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Wednesday, Jan 16th

Somalia’s al Shabaab threatens to cut internet connectivity

Somalia’s al Shabaab threatens to cut internet connectivity.

Somalia based militant group al Shabaab has given telecom companies in that country 15 days to terminate internet connectivity or face untold “consequences”.

In a statement, the group said: "The mujahidin has ordered all telecommunication companies supplying the internet connectivity to stop it with immediate effect."

The message was posted on a Facebook page owned and operated by the militant group, according to Dalsan Radio in Mogadishu.

The Somalia based group -- which is said to have links to al Qaeda -- rose to infamous notoriety in 2013 for organising and carrying out a terror attack at Nairobi’s upmarket Westgate shopping mall. The attack stunned the world and left dozens dead.

The al Shabaab group is fighting a battle against African Union (AU) forces - including a Kenyan military installment - for control of Somalia.

And the militant group’s threat to shut down internet connectivity in Somalia should be taken seriously, explained East Africa analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media Danson Njue.

Njue told ITWeb Africa that such a ban could most likely affect areas in Somalia that are mainly controlled by the militant group.

“In those areas al Shabaab controls everything especially business,” Njue told ITWeb Africa.

Njue also said the main reason al Shabaab wants to place a ban on web services in the country is to curb all forms of spying on their operations.

“I think that they feel that there are civilians that are giving information to the federal government as well as anti-militant groups using social media,” he explained.

He added, “They want to curb spying and want no information regarding their operations leaving the country.”

Somalia’s most connected parts of the country, though, fall under federal government rule.

But any action to curb telecommunications operations in the country could be a drawback for the otherwise growing sector.

Somalia’s telecom industry is highly active despite a lack of regulations owing to years of civil war.

Experts have forecast mobile subscription rates to reach 6.5 million by 2015 in Somalia.

Other challenges, apart from al Shabaab’s threats, are clouding Somalia’s telecoms sector though.

Research firm BuddeComm says, “The threat of piracy in Somalia’s waters has so far prevented the country from gaining access to international submarine fibre optic cables, which means that it has to rely on satellites for its international connections.”

However, last year Liquid Telecom announced that it would connect the war-torn country by building the first optic link into Somalia.

Additional reporting by Simnikiwe Mzekandaba.

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