Somalia disrupts Al-Shabab finances, closes 250 bank accounts

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – In a significant victory against Al-Shabab militants, the Somali government has closed down over 250 known bank accounts and 70 mobile money transfer firms linked to the group, according to 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,” Barre told a gathering of Somali diaspora members in Cairo. 

Barre said that the closures were made possible due to tips from Somali citizens and that the government is currently investigating the amount of money frozen in the closed accounts.

The Prime Minister said the government had closed every known account connected with the militants. He also noted that Somali security forces had arrested individuals carrying money to al-Shabab financial offices.

Al-Shabab, designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and other countries, has long funded itself by extorting businesses and collecting taxes in areas under its control. 

However, with the support of local clan fighters and international partners, the Somali government has made significant strides in recent months to weaken the group’s hold on power.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared a “total war” against the al-Qaida-linked militants shortly after being elected last year.

According to Barre, the government’s efforts have resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 Al-Shabab fighters. However, this figure could not be independently verified.

The United States Treasury Department has also taken action against the group, imposing sanctions on four senior leaders and five operatives in October 2022. 

The Treasury stated that the targeted individuals were crucial players in a network responsible for raising money, recruiting fighters, and procuring weapons for Al-Shabab. 

The U.S. claimed that the smuggling network was taking in money from different sources, including NGOs, helping al-Shabab generate an estimated $100 million per year, which helped grow the terror group’s size and capabilities. 

A report by the Mogadishu-based security think tank, the Hiraal Institute, estimates that about a quarter of that money, or some $24 million, is spent on weapons alone.

In addition to the closures of financial institutions and the arrests of individuals carrying money to al-Shabab financial offices, the Somali government’s efforts to disrupt Al-Shabab’s finances have also included targeting the group’s sources of income.

One of the primary sources of revenue for Al-Shabab is through extorting businesses and collecting taxes in areas under its control. 

The group has also been known to smuggle charcoal and other goods and to engage in illegal fishing in Somali waters, all of which generate significant revenue for the group.

The government’s efforts to shut down the financial networks of al-Shabab have been met with resistance, as the group has continued its attacks since President Mohamud was elected, including two attacks in the central region of Hiran that killed over 43 people in two days.

The group also claimed responsibility for a twin car bombing in Mogadishu in October 2022 that killed at least 120 people.