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Mogadishu Marches Against al-Shabab

FILE: A truck passing a partial roadblock setup by residents as a protest against the Islamist Al-Shabab insurgent group, in Tobanka Buundo in the lower Shabelle region, near the Somalian capital Mogadishu, March 6, 2014.

Thousands of residents have attended a local government-organized protest against the militant group al-Shabab in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Thursday’s demonstration, the biggest of its kind against the militants for more than 10 years, comes amid a government military, financial and ideological campaign aimed at defeating the terrorist group.

The protest, organized by Mogadishu's local administration, was held at the city’s Yarisow soccer stadium, with hundreds of security forces heightened security in and outside of the venue.

“You know the government has closed down a lot of militant-connected accounts in four banks and you will hear good news from us about the ongoing investigation of the comical impact on the militants' operations,” Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.

Mr. Mohamud urged the residents of Mogadishu to be “vigilant, reveal and foil terrorist operatives hiding among the civilians” as they run from the military pressure in other areas of the country.

“Be careful of the strangers that rent your houses because they could be tomorrow’s suicide bombers or assassins. You should report them to the security agencies,” Mohamud warned.

The Somali president also told people not to feed the terrorists with extortion money demanded by the Islamists.

"Who can tell me that al-Shabab will guarantee the safety of your children and your beloved ones once you give them money, fearing for your lives?” Mohamed asked.

The demonstrators, mainly women, children, and the youth, chanted slogans strongly condemning terrorism and extremism.

"Our main objective is to say enough is enough to al-Shabab, show solidarity for our soldiers, and in the meantime share the pain and loss with Somalis as they continue to frequently mourn the deaths of so many of their loved ones," protester Safiya Mohamed Nur told VOA.

"We are here to show bravery and pray to Allah that Somalis see the end of the callous actions committed by terrorists for years,” said another protester, Ahmed Mumin.

Working with local clan fighters, the government has claimed multiple military victories against al-Shabab in the past six months, retaking towns and villages in Hirshabelle state that the militants had controlled for years.

Meanwhile, in November, 2022, the United States put up a huge bounty for information leading to the arrest of three al-Shabab leaders – the so-called “emir,” Ahmed Diriye; second-in-command, Mahad Karate; and Jehad Mostafa, a US citizen the State Department in Washington says is the leader of the group’s foreign fighters and media wing.

And on January 12, the United States put a bounty of up to $10 million on Mohamoud Abdi Aden, describing him as a leader of the Somalia-based Al-Shabab jihadist group that carried out several deadly attacks in neighboring Kenya, including a 2019 Nairobi hotel attack.

This report was prepared by VOA's Mohamed Olad Hassan for