Al-Shabab threatens banks as Somali government targets group’s revenue

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The Somalia-based militant group Al-Shabab has issued a warning to local banks and money transfer firms, urging them not to “expose” their clients or risk facing punishment.

The move comes in response to the Somali government’s decision to crack down on the group’s sources of revenue.

Last month the government announced it has closed down over 250 known bank accounts and 70 mobile money transfer firms linked to the group, per Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre. 

“The government has closed down about 250 accounts linked with the militants in four banks and the network and the data services of about 70 mobile phones the militants were using to transfer money,” the Prime Minister said. 

In response, the group’s official spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dheere, stated that Al-Shabab would not “accept” the practice of some banks giving “information” about their customers to strangers, referring to the government.

He added that such acts are ” unethical ” and “punishable.” This is the first time Al-Shabab has targeted financial institutions in Somalia, where the group is believed to channel most of its revenue.

Al-Shabab is known to generate revenue through various means, including punitive taxation and ransom payments. Al-Shabab uses part of its revenue to pay its active fighters and maintain its territories.

A report by the United States estimates that the group has an annual budget of $100 million, with $24 million allocated for the purchase of weapons. 

Sheikh Ali Dhere believes that the plan to target banks and reveal the clients who provide funding to the group is a component of a broader US strategy to target Somalia’s financial institutions.

“The United States has invested significant effort in developing a plan to enable the Somali government to implement it. The goal of this plan is to gain control of Somalia’s wealth,” stated Sheikh Ali Dhere.

In its efforts to tackle Al-Shabab, the Somali government has adopted a multi-pronged approach that includes ideological tactics and financial control in addition to military fronts.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud believes that targeting the group’s financial accounts can significantly reduce their activities in central and southern Somalia.

He stated that the government is closing the group’s bank accounts and shutting down mobile money transfer firms connected to them to ensure security.

The government’s decision to focus on cutting off the group’s sources of revenue is seen as a crucial step in weakening the group’s capabilities and reducing its activities in central and southern Somalia.

However, it is unclear how effective this strategy will be in the long run.

While cutting off the group’s access to financial resources may weaken its capabilities in the short term, the group will likely find alternative ways to generate revenue.

Additionally, the group’s reliance on threats and intimidation may make it difficult for banks and other financial institutions to operate in the country.