The self-proclaimed Somali government seems quite happy tonight with the reported merger of al-Shabaab with Hizbul-e Islam, the two major militant factions in the country, claiming it “will be easier for the government to fight one group instead of fighting two.”
The problem with this assumption, of course, is that the two sides had been fighting one another at least as much as they had been fighting the virtually irrelevant “government” faction, which controls only a tiny portion of Mogadishu, and even that only by virtue of thousands of international troops propping them up.
Rather, many analysts believe that the merger will mean an increase in focus on attacks against this tiny enclave and the African Union troops which are keeping it from being totally driven out of the country.
The “merger” came in the wake of several successful al-Shabaab offensives against Hizbul targets, and is seen by some as a formal victory of the group over its rival more than a true merger of equals. The al-Shabaab faction came to prominence after the US-backed 2006 Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, which aimed at installing the “government” in power after it was booted from its Kenyan hotel for non-payment.