MOGADISHU: Somali authorities imposed a daytime ban on Monday on the movement of large trucks and road tankers inside the capital Mogadishu in an attempt to improve security following a wave of devastating attacks by militants.
The move followed twin truck bombings on Oct. 15 that killed more than 350 people in the city, in the deadliest attack in the history of the Horn of Africa nation.
Though the militant group Al-Shabab did not claim responsibility for that attack, the method is one it has often used.
“Trucks and tankers cannot pass… from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. This is to ensure security and (to offer) a solution to the complaints of the public,” Tabid Abdi, the capital’s mayor, said in a statement.
“Any truck or tanker driver who does not comply will be fined $1,000.”
Further underlining the Somali capital’s security woes, at least 29 people were killed on Sunday during a 12-hour siege at a Mogadishu hotel, in an attack claimed by Al-Shabab. The government sacked two top security officials.
“They had the uniforms of security forces, even though they did not have ID cards,” Information Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman told Reuters.
Al-Shabab said 40 people had been killed, including three of its fighters who stormed the hotel.
Al-Shabab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. The country has been at war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.
Though it has lost large swathes of territory to African Union peacekeepers, the group’s attacks have grown in frequency and size, as a 22,000-strong peacekeeping force prepares to begin withdrawing.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed said the latest attack was meant to instill fear in the thousands of Somalis who marched through Mogadishu in defiance of Al-Shabab after the earlier bombing.
Since that blast, the president has visited countries in the region to seek more support for the fight against Al-Shabab, vowing a “state of war.” He also faces the challenge of pulling together regional powers inside his long-fractured country, where the federal government is trying to assert itself beyond Mogadishu and other major cities.
The US military also has stepped up military efforts against Al-Shabab this year in Somalia, carrying out nearly 20 drone strikes.
The 22,000-member multinational African Union (AU) force in Somalia is expected to withdraw and hand over security to the Somali military by the end of 2020. US military officials and others in recent months have expressed concern that Somali forces are not ready to take over.
The defense minister and army chief of staff resigned early this month amid reports of rivalry between the two and after Al-Shabab stepped up its attacks on army bases.
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