The Fight To Stop Al Shabab From Disrupting Somalia’s Elections

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Every week, The WorldPost asks an expert to shed light on a topic driving headlines around the world. This week, we speak with analyst Cedric Barnes about the international fight against the Somali Islamist militant group al Shabab.

After a quarter-century of anarchy and war, Somalia is inching forward with a political process meant to set the African nation on the path to stability.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to hold elections, finalize the constitution and determine the number and location of Somalia’s federal states by 2016. Fierce political wrangling has accompanied each of these processes, and the election is now set to be decided by clan elders and regional representatives rather than by a popular vote.

Yet it is a significant moment for the country, 25 years after feuding warlords exploited a power vacuum left by the fall of military dictator Siad Barre.

Still, one group that emerged from the chaos, the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabab, is determined to disrupt Somalia’s political transition.

While the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, has been pushing al Shabab from its significant territorial strongholds since 2011, the militant group has redoubled attacks in recent months, terrorizing the capital with suicide bombings, ambushing AMISOM bases and recapturing cities in southern Somalia.

At the same time, U.S. forces have intensified the military campaign against the group in Somalia, killing a regional intelligence head of al Shabab in a strike last week. Last month, the U.S. targeted the group in a deadly commando raid and bombed a training camp which the Pentagon said left 150 fighters dead.

The WorldPost spoke to Cedric Barnes, the Horn of Africa project director for International Crisis Group, about the U.S. campaign against al Shabab and the critical months ahead for Somalia.

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