On March 23rd, a new sequence of violent events took place in Somalia, claimed by the terrorist group Al Shabaab. A commando broke into Mogadishu’s Aden Adde airport and engaged in a firefight with armed elements guarding the Halane base, a fortified diplomatic-military compound within the infrastructure.
It is home to the AMISOM-ATMIS Headquarters and to UN Representations, humanitarian Agencies and Embassies with their contractors. AMISOM soldiers rushed to defend the compound. In the shooting at least four of the attackers and a security guard were killed and others wounded.
A second, even more serious incident took place in the evening of the same day in Beledweyne (Hiran). A suicide bomber struck a polling station there, killing more than 50 civilians according to official sources. Another detonation then also hit the rescuers who had rushed to remove the wounded, who numbered more than a hundred. Among the victims were the attackers’ main targets 33-year-old opposition MP and local legislative candidate Amina Mohamed Abdi and former opposition MP and current candidate Ali Abdi Dhuhul.
The attacks came in the closing stages of the local election campaign for re-election to parliament. Opposition leaders expressed their condolences and linked the event to the case of Ikram Tahlil, an intelligence officer whose disappearance in June 2021 and alleged killing the MP had investigated. Amina had reported pressure to withdraw her candidature.
Both President Farmajo and PM Roble condemned the attacks while attending a state funeral for the victim. Roble urged the security agencies to carry out a thorough investigation. It is possible that this dossier will now return to the centre of the presidential election campaign. Fahad Yasin, former head of the intelligence agency and later Farmajo’s security adviser, who is accused by the opposition of being responsible for Tahlil’s murder, was nominated and elected for the same seat in Beledweyne. The former leader of the HirShabelle Waar has not hesitated to trace responsibilities back to Farmajo.
In this context, the announcement of a peace conference for the Horn of Africa, proposed by Beijing’s Special Envoy Xue Bing, is noteworthy. China reiterates its interest in talking to Mogadishu to curb the drift of particularisms and regional diplomacy, visible in the open relationship between Taiwan and Somaliland.
The infrastructural investments needed to develop the New Silk Road and connect Ethiopia to it have some of their crucial hubs in this area. For the first time, Beijing appears to be prepared for a direct and explicit military and political presence that cannot fail to elicit reactions – primarily from the United Arab Emirates, Kenya and the United States.