Troops foil attacks targeting military justice in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia – The Somali National Army [SNA] opposed an attack on a convoy of military chief of staff Colonel Hassan A in the troubled Gedo region on September 15, officials said in an attack that would have been more devastating given the number of explosives planted on a major road .

Security officials said the attackers targeted the military judge and his delegation after concluding their meetings in the troubled Gedo region, located in Jubaland, western Somalia. The judge dealt with a number of cases that had been prosecuted.

Officials said the military removed the explosions before detonating them, adding that the attack would have been a retaliation against the military court, which has a mandate to prosecute high-profile criminal cases. The chief judge tried suspect Al-Shabaab.

To date, no group has yet taken responsibility for the planned attack, but Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants are known for such actions aimed at officials, security forces and sometimes civilians believed to be working closely with government in the fight against the extremist group.

With almost a dysfunctional judiciary, Somalia has long tapped into military court to try hardcore criminals and Al-Shabaab militants. The military court has often received backing from a section of residents who believe it has acted in accordance with the law.

The outspoken military chief of staff, Colonel Hassan A Nor, had convicted Farhan Mohamud Hassan, who has served in the SNA, in a lawsuit exposing infiltration into government institutions by al-Shabaab militants who have been wreaking havoc in the war-torn nation for several years.

The convict confessed in an interview with local media to joining the Al-Qaeda-linked group in 2010 in the Kenya-Somali border town of Balad-Hawo, but would later use Amnesty provided by Somalia security forces to defect, and was later recruited to the SNA to help fight former allies.

But intelligence services in Somalia linked him to infiltration of the SNA after investigating his conduct before he was arrested in military court. The prisoner was beaten with a life sentence and would spend his entire life behind bars for breaking trust and lying to the state.

Shockingly, Farhan Mohamud Hassan admitted to helping Al-Shabaab transport explosives to Al-Shabaab to Manda Bay in Kenya before the deadly January 5 attack on the U.S. naval base used to train regional forces from across East Africa.

“I joined Al-Shabaab in 2010 before leaving the Somali National Army. But I helped them transport explosives to Manda Airfield, where they carried out an attack,” Mohamed said in a confession that briefly shocked journalists and the senior military officials following his convictions.

The Gedo region has been experiencing both security and political unrest for several months now, and Al-Shabaab has exploited a conflict between the SNA and Jubaland forces that have been fighting together for territorial control. FGS has fought to galvanize support from the region.

Reports from Mogadishu, however, showed that the federal government of Somalia and the Jubaland administration have reached a compromise and that steps have been taken to get SNA troops withdrawn. Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the fragile UN-backed Somalia government.