US raids: Somalia's Al-Shebaab a tough nut to crack
NAIROBI (AFP) - Defeating Somalia's Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shebaab militants and preventing cross-border attacks like the bloody siege at a Nairobi shopping mall will require more than commando strikes alone, analysts say.
Although killing or capturing senior rebel leaders in raids or drone strikes will dent the insurgents, Shebaab can bounce back from such setbacks, thanks to their shadowy command structure.
"Eliminating top-level individuals would be a strategic blow to the organisation, but of course, the problem is in finding them," said one foreign security source who follows the Horn of Africa. "However, it is not a silver bullet alone... It offers a chance to kick them down, but not keep them down."
According to a recent United Nations monitoring report, Shebaab has built up a powerful "Amniyat" secret service that operates in separate cells "with the intention of surviving any kind of dissolution" of the group. In addition, regional Shebaab "franchises", such as Kenya's radical Al-Hijra group thought to have played a key role in last month's Westgate shopping centre attack, have the ability to work with Somali commanders but also on their own when necessary.