Bombing Shows That Africa Has Always Been Part of The War On Terrorism
The World Cup is supposed to be a fun and exciting event; an event where thousands of people from hundreds of nations can sit together in the same place and enjoy a competitive game full of drama, heartbreak, victory, and defeat. So when 74 people were killed in Uganda at a restaurant and a sports club by a suicide-bomber, it was understandable that the game so many people love quickly turned into a distant afterthought.
You may not have heard, but two large bombs exploded within an hour’s time in Kampala- the capital of Uganda- killing dozens of spectators who gathered to watch the final World Cup match between Spain and the Netherlands. Needless to say, most of those spectators were unable to finish watching the game that day, instead preoccupied with escaping death- or in the case of some, stepping over dead bodies and loose limbs in order to escape death.
Violence in Africa is anything but surprising. Half of the world’s failed or failing states are located within the confines of Africa, and most of the world’s most disturbing conflicts- hunger, genocide, ethnic conflict, and drought- are located right in the heart of the continent. But suicide terrorism is a particularly rare tactic used by African militant groups, and from the evidence that is being gathered at the scene, suicide bombers were in fact responsible for the incident.
But there’s more to this investigation than meets the eye. In fact, not only have investigators discovered the cause of death in yesterday’s strike, but police are also quite confidant as to who the perpetrators are. And Al’Shabab, the Islamic militant insurgency based in Somalia (who has ties to Al’Qaeda), are deemed the prime suspects.
You don’t have to look too far to find a direct connection between the Uganda attack and Al’Shabab’s organization. The group has made it clear that it despises international troops on Somali soil, partly because those troops are used to build up its main adversary (the Somali Transitional Government) and partly because Al’Shabab views any foreign presence as an interference in Somali affairs. The groups’ spokesman, Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, made this abundantly clear through a statement he issued yesterday, which claimed credit for the operation and promised more if countries like Uganda, Burundi, and Ethiopia don’t withdraw from Somali territory.
Yet perhaps what’s more frightening than the attack itself is Al’Shabab’s willingness to export violence to other African nations. This was the first time the radical Islamist organization executed a terrorist attack outside of Somalia’s borders, demonstrating both its strength and its intent. More importantly, the massacre in Uganda may elevate the Somalia file in the U.S. Government, which hasn’t been much of a priority in the past.
How Washington will respond is anyone’s guess. The CIA may be authorized to increase its drone program over Somalia in the hopes of destroying Al’Shabab infrastructure and killing top terrorist leaders, similar to what the agency is doing in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Or, the White House could funnel more money into the Somali Transitional Authority and reiterate its strong support for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia. And of course, covert operations with regional allies- like Ethiopia and Kenya- are always a possibility.
But whatever option or combination of options the U.S. chooses, Al’Shabab has shown the world that it’s only getting stronger. With a less than weak Somali Government in place, and with the humanitarian situation inside Somalia getting worse by the day, more and more residents may be forced to join the insurgency out of fear and desperation. The U.S. and its African allies should take warning.
-Daniel R. DePetris
**Comments courtesy of Michael Wilkerson and Elizabeth Dickinson at FP.com**