Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – In a significant stride against illegal arms trafficking, Somali security forces apprehended a major suspect, Zakariya Kamal, on Friday.
Recognized by the Somali government as a pivotal player in supplying weaponry to the terror group al-Shabab, Kamal was captured by Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency (NISA) during the early hours.
The agency’s statement revealed, “This notorious arms dealer, Kamal, was arrested as he was preparing to disappear and seek out the elusive hideouts of the al-Shabab within Somalia.”
Monitored since May, the 28-year-old Somali became a person of interest after NISA intercepted two unauthorized consignments filled with military equipment and potentially explosive substances, ostensibly destined for al-Shabab.
Kamal’s operations weren’t isolated. Acting as the linchpin for a comprehensive arms-dealing consortium, he facilitated procuring and importing these shipments from international sources.
Many of these illegal imports were seized both at Mogadishu’s Aden Ade International Airport and the city’s seaport.
This recent investigation linked Kamal and his network to a smuggling ring, resulting in the detainment of ten individuals. However, NISA refrained from sharing intricate details about the shipment or the identities of the individuals associated.
A gray area remains. While Kamal’s dealings with al-Shabab are undeniable, his affiliation with the group—whether solely for business or as a member—is yet to be determined.
The U.N. arms embargo: History and implications
Somalia has struggled under an arms embargo for three decades, initiated by the United Nations Security Council in 1992 due to the nation’s civil war and subsequent factional clashes.
With a vast, unguarded coastline and porous borders, monitoring the illicit arms transfer has been challenging.
In 2013, recognizing the country’s efforts towards establishing a functional transitional government, the U.N. conceded to a partial relaxation of the ban, granting Somalia the license to procure small arms.
These were aimed at bolstering the national security forces against Islamist militants, although heavy weaponry still faced restrictions.
However, each year sees a renewal of these sanctions, with the primary contention being the unyielding threat of al-Shabab to the region’s peace.
Somalia’s stance, echoing the sentiments of allies like Ethiopia and Uganda—both victims of al-Shabab’s violence—urges the necessity of these sanctions to incapacitate the terror group.
Calls for the lifting of the embargo
Despite the backdrop of sanctions and the constant menace of terrorism, the Somali administration remains committed to countering al-Shabab’s influence.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s government has actively targeted the group’s financial channels and ideologically combative narratives.
A plea for a complete revocation of the arms embargo is at the heart of these endeavors. President Mohamud asserts that the ban has outlasted its utility.
Supporting this sentiment, Somali Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre addressed the U.N. General Assembly, emphasizing Somalia’s robust systems in managing firearms.
He stated, “Annulling this embargo would equip us better against terrorism, fostering a peaceful and thriving Somalia.”