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East African States see rising threat from Militant Group al-Shabab

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers

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Maleeshiyada Al-shabaab. Image source: VOA
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Once a threat primarily in Somalia, the militant group al-Shabab has grown and expanded its aspirations, operations, and aims, and is preparing to wage a long war in East Africa, according to analysts and experts on the region.

East Africa’s Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), which works for peace, prosperity and regional integration among its eight member states, declared this week that al-Shabab is now a “transnational” organization projecting threats of extremist violence far beyond Somalia.

“Even if al-Shabab were to be defeated tomorrow I think it has inspired a generation of jihadists from across the region, from different countries, who are likely to continue,” says Matt Bryden, a director and senior analyst for the Sahan Foundation, which conducted IGAD’s regional study on al-Shabab.

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“Al-Shabab is clearly no longer an exclusively Somali problem, and requires a concerted international response,” the IGAD report said, noting that al-Shabab is active is six countries of the region – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, and Tanzania.

Bryden traces the roots of al-Shabab back to 2009 when the group was a purely Somali organization but was also attracting many foreign adherents, in particular, Swahili speakers.

Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Matt Bryden. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“In East Africa, among Swahili-speaking populations, this goes beyond al-Shabab as a Somali organization sending agents to operate in neighboring countries,” says Bryden. “Al-Shabab’s propaganda is now heavily populated with radio, video, and articles in Kiswahili. It’s clearly targeting recruits in East Africa.”

Abdirahman Sahal, director of a Mogadishu-based center on extremism, agrees with Bryden that al-Shabab laid the foundation for this regional struggle a long time ago. But he says what helped most is that the organization controlled territory in Somalia where it was able to attract foreign fighters, prepare them and send them back to their countries of origin.

“They rule land, they collect tax, they have roots. Therefore they are in a position to invite others [and] open institutions to train them,” he said.

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Al-Shabab has staged attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Djibouti and made at least two attempts to strike inside Ethiopia. And the IGAD report emphasizes that the scope of the threat the group poses throughout East Africa has only increased.

Sahal says al-Shabab’s operational capabilities are a key factor. “They only need one or two people to attack a key place, to blow themselves up,” he noted.

If the threat from al-Shabab is to be countered, Sahal said, regional countries have to attack the group’s bases inside Somalia, where plots are orchestrated.

“Seizing their bases disrupts their administration and sources of revenue. They will be busy as fugitives, hiding, and cannot execute all the plots inside and outside the country,” he said.

“But as long as they have space where they can drive their cars, live normally and administer their organizational functions, it will be easy for them to attack.”

IGAD came to the same conclusion, that it needs to counter al-Shabab both inside and outside Somalia. But whether the countries of the region can exert more pressure on al-Shabab inside Somalia, by cooperating at a level they have not achieved during the past nine years, remains to be seen.

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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    The Al-Shabab militant group is now no longer a small terror organisation operating from Somalia. It has also fixed its roots in neighbouring countries like Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and other such East-African states. If it is not kept under check it would become the new ISIS.

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Surgical Infections More Common in Low-Income Countries, Study Finds

Overall, about one in 10 patients developed a surgical site infection. But in low-income countries, that rate rose to nearly one in four

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Infections at the site of surgery are the most common complications after operations.
Infections at the site of surgery are the most common complications after operations. Wikimedia Commons
  • Infections at the site of surgery are the most common complications after operations
  • Overall, about one in 10 patients developed a surgical site infection. But in low-income countries, that rate rose to nearly one in four
  • More than 1,500 health care providers took part in the research

Surgeries in low-income countries had higher rates of infections than those in higher-income countries, according to a new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The authors said their report provided a starting point for making surgery safer.

Infections at the site of surgery are the most common complications after operations. These infections raise the cost of procedures that are already expensive. And they often make recovery longer and more painful.

Also Read: Tips That Will Help In Recovery From Surgery

The study looked at more than 12,000 gastrointestinal surgeries at 343 hospitals in 66 countries.

Marked difference

Overall, about one in 10 patients developed a surgical site infection. But in low-income countries, that rate rose to nearly one in four.

The study noted that hospitals in low-income countries gave patients more antibiotics than elsewhere, both before and after surgery. Wikimedia Commons
The study noted that hospitals in low-income countries gave patients more antibiotics than elsewhere, both before and after surgery. Wikimedia Commons

That’s after taking into account factors such as the patient’s health, the type of surgery and the condition being treated.

Other elements that could have been behind the difference included the kinds of facilities available in low-income countries, or how long it took to get patients to a hospital, said study co-author Ewen Harrison at the University of Edinburgh.

“If you’re in rural sub-Saharan Africa and you’re run over by a car, it may be a number of days before you can get to a hospital,” he said. “During that time, the infection can get into wounds.”

Drug resistance

Another component could have been the availability of effective antibiotics, Harrison said.

Antibiotics were nearly always given before surgery to prevent infection. But overall, about one in five surgical site infections were resistant to these antibiotics. The rate was higher in low-income countries — one in three — but the authors cautioned that they did not have enough data to draw firm conclusions.

Also Read: Study: Partial Dose of Yellow Fever Vaccine Provides Protection

Resistance generally develops faster the more antibiotics are used. The study noted that hospitals in low-income countries gave patients more antibiotics than elsewhere, both before and after surgery.

“That may be completely appropriate if the patients are needing the antibiotics,” Harrison said. “But that may also be an area where the unnecessary use of antibiotics could be reduced in order to reduce drug resistance.”

Antibiotics were nearly always given before surgery to prevent infection. Wikimedia Commons
Antibiotics were nearly always given before surgery to prevent infection. Wikimedia Commons

The authors’ next plan is to test different skin-cleaning techniques, antibiotic-impregnated stitches, and other simple, low-cost methods to reduce surgical site infections in low-income countries.

More than 1,500 health care providers took part in the research. Harrison said the study organizers “crowdsourced” their participants, using social media to recruit young surgeons-in-training around the world.

“They are really the driving force behind the change that we hope to happen,” he said.