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Al-Shabaab still threat to regional security despite leader's demise

11 September 2014, 08:06

Nairobi - The death of Al-Shabaab's kingpin, Ahmed Abdi Godane, on September 1 has not diminished the security threat posed by the Somalia militant group in the larger East and Horn of Africa region.

Security and diplomacy scholars who spoke to Xinhua on Wednesday stated that Godane's demise only dealt a minimal blow to the terror network, and hence needing vigilance.

Godane died at dawn following air strikes from U.S. forces. He was among top ten most wanted terror kingpins globally with a bounty on his head.

Kenyan security experts who have researched extensively on Al- Shabaab noted that Godane was both an inspirational figure and a tactical leader, who converted a local militant group into a lethal terror network.

"Godane has been a mercurial figure who is credited with transforming Al-Shabaab into a terror network with global reach. It is during his tenure that Al-Shabaab became an Al-Qaida franchise," remarked Martin Nguru, a diplomacy scholar at the University of Nairobi.

Nguru has researched extensively on regional and global security trends. During an interview with Xinhua, Nguru stated that Al-Shabaab remains a mortal threat to peace and security in the east African region.

"As a region, we cannot afford to be complacent in the light of a rapidly evolving face of terror. Godane is dead but his diabolical ideology still inspires many disaffected young males in Somalia and east Africa," said Nguru.

Kenya has borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab's terror more than any other country in the region.

Al-Shabaab militants have attacked Kenyan civilians with abandon since 2011 when the country deployed its soldiers to Somalia.

The Al-Shabaab's reign of terror inside the Kenyan soil culminated on Sept. 21 last year when the militants staged a four- day siege at the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi. During the Westgate attack, at least 67 people lost their lives while hundreds sustained injuries.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta hailed Godane's death and vowed to partner with the international community to root out Al-Shabaab militants.

"Godane's death is a stark reminder that those who live by the sword will perish by it," Kenyatta remarked in a statement. Kenyans from all walks of life abhors terrorism perpetrated by Al- Shabaab and its local affiliates.

Security experts were optimistic that the loss of an inspirational figure within Al-Shabaab might reduce terror attacks targeting civilians and government installations.

"We can expect a temporary pause now that Al-Shabaab is weakened. However, the terror network still commands influence within Somalia, the horn and east African region," said Moses Karanja, a research fellow at a private university

He noted that Al-Shabaab has spread its tentacles in many parts of the world since it merged with Al-Qaida. Regional security and intelligence chiefs should step up to the plate in order to effectively combat an opaque, sophisticated and a multinational Al- Shabaab terror network.

Karanja told Xinhua that the top hierarchy within Al-Shabaab comprises multiracial and widely travelled militants who have managed to evade the security dragnet.

"What many people do not know is that east African youth are just foot soldiers but the top command in Al-Shabaab is composed of highly educated and cosmopolitan radicals like the one who attacked Westgate mall," said Karanja.

Al-Shabaab appointed the little known Ahmad Umar on September 5 to replace Godane.

The terrorist group was quick to reaffirm that it has not experienced a power vacuum and was exploring new attacks in Somalia's Mogadishu to avenge Godane's death.

Karanja emphasized that the international community must contend with a herculean task of containing Al-Shabaab.

"We need a strong regional standby force to be deployed rapidly and pre-empt terror attacks. Regional groupings should fast-track the establishment of a joint anti-terror elite unit to degrade Al- Shabaab," Karanja said.

Kenya and its neighbors must refashion anti-terrorism measures as the threat evolve rapidly thanks to globalization and link to other transnational crimes.

Also read: Al Shabaab name new leader, warn of revenge

Analysts noted that terrorism has thrived in the region against a backdrop of youth unemployment, porous borders and poor coordination among security apparatus.

"We all know that poverty and a sense of fatalism have exposed our youth to radical ideology that bleed terror. The time is ripe for governments and citizens to dialogue on new methods to defeat terrorism," remarked Stephen Ndegwa, a commentator on social issues.

 - Xinhua

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