24 January 2014

Somalia: Al Shabaab Shuts Out Central and Southern Somalia From Internet

Photo: World Bank
Internet cafe in Kampala, Uganda.

Telecos operating in Al Shabaab-controlled areas of central and southern have heeded to an order by the militant group to shut off any internet services to their customers given 15 days ago despite the government having urged telcos to ignore the directive.

According to Hiraan Online news site, residents in these areas reported missing signals even as the militia was spotted checking mobile phones for any internet connections in areas they control. The website also reports that Al Shabaab militants also entered telecom companies and ordered them to shut down internet provision.

Telecom officials further say negotiations with the group's command at the district level to reverse the orders had not been positive with the order believed to have originated from militant group's top command.

The order, the group says, is as a result of spies using the internet and smartphones to relay their operations. The outfit had also said that the internet was leading to immorality and thus was deemed as fit

The group had earlier (according to a story we ran a few days back) issued a warning to all operators to shut down internet services in the country to stop of face the consequences according to Sharia law.

A Somali analyst with heritage institute of policy studies Abdi Aynte says the move could be as a intimidation tactic or paranoia within the group that the internet which helps people send information elsewhere in the world could be exposing them and their activities to outsiders.

"The most important one is that they are afraid that this technology will be used to track some of their top fighters as the operations of drones permeate in the areas that al Shabaab controls in South and Central Somalia," he said

For now the country's main internet providers Hormuud Telecom and Nationlink remain shut with no prediction as to how long the ban will last.

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