Mogadishu — Somali government officials and military experts condemned al-Shabaab's raid on the Benadir regional court complex on Sunday (April 14th), calling it a cowardly act of desperation.
A ten-man suicide commando unit blasted its way into Mogadishu's main court complex on Sunday, when one al-Shabaab militant detonated himself at the gate while the rest of the team entered the courtyard of the complex spraying gunfire and blowing themselves up as they ran out of ammunition. The rampage left at least 29 civilians dead.
The complex houses Somalia's Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, the Military Court and the Office of the Attorney General.
As the shootout inside the court complex was unfolding, five more civilians were killed when a remote-detonated car bomb near the airport struck a convoy carrying Turkish aid.
An official from the Turkish Red Crescent told Turkish news television channel NTV that its Somali driver was killed and some of its workers received light injuries.
A separate car bomb exploded outside the court complex during the assault, spreading panic until Somali security forces managed to secure the area.
"This attack is nothing but a sign of desperation by the terrorists, who have lost all their strongholds and are in complete decline right across Somalia," Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
"We are moving forward, but the enemy of Somalia, the enemy of all mankind, will attempt to set us back and try to prevent us from prospering," he said. "I want the terrorists to know that our country, Somalia, is moving and will keep moving forward and will not be prevented from achieving the ultimate noble goal, a peaceful and stable Somalia, by a few desperate terrorists."
Returning from state visits to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda and Burundi, Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said his first reaction to Sunday's terrorist attack was to express sympathy and condolences to those killed or injured. He also praised Somali security forces for their swift reaction to the attack.
"There is nothing Islamic in killing innocent Somalis," he said. "It is a tragedy for everyone affected."
"The fact is that our enemies are in decline and retreat across Somalia. Only today we saw more evidence of their collapse in an open letter to al-Qaeda's leadership that has already been described as al-Shabaab's death certificate," Shirdon said, referring to a 15-page letter sent from al-Shabaab's second-in-command Ibrahim al-Afghani to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, accusing Ahmed Abdi Godane of tyranny.
"My message to my fellow Somalis and the world is that this pointless and pathetic act will have no effect on our government, which is committed to continuing the enormous progress we have made in recent months," Shirdon said. "This is what all Somalis want, not more futile and destructive warfare."
On Monday, the prime minister vowed to determine how the security breech happened.
"There will be absolutely no let-up on security. I have ordered a security & intelligence investigation to understand how this happened," he said via Twitter.
United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said he was shocked and outraged by the deadly attacks.
"I join the government and the people of Somalia in condemning these senseless acts of terror," he said. "Somalia is making remarkable progress towards stabilisation and these great strides will not be overshadowed by the desperate acts of these cowardly terrorists."
Al-Shabaab leadership in crisis:
Ali Ahmed, a political analyst and retired Somali national army officer, explained that the suicide attacks targeting the court complex in Mogadishu are an attempt by al-Shabaab to divert attention from what al-Afghani's most recent letter to al-Zawahiri has revealed.
"It is clear that through these desperate attacks, al-Shabaab wanted to distract people from the dark reality that was portrayed by al-Afghani's latest message to al-Qaeda's leader," he told Sabahi.
"These terrorist attacks came after al-Afghani's letter was released, so it indicates the criminal nature of these terrorist groups and that whenever they are weakened, they start targeting innocent civilians," he said.
Osman Aden, a retired Somali army colonel, said al-Shabaab's attacks against the court complex in Mogadishu and its targeting of Turkish relief workers at the airport is a clear sign of its desperation.
"After they targeted scientists and elite intellectuals of Somali society, the cowardly terrorists are now targeting courts, busy streets and heavily populated residential areas," he told Sabahi. "These are desperate criminal attempts that reveal the aggressive nature of terrorists who falsely hide behind Islam, although Islam is innocent of them."
"Of course al-Shabaab has been defeated on the battlefield throughout the entire country and these attacks are proof that the terrorists have been defeated by soldiers of the Somali national army and the regional allied forces," he said.
"No matter how hard the extremist al-Shabaab group tries to divert attention from its internal crisis that was revealed by al-Afghani's latest message, it will not be successful because all Somalis are well aware of the fact that these terrorists who legitimise the bloodshed of innocent civilians are now suffering from a deep crisis," he said. "These latest attacks are nothing but a desperate attempt to raise morale among members of the group."
As such, al-Shabaab via its official Twitter account exposed the true reason for Sunday's attack: to appear to remain relevant and powerful.
"Such brazen attacks, on a broad daylight and in the heart of Mogadishu, are a clear testament to the influence of [al-Shabaab] forces in the capital," it said.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage also vowed there would be fresh attacks.
"This was a holy action which targeted non-believers who were in a meeting within the court complex," he told AFP. "We will continue until Somalia is liberated from invaders."
Yet American-born jihadist Omar Hammami, better known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, further discounted the power of al-Shabaab's latest attack.
"Shabab has changed [strategy] from choosing best of legit targets to hitting whatever target they can and then legitimising it later," he said Monday via Twitter.