On Sunday 25 September, statements came from the US side, describing support in the government and ATMIS (African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia) counteroffensive conducted in Hiran about 200 km north of Mogadishu. This event, in which at least 27 militants were killed, was followed by an attack carried out by an Al Shabaab-affiliated suicide terrorist against an Army recruitment centre in the capital (https://shabellemedia.com/a-morning-explosion-hits-mogadishu-somali-capital/). The suicide bomber reportedly claimed 32 victims among recruits waiting to enlist for the Special Forces; other sources, however, report a less severe toll than claimed by the terrorist group.
On the day when Somalia’s President Mohamud finally met with US President Biden, in which the commitment of both governments to fight Al Shabaab terrorism was confirmed, the picture continues to present grey areas. Overall, however, the offensive appears to be more far-reaching than we have seen in recent years (https://www.radiodalsan.com/en/77296/2022/09/somali-army-applauded-for-largest-security-operation-in-five-years-against-al-shabaab/). Hiraan is the main theatre of operations and sees a substantial governmental advance and the support of the local clans to the federal action is comforting (https://www.agenzianova.com/r/1025/corno-d-africa). This is a crucial element since such offensives have ultimately proved sterile in the past, precisely because they lacked the involvement of the populations.
The message issued by Al Shabaab spokesman Ali Dhere, threatening reactions to the ‘declaration of war’ launched in recent weeks by Mohamud (https://www.radiodalsan.com/en/77347/2022/09/somalia-vows-to-heighten-al-shabaab-war/) shows how, in any case, the leadership of the group remains determined to react to the counter-offensive. This is also a way to keep the determination of its militiamen high, an element that together with the support or at least the acquiescence of the local populations may still make the difference against overpowering adversary military forces that are also supported by Turkish drones, according to what the Somali Interior Minister Fiq (https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/turkeys-drones-taking-part-in-military-operations-against-al-shabaab-in-somalia-minister/) declared to the media.
Domestically, the question of the elections in Somaliland also remains central. Local authorities now say it is impossible to vote in November as planned (https://somaliguardian.com/news/somalia-news/somaliland-election-commission-says-presidential-vote-cant-happen-on-time/). The Somaliland Electoral Commission rather suggests to postpone them at least until June, according to a timetable that the local opposition already rejects. This is a second ‘front’ for President Mohamud, no less urgent and with equally uncertain developments.