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By Lisa Vives
A presumed safe zone in Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, is now awash in ash and rubble from one of the deadliest attacks by a terrorist group in a decade.
More than 300 people died when a twin truck bomb exploded followed by a massive fireball. The trucks had managed to enter the area with their payload of bombs hidden under sacks of sugar, rice and other foods undetected.
The bombers appear to have had connections with local businessmen and even security guards who waved them through. Most worrying, said one regional analyst, “their sophisticated explosives may have been obtained from the very U.S.-backed peacekeepers who are supposed to be fighting the terrorists.
“As more details emerge,” adds Bard professor Helen C. Epstein, “it is becoming brutally clear that Washington’s militarized approach to the Somali crisis is backfiring. Ghastly as al-Shabaab is, negotiating with the group may be the only road to peace.”
“This war has been a march of folly from day one,” continues Prof. Epstein. “After years of instability, Somalia was taken over in June 2006 by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a modest Islamist coalition. For the first time in a generation, the streets were safe, the ports were open, garbage was collected, and the courts were dealing with the enormous backlog of contract disputes and other matters.”
This group was to earn the displeasure of Pres. George Bush who tried to chase them from power with help from Ethiopia. Mogadishu was flattened as a result and three-quarters of its population were forced to flee. This brutal assault radicalized the ICU’s youth wing, al-Shabaab, which had committed virtually no atrocities while the ICU held power.
Washington’s reaction to the recent bombing was swift. “Such cowardly attacks reinvigorate the commitment of the United States to assist our Somali and African Union partners to combat the scourge of terrorism… ” the U.S. Mission to Somalia said in a press release.
“If this means more fire power, it will mean only more misery for the Somali people and their regional neighbors,” Epstein concluded. “Over a decade of intense firepower and at times brilliant military tactics has not made Somalia or its neighbors safer. In fact, lawlessness has only increased.”
Meanwhile, friends and family are mourning the death of Mohamud Hassan Elmi, 35. a senior civil servant in charge of humanitarian aid in Somalia and a dual US-Somali citizen. Also deceased in the bomb blast was Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist who worked on the Panama Papers story.