by Gatimu Juma
The U.S. has stepped up its efforts to counter the al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia, sending more than 60 tons of weapons and ammunition to the Somali National Army and offering a sizable reward to help catch a senior leader of the terrorist organization.
More than 60 tons of weapons and ammunition arrived Tuesday in Mogadishu, to help the Somali National Army fight al-Shabaab and for future training of an elite infantry unit, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu. The stash included AK-47s, heavy machine guns, and ammunition delivered via two U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport, the State Department said.
The delivery coincided with the offer of a reward for information on al-Shabaab’s Ali Mohamed Rage.
“Rage is a leader and spokesperson of the terrorist group al-Shabaab, which has killed 1000’s of innocent people in eastern Africa,” the State Department said in a statement. “Help us find him. Got a tip? Contact us. You could be eligible for a reward and relocation.
READ MORE about al-Shabaab in Somalia
“Rage, also known as Ali Dheere, has been al-Shabaab’s chief spokesperson since May 2009 and is a senior leader of the terrorist organization,” according to the statement.
Rage, who was born in the Hawlwadag district of Mogadishu, Somalia in 1966, “has been involved in the planning of attacks in Kenya and Somalia.”
The two moves signal increasing U.S. support for the government of Somalia.
“We are very proud to stand as partners with the Somali National Army and the Somali people in this fight,” said Chargé d’Affaires Tim Trinkle. “This ammunition will be provided to the SNA Danab, which is one of the many courageous forces fighting al-Shabaab.”
Government officials in Mogadishu view the presence of U.S. forces to Somalia as a boon to local efforts to fight a resurgent al-Shabaab terror group, sources told Soldier of Fortune.
“If all they do is give advice, that’s a tremendous help,” one official said. “We are very much pleased to see them.”
The militant al-Shabaab follows a strict version of Sharia law, and wants to enforce that view inside Somalia. The group controls a number of villages, and also many major roads around the capital, Mogadishu. The group controlled the capital until 2011, when AU forces drove it out.
The group recently released a message to the Somali government. The message read, in part:
“Everyone is under the rule of God, whoever stops and stands between us and them, we will fight them until we kill them or we die.”
Gatimu Juma reports from the Horn of Africa.