools, key positions and public places inside the capital," he added. "It is the responsibility of the security forces to protect people from indiscriminate attacks. It is meaningless to have a large amount of security forces without proper action to tackle such high risks."

Although the TFG is sending condolences, condemning suicide attacks and offering the victims' families money, there is still no tangible plan to dismantle al-Shabaab through surveillance, infiltration or other forms of intelligence.

“The government is always awakened during such attacks. Many people lost their lives. We are unprotected. Our children are killed in the barbaric attacks carried out by irresponsible people,” Asha Abdikadir, whose son was killed in the KM4 suicide attack, told Somalia Report.

The recent attack raised public anger against the government and its security forces.

Groups of women protesting against the latest suicide attack marched in streets of the capital on Wednesday with vehicles mounted with loudspeakers inciting the public to join the fight against al-Shabaab.

Government officials did not openly criticize the intelligence community, but instead praised security officials for doing more to improve security and fighting against the insurgents.

Interior and National Security Minister Abdisamed Moalim Mohamoud, who is currently outside of the country, defended the role of the security forces in a speech broadcast after the KM4 suicide attack.

“The security forces keep an eye on the situation, but sometimes accidents may happen and that is not negligence," said the minister.

Given the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Mogadishu and the foreign aid efforts to deal with the famine, residents wonder if the government is up to the task of maintaining security.

“Suicide attacks may hinder the efforts of the international community to help drought-stricken people in the IDP camps of Mogadishu because such attacks could endanger humanitarian aid workers and foreign dignitaries pouring into the capital,” Abdi Mohamed, a community worker in Mogadishu, told Somalia Report.

“Further action from the government is needed to prevent these brutal attacks and protect the people from being victims once again,” he added.