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The Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM) continues to suffer setbacks in its psychological warfare operations. The group no-longer poses any serious threat from a PsyWar perspective, reports David Goldman, A Senior CT and Intelligence Analyst at Strategic Intelligence Service SIS.

The terror group is no longer able to wage let alone sustain psychological warfare. Its virtual guns are now silent. Al-Shabaab used to propagate misinformation through 126 Twitter accounts. These virtual operations were often very successful. The propaganda was distributed through social media by these accounts. Local and International Media, bloggers, and public used to consume the misinformation besides amplifying it through re-publishing and re-distributing the content on these high dimension communication networks (amplification of psychological warfare).

The terror group supporters/sympathizers using social media had went steps further to create over 368 Twitter accounts (between the period of 2011 and 2016). 98% of these accounts were social engineered by Cyber Warfare Operatives and subsequently destroyed.

Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM) had also invested in 13 news websites. These websites were used to publish and distributed misinformation online. These platforms were often referenced as credible sources of information yet they were terrorist’s propaganda distribution channels. These websites have either been rendered useless through Cyber Warfare. The websites are often offline and inaccessible. This has helped reduce the amount of propaganda the terror group channels online.

This steady decline of the groups PsyOps capability is a great milestone in counter terrorism efforts in East Africa. The success has direct impact on CT Operations and Military intervention programs in Somalia. There’s more positive information about the progress Somalia as a country is making and how African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is succeeding in pacifying the war-torn East African Nation. Troops fighting in Somalia are motivated by these positive stories while on the other hand, the terrorists are suffering setbacks including demoralized fighters, rejection by clans and civilians, defections, and decline of its ability to attract youths.

These kinetic cyber operations must be sustained to ensure the gains made aren’t eroded. Its equivalent of holding territory. The terror groups remains a serious threat to the region. If not fought from all fronts, it can resurge and impose itself as a political outfit in Somalia whose ideologies can only escalate terrorism and violation of human rights.