Published on CNN, by Nima Elbagir, August 2, 2011.
Mogadishu, Somalia (CNN) — The Ramadan offensive has begun here, an obvious date to rally supporters of the al Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab militant group, but this year feels a little different.
I was in the Somali capital two years ago and every night, just before the call to prayer signaled the breaking of the fast, we’d hear a cacophony of mortar rounds and gunfights.
Somali friends told me back then the militants believed dying in battle while still fasting would ensure they “entered heaven without even taking their shoes off.”
This year Al-Shabaab’s grip on the capital and the loyalty of Somalis feels more tenuous. Since I was last here in 2009 the rains have failed and the drought has spread bringing with it famine and desperation.
… Some people here now see Al-Shabaab as the architects of this famine. One man we met in a camp said: “Nature is always cruel but Al-Shabaab are the real killers.”
The last time I was here, the AU controlled just the sea port, airport and State House. Today it also controls eight of the 17 districts that make up Mogadishu.
They’re hoping these successes will convince the world that Somalia is not a lost cause and most importantly finally secure some much needed support before it’s too late. (full text).