Attacks in France and Somalia: Not all terrorists are equal

(To Denise Serangelo)

On Friday 26 June 2015, while France resumed its breath after the attacks in Lyon, Somalia returned to live its blood-red sunset. Two different geopolitical realities, united by the real fear of terrorism.

France is the heart of good Europe, a bulwark of civil rights and a place for countless romantic stories. In short, the first of the class, always.

Somalia is the irretrievable of the situation, the one who does not do her homework, who ends up in punishment and that civil rights have no idea what they are. The countless stories of Somalia, mostly concern the crime story that has never had anything romantic.

Although France has terrorist record on nation soil it is difficult to approach it even just by mistake to the degree of violence that Somalia has matured over the years.

Hasty analyzes and indifference have badly linked what happened in Lyon to the attack on the AMISOM base (African Union Mission In Somalia) in Leego south of Mogadishu.

The dynamics and the events are so far apart that it is even disrespectful to put them next to each other.

When analyzing the tactical dynamics of terrorists it is not done to reward the most ruthless of the year but we try to understand the best approaches to counter the threat. We try not to fall into the trap of indifference where every attack is equal to the another, giving improbable explanations and imaginative connections.

What happened in Lyon has already been extensively covered. Yassine Salhi is a young second generation immigrant living in the Saint-Priest district in the south of Lyon. He is 35 years old and has a family that lives with him. He has an unimportant job and a basic education. He attends a mosque that is already considered a place of extremism, despite the surveillance of the French secret services, nothing suggested that Yassine was a professional of terror.

The dynamics of the attack on the Saint-Quentin-Fallavier gas plant are rudimentary, not used to claiming victims. The beheading and consequent impalement of his employer look like an identical copy of a video released on the internet by IS. The probable selfie with the severed head would be the icing on the cake, a gem that no one had dedicated to us yet.

The goal is low-key and the attack is carried out with elementary techniques that seem to have been copied from a Hollywood action film. Nothing suggests military preparation and it is clear that the attack lacks planning and structure. The conviction of being able to explode cylinders of common gas by hitting them with the car is acceptable but it is quite unusual. The fulcrum of the attack would have been a victim of fate, the only thing a terrorist cannot afford to do is just rely on chance.

In Leego, the story before us is another matter.

Somalia lives with war since time immemorial, even infants know how to use an Ak-47 without getting hurt.

Being able to plan a satisfactory attack is a social issue of an almost inadmissible relevance.

As a result, the fate of the planned actions does not only decide the life of the unsuspecting victims but also that of the family of the attacker.

And it is precisely on the families that the Jolly is aimed.

The subjects chosen for the macabre ritual are promised a net improvement in the standard of living of the family. In a country like Somalia where life has a totally random value, improving one's social status can make the difference between life and death. No matter how this status is achieved, not even the Somalis want to die poor.

Thus, circuits and indoctrinations are recruited subjects that very young with military record in violent organizations. At 25 years, in Mogadishu, you're the equivalent of a decorated veteran.

Terrorism is not just an ideological question but it is also and above all a social question. In Somalia, terrorism ceases to be a choice when it becomes necessary to survive.

For all these reasons the attacks in the land of Shaababs are studied and planned through a strategic direction of the radical Islamic group. The objectives are not chosen among the simplest but between those that have a significant ideological or symbolic meaning, better if it can bring a great media impact.

The attacks are not just violence for its own sake, but are a showcase for the funding to be given to the various groups of which a terrorist organization is composed. They can be a way to show their importance and influence to the supporters of the various cells, as happened in Somalia in recent years.

The attack on the Westgate shopping center in Nairobi in September 2013 and the one on the campus in Garissa counted an exorbitant number of deaths and a total cost of almost zero.

In both cases the planning and the commandos were the strong point of the action, the victims of the action were children and families in the first case and young students in the second.

These two events immediately dampened the flow of tourism towards the Kenyan capital and created a climate of general insecurity that - in a minor way - still lasts today.

Besides showing the chasm as far as human beings can push these two events have had the dual purpose of highlighting the high military level reached by Al-Shaabab (for the lenders) and the strong vein of extremism that characterizes them.

In the case of Westgate, an armed commando of 10 men with a covered face broke into several stores in the shopping center by shooting at visitors.

The offensive began at 12 hours and a couple of hours later the second part of the action against the policemen attempting to break in took place.

The barricade lasted just over a day and the total victims were 68 with a number of wounded ranging between 150 and 200.

The complexity of entrenching in a place as big as a shopping center is evident even to those who are not very experienced in the military sector, the variables are many. However, the return of image that this act has brought with it is priceless for the Somali cell.

Speaking of "benefits" with 68 confirmed deaths is aberrant but real, the reasoning put in place by terrorists is just that.

In Garissa the method used is more complex and standardized.

A car bomb or a Human-IED enter a heavily frequented building or high-density places by exploding to create a first wave of chaos and victims.

Once the daily routine is broken with the first explosion, the apprehended and well-armed militiamen enter the building or the affected area and open fire.

A simple technique but still very effective that respects the terms of economy and efficiency typical of terrorist groups.

This technique was also used last Friday at the AMISOM base at Leego 130km south of Mogadishu.

A car bomb loaded with explosives was sent at insane speed against the base of the peacekeeping troops of the African Union, immediately after the explosion there was a firefight that lasted - reports the Reuters agency - over three hours.

The confirmed dead are more than 50 and almost all soldiers from neighboring Burundi, but the budget is bound to rise.

In spite of what has been said in these last hours it seems to me unlikely to juxtapose the facts of Lyon with the Somali ones, the reasons are different.

First of all, the methods used for the operations are diametrically opposed, on the one hand imprecision and on the other a lethal coldness.

Secondly and not less important are the reasons that led to the two attacks.

In Somalia, the reasons behind Friday's violence are much more relevant to regional issues involving Al-Shaabab's loss of power and influence.

In fact, about a decade ago, the Islamic militias had won the trust of its supporters, promising greater economic and social security after the violence of the warlords who had tormented the country for half a century.

The militias have begun to establish a rather severe form of sharia behind the popular wall of support, which is not readily viewed by Muslim Somalis, largely Sunni, close to the more moderate Sufi doctrine.

Living under the repression of a group that from the 2009 has forbidden every individual liberty, has removed the population from the militant group that if it does not want to see further diminish its consent would do well to review its political-religious decisions.

The Wahhabi approach has raised many discontent among the more urbanized areas that would be willing to accept only certain limitations in exchange for the "peace" guaranteed by Shaababs.

But can we really talk about peace and stability in Somalia?

Despite the clear evidence in decades of abuse, the Somalis seem to give in to the flattery of those who promise huge benefits with little sacrifice.

Umar - the current leader of the terrorist militias - is supposed to be willing to grant the opening of new humanitarian corridors in the areas controlled by his men, recovering that glorious image faded over the years.

In a context like this the attacks on AMISON would be a perfect showcase to show how the terrorist group is able to hit even very important goals, thus laying the foundations for its new regional leadership.

An important role could have also the alleged approach of Al-Shaabab to the Al-Baghadadi Islamic Caliphate which represents a great example of extremist virtuosity.

The goal of Friday makes us lean towards a regional type and not so much "internationalist".

Considering France and Somalia two distinct and unrelated events we can concentrate on the true reasons for such events.

In the French case the emulation of the caliphate and in the Somali case - at least for this time - regional issues related to the control of the territory.

In Somalia, there is already a regular government and a United Nations mission which, with major investments in the country, has already significantly reduced the influence of the terrorist group. However, the marginal importance given to countries like this does not bode well for the future.

Greater investment and a stable and lasting political commitment by European countries would be needed, above all Italy, which has always had a privileged dialogue with Somalia.

The increasingly trans-regional evolution of Al-Shaabab and its new goal of reinventing itself as a meteor of the caliphate cannot but cause concern, but Somalia is 150 hours and 9.000km from Rome. So it seems that we can afford not to hear and not to see?

(in the picture the chief of staff of AMISOM visits a wounded soldier in the attack)