Somali traders close businesses following increased extortion from ISIS militants
Traders at Bakara market, Somalia’s largest open air market, have been forced to suspend their business operations owing to increased extortion by ISIS militants.
According to reports, the militants have for the past five years used informers to target construction businesses on Bakara market’s second street.
Businessmen in the area claim that the ISIS associates ask for as much as $500 (over Ksh.50, 000) per month in ‘protection fees’.
The traders are now finding it difficult to pay the fees to the ISIS operatives on top of the legal tax they remit to the federal government and local authorities.
Those who fail to pay the fee however end up dead or see their businesses bombed by the ISIS operatives. On Monday, for instance, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off at one of the largest shops in the market.
“The closure of Bakara market is an indicator of how deep the terror group’s grip is on our financial centres,” Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a trader, told the Nation newspaper.
“Instead of protecting our taxpaying citizens, considerable security forces were deployed in Beledweeyne to dismantle Hirshabelle state and rig elections.”
The rising cases of extortion, local authorities say, could eventually lead to a territorial dispute between ISIS and Al-Shabaab operatives in the area.
Persons allied to Al-Shabaab have in the past brutally murdered ISIS associates encroaching on their territories.
“Now, it looks like the businesses are protesting by closing shops to show, especially Al-Shabaab, that they have competition,” a Mogadishu resident said.
According to Somalia’s Ministry of Interior, Mogadishu has cancelled the deployment of special forces to Beledweyne Somalia and ordered them to go to Bakara market in an effort to contain the situation.