Traders avoid key Mogadishu market as ISIS imposes 'tax' - Breaking Kenya News


Traders avoid key Mogadishu market as ISIS imposes 'tax'


Traders at Mogadishu’s largest open-air market have closed their shops since Wednesday to avoid being punished for refusing to pay a “tax” imposed by ISIS militants.

Shops, especially those dealing with construction materials and other hardware, have been shut after calls started coming in from anonymous people asking for the tax to be paid to ISIS, the proscribed global terrorist group that has a cell in Somalia.

The Bakara market, Somalia’s largest open-air market, has been unusually quiet, especially on Second Street, where most hardware shops are located.

The market is a popular shopping centre for Somalis looking for daily essentials as well as imported goods. It opened in 1975, during deposed president Siad Barre’s days.

But for the last five years or so, Al-Shabaab militants said to be using informers have targeted shops, asking for as much as $500 per month in ‘protection’ fees, some shop owners say. The new threat could be a first by ISIS-linked operatives and could mean more extortion fees for traders.

Legal taxes

And because there are legal taxes the traders pay to the federal government and local authorities, the business owners are under great strain. On Thursday, one trader told the Nation they had closed shop to protest the exorbitant fees and to ask the federal government for protection.

The federal government has not commented on the matter publicly, but the closing of the market has become subject of political discussions in Mogadishu.

The Coalition of the Presidential Candidates (CPC), the grouping of opposition politicians led by former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, criticised President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo for sending elite forces to Beledweeyne town in Hirshabelle state ostensibly to offer protection to the state president, while the market was exposed to thugs.

They said the president was misusing the Turkish-trained GorGor and Haram'ad forces to destabilise the district ahead of planned elections so as to advantage Farmaajo’s supporters.

The CPC also said that sending forces from Mogadishu to Beledweyne is unjustifiable as businesses in the Bakara market are closed due to the ISIS threat.

Shabaab terrorists

Shabaab terrorists have previously targeted traders, including showing them copies of import manifests, signalling that their informers have infiltrated most government agencies, including the customs.

Those who refuse to pay are often killed or their shops bombed. On January 24, for example, an improvised explosive device went off at the door of one of the biggest shops in Bakara.

“The closure of Bakara market today (Wednesday) is an indicator of how deep is the terror groups’ grip on our financial centres,” said Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Farmaajo’s predecessor and a member of the CPC.

“Instead of protecting our taxpaying citizens, considerable security forces were deployed in Beledweeyne to dismantle Hirshabelle state and rig elections.”

The threat from ISIS operatives could also indicate rivalry between them and Al-Shabaab factions not allied to it. In the past, whenever ISIS militants tried to interfere with businesses that already pay money to Al-Shabaab, the latter would track them down and kill them.

“Now, it looks like the businesses are protesting by closing shops to show, especially Al-Shabaab, that they have competition,” said a Mogadishu resident.     BY DAILY NATION   

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