The Somali Government Just Lost Dozens of Bulletproof SUVs
by KEVIN KNODELL
The Somali federal government has lost track of 42 bulletproof SUVs. The United Arab Emirates donated the durable transports to protect Somali officials from Al Shabab insurgents while conducting business around the country.
According to Somali news outlet Garowe Online, Somali security officials aren’t happy. They’re worried that the missing vehicles could fall into the hands of insurgents — the same ones the armored vehicles were supposed to protect against.
The armored vehicles are a necessity for officials moving around the country. On Feb. 20, two Al Shabab suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Central Hotel in Mogadishu, killing 25 people and wounding Mohamed Omar Arte, the country’s deputy prime minister.
An armored Toyota Land Cruiser sat outside the hotel when one of the suicide bombers detonated himself at the entrance.
The explosion destroyed the vehicle, but its structure withstood the brunt of the explosion. Photographs taken after the bombing depicted the vehicle with its bumper and bulletproof windshield blown off. But the side windows were — remarkably — still intact.
These vehicles aren’t invincible. Powerful bullets such as .50-caliber rounds would do extreme damage, and even the most well built wouldn’t withstand a direct hit from explosive munitions. Think of them more as insurance policies that make you more likely to survive an attack.
But the same reasons they’re useful for VIPs makes them useful for insurgents. If Al Shabab did get their hands on them — and we don’t know if they did — they’d have a high level of protection.
The terror group doesn’t usually launch full scale assaults against well-equipped forces. But these vehicles could help them during ambushes … making the militants much harder to kill as they make their getaways.
Bulletproof cars like these are popular in war zones around the world. Several companies specialize in taking apart conventional cars or trucks and reinforcing them with protective plating.
The vehicles typically sport bulletproof glass windows. The armor includes a mix of steel and light-weight — but durable — polyethylene materials.
The quality and level of protection varies. Basic models can protect against low-caliber pistol rounds — while more thorough upgrades with stronger material can protect against some armor piercing rounds.
It all depends on the size of the vehicle and how much money the buyer wants to spend.
There’s a wide range of users for these custom vehicles. Contractors for the Pentagon and State Department in Iraq used the vehicles to ferry around government officials — and protect them from insurgents.
Wealthy businessmen in developing countries also invest in bulletproof cars and SUVs to protect themselves from bandits and kidnappers. In recent years, they’ve seen a spike in popularity among businessmen working in Mexico.
These vehicles draw far less attention than bulky military-style armored cars. Though they offer less protection, at first glance they appear to be normal cars … not necessarily a top priority for insurgents or terrorists. That makes them ideal for VIP protection.
To be fair, if the insurgents did get the cars, they might not fundamentally change the conflict.
The extra armor can make the vehicles a challenge to operate, and the added weight makes them slower and harder to maneuver. Drivers often need special training or a lot of practice with the vehicles.
But Somalia is currently more stable than it’s been in decades. It has a mostly functioning government for the first time since 1991. Countries are beginning to reinvest in the country and reopen their embassies.
African Union troops have played a big role in the new and relative stability. They’ve aggressively hounded the Al Shabab insurgents. But even as the A.U. closed in on the terror group’s “last stronghold” in October 2014, it was clear that it wouldn’t be the last we’d see of the terror group.
Their recent attacks in Kenya show that they’re as violent and unpredictable as ever. If the Somali government wants to maintain its tenuous hold on power, it should probably make an effort to not lose its bulletproof vehicles.