Mogadishu — In less than one week, joint security operations in the Benadir region of Mogadishu resulted in the arrest and investigation of thousands of individuals suspected of creating instability in the capital.
Benadir National Security Agency commander Colonel Khalif Ahmed Ereg said police are holding 259 people suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the capital.
The suspects in custody are among 3,259 individuals arrested in operations carried out January 14th-19th in Hilwa, Yaqshid, Wadajir, Darkenley and Hodan districts.
Ereg said 3,000 people were released after police investigations determined they were innocent. "We will continue with the investigations we are conducting in the city until we secure the city," he said.
The operations also led to the confiscation of landmines, bombs and ammunition for heavy weapons such as bazookas, AK-47s and other automatic machineguns, Ereg said.
The security operations taking place in Mogadishu are part of the six-pillar policy President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud laid out when he took office -- including progress in stability, economic recovery, peace-building, service delivery, international relations and unity.
Security officials say these operations are instrumental in preventing attacks and instability. Somali police, National Security Agency, military and the African Union Mission in Somalia forces are all committing officers to the security effort.
'Mogadishu is the heart of the country'
Benadir Police Chief Ahmed Hassan Maalin said the entire security force in Benadir is focused on addressing issues that impact the security of Mogadishu. He said the operations aim to eliminate any explosions or targeted killings in Mogadishu that are intended to create insecurity.
"We are asking the public that lives in Mogadishu to work with the security forces to ensure peace, and we are also asking the people who live in the neighbourhoods where the operations are being carried out to remain calm," he told Sabahi. "There is no problem because these are peacekeeping operations."
Mohamed Abdullahi, 19, said he was arrested in his home in Wadajir district during the operations and was later released.
"We were about 20 people and they took us to the headquarters of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID)," he told Sabahi. "They did not harm us. They asked us questions like where we lived and what our occupations were. We were detained for about five hours in the CID jail, and finally they released 16 of us."
Benadir Deputy Governor for Security Affairs Warsame Mohamed said security forces have made a concerted effort to protect Mogadishu.
"The city of Mogadishu is the heart of the country. If it becomes peaceful, all the regions of the country will be peaceful," he told Sabahi. "Security in Mogadishu has been improving day by day since al-Shabaab was expelled from the city in August 2011. Security forces are ready to eliminate the remnants."
He said the federal government also put in place a wide-ranging plan for the general security of the country, but the bulk of that work is taking place in Mogadishu because the capital has to be secured before the rest of the regions.
Mogadishu residents welcome security operations
The peacekeeping operations taking place in Mogadishu have been widely welcomed, said Mohamed Hassan Had, a tribal elder in Mogadishu. He said these operations should be carried out regularly.
"We welcome anything that will safeguard security because everyone knows how important peace is," he told Sabahi. "I think these operations are always necessary and the public should work towards making Mogadishu completely peaceful."
Abdirahman Warsame, a 35-year-old vendor at Bakara market, said he is very happy with the security operations conducted in Benadir.
"We feel secure and do not experience any problems," he told Sabahi. "We trade freely and the market is secure. We can say that we have peace in Mogadishu because you can walk at night, thanks to Allah."
Hakimo Abukar, a 45-year-old resident of Madina district, said she has noticed that security has improved over the past two years as armed militias have disappeared from the streets of Mogadishu. These armed men used to operate illegal checkpoints to extort money from civilians, but have been removed by security forces.
"We feel relieved because you will not see any men standing around with guns and operating vehicle checkpoints in Mogadishu," she told Sabahi. "Even though there are still many issues that need to be addressed, many things have changed since the new government came to power."