Al-Shabaab Insurgency In The East And The Horn Of Africa


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Overview

Somali jihadist group, al-Shabaab, has become synonymous with terror throughout the Horn and Eastern Africa since it splintered from its original group, the United Islamic Courts (UIC), in 2007. While part of the UIC, al-Shabaab operated as the armed wing of the group. For the intelligence community and Somalia’s neighbouring countries, al-Shabaab became an imminent threat when they successfully expelled Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG), with the support of the UIC, from Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia and the seat of government, in 2006. By 2006, most of the districts in Somalia were controlled by different warlords who were only interested in maximising their revenue by taxing business and ordinary citizens alike. Moreover, both the UIC and warlords held more power than the TFG as the Somali government was unable to extend its power from Mogadishu and the majority of the MPs and Cabinet members lived and worked from Nairobi.

Al-Shabaab became an independent group in 2007 following the crushing defeat in the hands of the Ethiopian military, supported by the United States (US). Ethiopia invaded after al-Shabaab and UIC pushed the Somali government out of Mogadishu in November 2006. All the founders of Al-Shabaab – Sheikh Mukhtar Aby Zubayr, commonly referred to as Godane, Ibrahim Haji Jamaa al-Afghani, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and Aden Hashi Aryo – agreed to move the group’s operations to the southern port city of Kismayo in Somalia. Al-Shabaab transformed themselves as a jihadist and nationalist group that sought to create an Islamic Caliphate in all traditional Somali land which includes the Ogaden region in Ethiopia, Northeastern Kenya and Djibouti, as well as Somaliland and Puntland regions in Somalia. The group tapped into the anti-Ethiopian sentiment that was increasingly rising with the presence of Ethiopian troops in Somalia following their invasion. Many Somali people see Ethiopia as a colonial power who still control historically Somali land. The presence of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops in Mogadishu from February 2007 fed into the anti-foreigner sentiments which al-Shabaab exploited to get recruits.  

Over the past thirteen years (2007 to present), al-Shabaab has grown into a fully-fledged insurgency with the ability to conduct attacks inside and outside Somalia with thousands of innocent civilians killed. Within Somalia, the militants have sustained assaults on government forces and their allies, i.e. AMISOM, US and EU troops. Though the government is their predominant target, the extremist group has attacked government and military/posts that are frequented by civilians. Additionally, the group tends to attack popular restaurants in a quest to get international media attention. By 2009, the extremist group controlled more than 80 per cent of the country, with many clans and sub-clans choosing to be under the governance of the group rather than the government. Though al-Shabaab has maintained its terror campaign in Somalia, the group has lost the majority of the territory it used to control as a result of military campaigns by the Somali National Army (SNA) and AMISOM. Outside the country, al-Shabaab has conducted attacks in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, all Troop Contributing Countries (TCC) of AMISOM.

The threat of al-Shabaab to Somalia has quickly been anticipated by neighbouring countries and the African Union (AU). To prevent al-Shabaab’s influence and military dominance over Somalia, by February 2007, the AU and the United Nations (UN) approved for a peacekeeping mission to Somalia dubbed the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Over the past 13 years, AMISOM has supported the Somali National Army (SNA) in their fight against al-Shabaab, Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) and other extremist forces while building their capacity so that they can take over the security responsibilities in Somalia. In doing so, AMISOM has successfully reduced the territorial gains of al-Shabaab; most of the major cities and towns in Somalia like Mogadishu, Kismayo, Baraawe, Baidoa and Marka are under the control of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). 

Facts

Key Actors

Where: Somalia

Active base: Southern and Central Somalia (Lower Shabelle, Jubaland and Gedo regions)

Founded: 2006 officially became an independent group; 2000 formed as part of United Islamic Courts (UIC)

Goal: Overthrow the Somali government and install a radical Islamist government ruled under a strict interpretation of the Quran, and to create a “Greater Somalia” region which unites the Somali people divided into four countries

Target: al-Shabaab’s main target is Somali government and military, as well as their allies, i.e. AMISOM, the US, EU and Turkey

Finances: Over the years, al-Shabaab has had many streams of income including extortion, manning checkpoints, selling charcoal and other illicit contrabands, donations from wealthy families in the Gulf countries

Fighters: 4000 – 9000 fighters, including 1500 foreign fighters. Due to travel restrictions to Somalia, the militant group relies on the kidnapping of children and youths for reinforcement.

Number of attacks: 10 811 attacks (January 2010 and January 2020), 1 752 attacks specifically targeted civilians 

People killed: 29 593 fatalities (January 2010 and January 2020), 3 650 deaths are civilians

Current situation:  Despite having lost most of its support base and territory, al-Shabaab continues to attack government and military posts regularly. In 2020, al-Shabaab have attacked a U.S. military base in Kenya dubbed Simba camp, killing 3 Americans.

Al-Shabaab, officially know as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, which loosely translates as the Youth Movement, is an extremist group operating in Somalia but with the capability to conduct attacks in the region. They aim to 1) overthrow the Somali government and install a radical Islamist government ruled under a strict interpretation of the Quran and 2) the creation of the “Greater Somalia” which is unifying the Somali people divided into four countries.

As al-Shabaab losses territory throughout Southern Somalia due to SNA and AMISOM military campaigns, an increased number of airstrikes has resulted in a number of defections of al-Shabaab militants to government forces. The growing schism within the group about the shedding of Muslim blood in attacks has also contributed to the increased defections. Some of the footsoldiers have defected to the Islamic State in Somalia rather than to the government.

The Somali National Army (SNA) is tasked with degrading the threat of al-Shabaab, with the support of the international community. By the time al-Shabaab became a significant threat, the SNA was in bad shape. The national army could not fight for an extended period. In the early stages, the soldiers would defect to al-Shabaab as they believed that they would be safer with the militant group than with the government. The lack of payment of salaries also led to many defections to al-Shabaab. Moreover, the soldiers would frequently sell their weapons or military weapon stock to al-Shabaab to supplement the lack of salaries.

Following a push from the international community to ensure that the SNA became an efficient military, countries such as Turkey, the United States, and the United Kingdom (UK), as well as AMISOM and European Union (EU), began training soldiers. The professionalisation of the Somali military has led to organised successful military operations that liberated major cities and towns from al-Shabaab. Additionally, the payment of salaries to the soldiers has resulted in fewer defections to al-Shabaab and fewer thefts of military weaponry. 

The Somali Police Force (SPF) and the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) are tasked with the apprehension of suspected al-Shabaab members and leadership. The fruits of their efforts can only be seen in the last five years. Without a proper judiciary system, it has been almost impossible for the SPF and NISA to do their work. Most of the time, suspected al-Shabaab members would be killed by the police, preventing the use of the judiciary. However, over the last five years, the PSF has successfully conducted raids, arresting key al-Shabaab leaders and other foot soldiers. Depending on their level of participation in the extremist group, individuals found guilty have been given varying prison sentences or sentenced to death by firing squad. In addition to arresting suspected al-Shabaab members, they have uncovered al-Shabaab safe houses where they store weapons and ammunition. 

Their success has also increased the number of close-quarter assassination attempts of SPF and NISA by al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Somalia (ISS), but on a smaller scale. 

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is the main international actor in Somalia that is actively fighting alongside the Somali National Army (SNA) to combat al-Shabaab and other extremist groups. The peacekeeping force is approved by both the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the African Union (AU). Between 2007 and 2011, AMISOM’s original mandate limited the peacekeepers’ ability to fight al-Shabaab who was gaining momentum in Somalia. It was not until al-Shabaab demonstrated its ability to conduct a coordinated attack in Uganda, one of the Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs), on 10 July 2011, that the AMISOM mandate changed to allow the troops to conduct military offensives, and build the capacity to the SNA.  Between July 2011 and February 2020, AMISOM and SNA have liberated major cities such as Mogadishu, Kismayo, Marka and Barawe. AMISOM has also begun handing over security responsibilities to the SNA such as manning Forward Operating Bases (FOBs).

AMISOM’s thirteen-year mission is not without scandals. Since most of the soldiers had never fought against an opponent such as al-Shabaab and could not tell the difference between members of the group and ordinary civilians, the troops would indiscriminately fire on civilians, killing hundreds. Also, the soldiers were accused of human rights abuses, including rape and sexual assault, by Human Rights Watch (HRW). The mandatory human rights workshops that all troops undertake has lessened the number of incidents that take place.  Many scholars and analysts have questioned the unity of the Troop Contributing Countries (TCCs) within AMISOM. Before the troops were deployed, the TCCs had impending grievances that needed to be addressed. As a result, many question whether Kenya and Ethiopia are pursuing their national interest or the AMISOM mandate. Anti-Ethiopia and Kenya sentiment galvanises al-Shabaab members and sympathisers. Regardless of the Somali sentiment, both countries will remain part of the AMISOM due to the increased threat from al-Shabaab and its ability to conduct cross border attacks in the region.

Note: AMISOM troop-contributing countries are Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. Other African nations contribute to the AMISOM police force.  

The United States’ primary involvement has been to assist with the counterterrorism efforts against extremist groups, i.e. al-Shabaab and Islamic State in Somalia. The counterterrorism efforts, conducted by United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), are part of the broader strategy of decapitation. Decapitation is the killing and/or arresting of leaders and high-ranking officials with the assumption that without such individuals, the group will not operate effectively, therefore, causing its demise. In a recent interview in May 2019, AFRICOM stated that their counterterrorism efforts are geared towards lessening the strength of al-Shabaab to force the extremist group into a political settlement. The election of Donald Trump resulted in an increase of AFRICOM airstrikes on Somalia, killing top leadership, and foot soldiers.  

In July 2014,  the US announced that they will begin to train Somali troops. The announcement led to an increase in the number of military advisors currently stationed in Somalia. The US-trained troops, Danab which means lightning in Somali, was created to be a mixed-clan unit, an answer to the clannism within the SNA. According to General Elmi, the Danab forces are trained to fight guerrilla warfare and conduct modern military operations. 

The European Union Mission in Somalia is a major partner of the Somali government. They support the federal government in a matter such as political change, improving security, development assistance and humanitarian aid. Through Operation ATALANTA, they support the Somali National Navy in patrolling the seas to reduce piracy.  Additionally, since 2011, the EU Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM – Somalia)  has played a crucial role in building the capacity of the Somali National Army (SNA) by conducting trainings that ensure they are combat-ready. As a result of their effectiveness, facilitator contributing countries (FCC) have been targeted by al-Shabaab, though not as frequent. 

Following then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Somalia in August 2011, Turkey’s bilateral relationship has significantly increased. In terms of the fight against al-Shabaab, Turkey has been training Somali National Army (SNA) troops both in Somalia and Turkey. In September 2017, TurkSom military base and defence university was opened in Mogadishu. TurkSom has trained at least 10,000 SNA troops in 2 and a half years.  In fact, Turkish trained troops are seen as the second best trained and effective soldiers, after the US-trained-Danab soldiers. 

Timeline

The African Mission in Somalia is a peacebuilding mission approved and sanctioned by the African Union and United Nations. Following the approval in February 2007, Uganda and Burundi had deployed troops to support the Somali Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) efforts to stabilise the country.

The United States State Department designates groups such as al-Shabaab into its Foreign Terrorist Organisation list, as part of section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The United States was one of the first international actors that classified al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation. The predecessors of al-Shabaab, al-Ittihad al-Islamiyah and United Islamic Courts, were both designated as terrorist groups.

The twin bombings in Puntland and Somaliland used six suicide bombers who drove explosives-laden vehicles into high targets. In Somaliland, they targeted the presidential palace, the Ethiopian consulate and the UNDP offices while in Puntland they targeted the Intelligence Service building.

Following the reports of Ayro’s death, many analysts began stating that the slain al-Shabaab leader Godane was the new leader. The new book, Inside al-Shabaab by Harun Maruf, claims that the CIA made a mistake thinking that Ayro was the leader of al-Shabaab. From the beginning, Godane was the Emir, or leader, of the extremist group.

Between 2007 and 2011, al-Shabaab take advantage of the weak Somali government and its security agencies, as well as the ill-equipped AMISOM, and began the process of solidifying its insurgency in Somalia by capturing territory. Kismayo was an essential gain for al-Shabaab since they were able to fully control a key port city where they could export illicit goods such as charcoal, as well as gain income by taxing locals from using the port. The fight for Kismayo was relatively easy for al-Shabaab since they were fighting pro-government clan militias who were inexperienced. The person who led the pro-government militia, Ahmed “Madobe” is the current regional president of Jubbaland.

A suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden vehicle into the gate of the popular Medina hotel. The devastating attack killed the Somali Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden, the former Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union Abdikarim Farah and several Somali diplomats.

The “World Cup” bombing in Kampala, Uganda was al-Shabaab’s first major attack outside Somalia which sent shock waves throughout the region. The explosion came just two days after the al-Shabaab leader, Godane, issued a fatwa, declaring jihad against all Troop Contributing Countries. Previous to this, al-Shabaab had conducted small cross border attack to Ethiopia and Kenya.

Note: At this point, Troop Contributing Countries were Uganda and Burundi.

The “World Cup” bombing in Kampala, Uganda is a critical turning point to the fight against al-Shabaab. The ability to conduct a devastating attack outside Somalia demonstrated the military capability of the group, which until then was underestimated. The shock of the attack led to an emergency meeting with AMISOM Troop Contributing Countries and the UN, which resulted in the change of mandate. The mandate called for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency efforts to lessen the threat of al-Shabaab. Therefore, the AMISOM mandate became more militarily driven rather than utilising the three components of the mission, military, civilian and police. Previously, AMISOM’s mandate was limited to defensive work, i.e. the protection of Somali government officials and key installations such as ports and federal buildings. With the new mandate and the general fear of the threat of al-Shabaab, AMISOM troop increased by 12 000 forces within a couple of months.

The Battle of Mogadishu took place in two major pushes. The first started in August 2010, where AMISOM and Somali forces tried to regain control of the districts within the capital city under al-Shabaab control. The joint military operation was unable to recover any of the nine districts that the extremist group controlled. The government and pro-government militias controlled eight districts by 2010. The final battle for Mogadishu to “liberate” the city from al-Shabaab began in May 2011 following the increased troop strength of AMISOM. Though the joint AMISOM and Somali National Army did not “liberate” all the districts, a final push led to the Somali government controlling 13 out of the 16 districts. Months later, al-Shabaab fighters retreated from the remaining three districts.

UN reports that al-Shabaab militants have blocked relief workers form assisting millions affected by conflict, drought and famine. Al-Shabaab banned food and medicine from reaching drought-affected areas. Al-Shabaab decision to block aid worsened the drought which killed tens of thousands. In addition to blocking aid, al-Shabaab militants raided aid agencies offices in southern Somalia.

The October 2011 al-Shabaab bombing in Mogadishu is one of their most devastating attacks. The suicide bomber denoted bombs at a checkpoint leading to the Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) Ministerial complex. This was a catastrophic attack since it killed mostly students who were awaiting the news of scholarships to Sudan and Turkey form the Ministry of Higher Education.

Operation Linda Inchi, which translates to Operation Lead the Country, was a predominantly Kenya Defense Force (KDF) operation in Southern Somalia. The Kenyan government argued that the operation was necessary since al-Shabaab posed a threat to the country. The extremist groups were accused of coordinating kidnappings of mainly foreigners in Kenya and conducting cross-border attacks. Since the operation was not sanctioned, as described in the UN charter, Kenya and Somalia, two days after the military operation began, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which detailed reasons for Kenya’s involvement in Somalia.

Note: At the time of the operation, KDF was not part of the AMISOM which violated the 1992 UN arms embargo, as well as Somalia sovereignty. Also, this was not the first military operation that Kenya had conducted in Somalia, but instead, they had done small scale operations near the border with Somalia.

In an attempt to gain global notoriety, al-Shabaab formally pledges their alliance to al-Qaida following years of cooperation between the two extremist groups. Al-Qaida’s involvement in the Somali conflict began when then leader of the group, Osama bin Laden, was in exile in Sudan. It is reported that the al-Qaida leader sent his officials to Somalia to see how the organisation could partake in the conflict. It is also said that al-Qaida had to aid some Somali groups in their quest to overthrow the government. Some of the top al-Shabaab leadership, including al-Afghani and Robow, had trained in the al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan.

Note: Also in the same month, al-Shabaab strengthened their ties with a group in Puntland, which later broke away to become the Islamic State in Somalia, and al-Hijra or Muslim Youth Centre in Mombasa, Kenya, which has been designated by the US State Department Foreign Terrorist Organisation list.

Al-Shabaab’s loss of the fishing port of Merca (Marka) is significant as it comes when AMISOM, in coordination with Somali forces, have increased efforts to “liberate” towns and cities from the control of the extremist group. It is reported that the al-Shabaab fighters have been fleeing towards the port city of Kismayo, their strongest stronghold.

The liberation of the port city of Kismayo from al-Shabaab by AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) was high among the list of priorities for AMISOM. The port remained critical in al-Shabaab’s operations since they used the port to export illicit goods such as charcoal and force taxes on locals who tried to use the port. Within four days of the battle for Kismayo, al-Shabaab fighters retreated from the city. AMISOM and other foreign actors believed that the liberation of Kismayo was signalling of the decline of al-Shabaab.

The assassination of Omar Hammami, who was extremely influential in the creation of charismatic recruitment videos, by al-Shabaab sent a clear message to other leaders that those who disapprove of Emir Godane’s vision can be killed. Since Omar Hammami detailed the assassination attempts on his life on Twitter, the world was able to get a clearer view of the rising internal divisions in al-Shabaab.

The Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi was their first large scale attack in Nairobi, Kenya. The armed attack, which lasted four days, was heavily broadcasted throughout Kenya and the world. The attack was another reminder that al-Shabaab could stage a coordinated and lethal attack on neighbouring countries, despite the tactical defeats in Somalia. Secondly, the Westgate attack illustrated the inefficiencies in the Kenyan intelligence and security services since they had known for two years that al-Shabaab was planning to attack the mail. Unfortunately, the response from the Kenyan government was the suppression of the rights of ethnically Somalis through arbitrary arrests and detention and the closing down of shops and money-lending services in Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali neighbourhood in Nairobi. Studies have shown that the continual practice of marginalisation of the Muslim community plays into al-Shabaab’s hand since they can exploit the situation and recruit hundreds of Somalis.

The arrest of the 69 people in Tanzania for running an al-Shabaab child indoctrination camp came at a time when the Tanzanian Government was adamant that there is no Islamist or extremist movement in the country. The government’s denial mainly stems from the fact that there had not been a major terrorist incident since the bombing of the US embassy in 1998. Smaller attacks targeting churches had been on the rise. However, the increase of arrests of individuals linked to al-Shabaab forced the government to put resources to combat the problem before it becomes a severe issue. Studies have shown that Tanzania has increasingly become a preferred route to those trying to join al-Shabaab.

The 20-day operation in Central Somalia resulted in the liberation of eight of the ten districts, including Xudur and Ceel Buur.

Operation Indian Ocean was a two-month operation aimed to “seise, secure and stabilise key districts along the coastlines in all sectors.” The operation was able to “liberate” Baraawe, a major al-Shabaab stronghold, and secured the Beledweyne-Bulo Butro road which al-Shabaab had closed off to aid relief trucks.

A US airstrike killed al-Shabaab’s Emir Godane in Baraawe during Operation Indian Ocean. The death of Godane ushered the reign of Sheikh Ahmad Abu Ubeyda.

Al-Shabaab militants hijack a bus in Mandera, Kenya and killed 28 non-Muslims on board. Al-Shabaab issued a statement stating that the attack was revenge for raids carried out by Kenyan security forces on mosques in the coastal city of Mombasa. The assault on the mosques in Mombasa resulted in the arrest of more than 150 people and confiscation of explosives.

Operation Ocean Build in November designed to “enhancing stabilisation by holding key population centres and protecting their inhabitants and movements along the main supply routes.” The operation resulted in the recapture of Kudhaa Island. Besides, the operation resulted in the deaths of al-Shabaab leaders such as the Intelligence Chief Tahilil Abdishakur, Chief of External Operations Tahlil Yusuf Dheeq, and Dheeq’s immediate successor and mastermind of the Westgate Mall attack, Adan Garaar. The immense pressure from the operation leads to putative Head of Military Intelligence, Zakariye Ahmed Ismail Hersi, to defect to Somali troops.

Garissa University attack, which resulted in the death of 146 university students and two security guards, is the worst attack by al-Shabaab in Kenyan soil. Gun-wielding militants stormed the university and shot indiscriminately at the university students. The trial of five individuals accused of assisting with the attack began in January 2016 with 22 witnesses testifying against them. The accused denied all 156 counts against them. It was not until January 2019 did the court issue out their verdict, which found four of them guilty, and one was cleared of all charges due to lack of evidence.

Operation Jubba Corridor “liberated” the towns of Diinsoor, the presumed al-Shabaab headquarter following the recapture of Baraawe, Bardhere, Adan Yabal and Galcud

Al-Shabaab’s El Adde attack is one of their most devastating attacks on KDF contingent in Somalia. A suicide bomber donated his explosive-laden vehicle in front of the AMISOM garrison base gate. The powerful blast damaged the command and communication buildings, as well as an armoury and fuel depots of the base. Following the bombing, between 150 and 300 al-Shabaab militants stormed the base carrying rocket-propelled grenades and assault weapons. The relentless militants heavily pursued some of the escaping KDF soldiers, many of whom had only arrived in Somalia 2 week prior. Though the Kenyan government did not release the casualty figures, it is estimated that 100 soldiers were killed.

al-Shabaab launched the single deadliest attack on the Somali military in Puntland, northern Somalia.  The group attacked a military camp in Galgala highlands of the Puntland region, killing at least 48 soldiers and wounding 20 others.  At the time of the attack, there were 150 soldiers at the camp.  In addition, the group destroyed 16 vehicles and took two dozen heavy machines, AK 47s and ammunition. 

Note: al-Shabaab in Puntland has between 450 and 500 fighters. 

Similar to 2011, al-Shabaab has imposed a ban on humanitarian assistance in areas they control. Al-Shabaab added that anyone who is found to have contacted the aid agencies will be considered a spy and will be punished. The extremist group usually executes those they believe are spies. This move has raised alarms throughout the humanitarian aid sector since the last time they did this, and it worsened the drought conditions which resulted in the deaths of thousands of Somalis.

Sheikh Mukhtar Robow is one of the founding leaders of al-Shabaab. Before co-founding al-Shabaab, Robow was a high-ranking leader of al-Ittihad al-Islamiyah (AIAI), a previous moderate extremist group that was defeated by Ethiopian forces and United Islamic Courts (UIC). Robow was in constant disagreement with Emir Godane over tactics of war. Additionally, Robow disapproved of the killing of innocent Muslims in their quest to overthrow the government. His vocal disapproval of Godane led to him being relieved from his duties. The government welcomed Robow’s defection since his militia followed in his footsteps.

Note: Robow was arrested and beaten by police while he was running for South West regional president in December 2018. His arrest triggered mass protests in the regional state in Somalia. His supported believed that he was arrested, so that is opponent, a supporter of the current president Farmajo, to win the election. UN envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Haysom, was kicked out of the country after he aired his dissatisfaction over the arbitrary arrest of Robow. The Somali government accused him of interfering in internal affairs.

Al-Shabaab continues to conduct attacks in Kenya, with relative ease. This time, five Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF) were killed in an attack in Lamu. The KDF spokesperson Lt Colonel Paul Njuguna disputed the reported casualties, saying that six soldiers were injured, two critically, but none have died.

An explosives-laden truck detonated at a busy crossroad near the Safari Hotel in Mogadishu. The presence of a fuel tanker parked near the explosion caused a massive fireball, adding to the death toll and damages. It was reported that the truck had 350-kg homemade and military-grade explosives. Five hundred eighty-seven people lost their lives, and another 300 were injured. The Safari Hotel collapsed, and the Qatari embassy was severely damaged. The investigations on the explosion showed that the good and bad sides of Somali authorities and security forces. It is was discovered that the truck was stopped at a checkpoint but was released after the Somali authorities vouched for the driver. Shortly after, Somali security forces stopped the truck while in a traffic jam after noticing the truck was covered with tarpaulin. While the officers tried to search the car, the driver accelerated and crushed the vehicle into a barrier which caused the explosion.

Note: a car with explosives was intercepted on the same day and was disposed of without any casualties. Police believe that the car was going to target AMISOM and UN staff. Also, a car bomb denoted 30 minutes after the first bomb and 300 meters away, killing two people.

al-Shabaab executes at least four men who were accused of working for the American, British and Somali intelligence services. One of the young men, a 22-year-old named Abdul Aziz Abdul Salam Sheikh Hassan, allegedly admitted to working as a spy for the US and planting a tracking device on one of the members.  

Somali businesses and analysts say that IS-Somalia and Al-Shabaab are targeting companies to an unprecedented degree with demands for so-called taxes. For years, it is well known that al-Shabaab has been strong-arming business owners to finance its war against the Somali government and African Union troops. This way, they can have an additional source of revenue to support their operations. On October 29, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the shooting of businessman Nur Kahyre Gutale in Mogadishu. It’s unclear whether his death is related to not paying taxes or his involvement in the selection of Somalia’s parliament in early 2017. According to Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, the former director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), “Businesses are paying three taxes today, al-Shabaab taxes, Daesh [IS] taxes and the normal government taxes,” he said. “The businessman who is paying these three taxes, who started his business with a small amount, is going to be forced to flee to neighbouring countries because the business won’t pay for itself.”

Dusit hotel attack was a suicide bombing followed by a 19-hour armed assault which killed 11 people. Confusion about the attack occurred when the government was insistent that the siege had ended, but people in the neighbourhood were reporting gunshots periodically in the night and early in the morning. Security forces killed the four attacks who conducted the attack all. Several possibilities have been presented for the reasoning for the attack. One reason why Dusit was attacked is possibly due to the proximity to three embassies and the presence of the international organisation in the premise of the hotel. Another reason is the attack was a three-year el-Adde attack commemoration where al-Shabaab stormed a KDF camp and killed possibly 100 soldiers. Thirdly, the attack on Dusit hotel could be interpreted as a way for al-Shabaab to communicate with the Kenyan government that they are still capable of conducting attacks in a secure location with ease.

Note: The Dusit hotel attack gave more insight into al-Shabaab. This was the first major attack where the public and government officials alike realised that al-Shabaab has been able to recruit non-Somalis to their ranks. Before this, in the Kenyan context, all the attackers were ethnically Somalis. This meant that al-Shabaab has successfully recruited converts into their ranks, as it has happened in Western countries.

U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting militants near Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia, on January 19, 2019. U.S. Africa Command conducted the airstrike in response to an attack by a large group of al-Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces.  We currently assess this airstrike killed fifty-two (52) militants.  At this time we assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.

U.S. forces with AFRICOM conduct multiple airstrikes killing over 150 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia. These airstrikes are executed to degrade al-Shabaab capabilities, reduce the threat against Somali partners, and prevent al-Shabaab from plotting terror attacks throughout the region.

In the Amnesty International report, “The Hidden US war in Somalia,” they claim that 14 civilians were killed, and eight more injured in just five airstrikes in over the past two years. These five incidents were carried out with Reaper drones and manned aircraft in Lower Shabelle, a region largely under Al-Shabaab control outside the Somali capital Mogadishu. 

Since the election of Donald Trump, there has been an increase of airstrikes. US forces carried out 34 strikes in Somalia in the last nine months of 2017 – more than in the entire five years from 2012 to 2016. This increased again in 2018, to 47 strikes; and there have already been 24 in the first two months of 2019 alone.

Amnesty International calls on AFRICOM to investigate the allegations, saying that the attacks “appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes.” 

Following a report from Amnesty International which claimed that AFRICOM airstrikes between 2017 and 2018 have resulted in civilian casualties, AFRICOM responds. 

They said, “We take all allegations of civilian casualties seriously regardless of their origin. During research for its report, Amnesty International submitted 13 allegations in October 2018 and February 2019. Our assessments found that no AFRICOM airstrike resulted in any civilian casualty or injury. Our assessments are based on post-strike analysis using intelligence methods not available to non-military organizations. Since June 2017, AFRICOM conducted 110 airstrikes in Somalia, eliminating more than 800 terrorists. AFRICOM airstrikes are primarily conducted in secluded, low-populated areas. AFRICOM complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions to minimize civilian casualties and other collateral damage. We have processes in place to ensure the safety and protection of the local population remains a top priority. These procedures, combined with precision strike capabilities, safeguard civilians and infrastructure.” 

Following the investigation by Amnesty International, AFRICOM decided to look into the claims to see whether their airstrikes have killed civilians.  While looking into airstrikes since 2017, AFRICOM learnt that “an April 1, 2018 airstrike killed two civilians. The April 2018 airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group near El Burr, Somalia. In the airstrike, four al-Shabaab militants also were killed. The airstrike was not one of the allegations presented by Amnesty International in its March 2019 report. On March 30, 2019, the command was notified about the results of a post-strike internal assessment conducted in April 2018 that found credible evidence of the two civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the finding was not properly reported to U.S. Africa Command headquarters. Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment’s conclusion-and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress. The Federal Government of Somalia was notified of this newly learned information, and U.S. Africa Command remains in close coordination with our partners.” 

 

U.S. forces renew airstrikes in the vicinity of Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia. At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed militant. No civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.

Al-Shabaab commander, Adan Mohamed Aka Adan Shah defected to government forces in Bay region, South West Administration, Somalia. He defected by surrendering his weapons. The commander was in charge of carrying out the major attacks in the Bay region. Local media reports that he defected with another Al-Shabaab member, but state-owned media, SONNA, did not share their information. 

Unknown gunmen abducted two Cuban doctors heading to a government hospital. The assailants attacked the doctor’s police escort; one was shot dead while the other was just injured. The drive for the Cuban doctors was later arrested in connection with the attack.  Later the two doctors were taken to al-Shabaab militants in Somalia where they have been treating al-Shabaab militants injured in attacks

U.S. forces conducts precision airstrikes targeting and killing over 10 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.

An al-Shabaab car bomb near a checkpoint in Mogadishu kills 9 people and injures another 13 people. “A car bomb blast struck at a checkpoint near Daljirka, there are some casualties including members of the security forces,” security official Abdukadir Ahmed said after the attack in the south of the city on Wednesday. Among the dead was former Foreign Minister Hussein Elabe Fahiye who was an advisor to the current Somali President Farmaajo. Al Shabaab claimed the attack.

Somali authorities in Bardale town in Southern Somalia announced that senior al-Shabaab commander, Ibrahim Mohamed Dan, defected to Somali forces.

S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto met with senior Somali officials during a visit to Mogadishu, senior Somali officials included Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire. Discussions centred on the progress the U.S. interagency team has witnessed in Somalia, as well as U.S. whole-of-government support for the Federal Government of Somalia to set the conditions required for lasting security and stability. “U.S. security assistance to Somalia is an important part of our efforts to work with the people and government of Somalia for peace and stability,” said Yamamoto.  “Peace and stability for Somalia means more stability in the entire region.  It also means that the people of Somalia will be able to better focus on building a prosperous future.” “Groups such as al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia seek to create a bankrupt future for the Somali people,” said Waldhauser.  “Creating a more secure environment enables the Somali people and government to advance economic and development opportunities in Somalia.” 

At least 10 Kenyan police officers are killed in a suspected al-Shabaab attack near the Somalia border. They were killed when their vehicle struck an IED while patrolling the Kenya-Somali border.

An additional five officers were also injured in another IED explosion near the Konton area in Northeastern Kenya. They were rushed to Wajir hospital for treatment. 

A day after the deadly al-Shabaab attack in North East Kenya that killed 10 police officers, the UN condemned the attack. In a statement, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres said that he “condemned an attack that took place on Saturday in Wajir County, Kenya, in which at least eight police officers were killed when their car struck an improvised explosive device (IED).”  He also expressed his deepest condolences “to the families of those killed and to the Governments and people of Kenya and Somalia”, and wished “a quick recovery to the injured”. 

Al Shabaab claims twin car bombings in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, that killed eight people. The first car bomb exploded at a checkpoint near the presidential palace while the second car bomb exploded at a checkpoint on the road to the airport. No casualties were reported following the second car bomb. “We have confirmed eight people killed and 16 others wounded in the blast,” the private Aamin Ambulance service told AFP news agency on Saturday.

AFRICOM conducts multiplpe airstrikes targeting and killing 4 al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia.

Mukhtar Mohamed Adi, aka Mukhtar Ganey, defected to Somali intelligence (NISA). Adi was part of the Jabha forces in Bay and Bakool regions in Somalia from 2008. He had been previously detained by government forces.

In the evening, Al-Shabaab militants detonated a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosion Device (VBIED) outside the As-Asey hotel in Kismayo. Following the bombing, Al-Shabaab militants stormed the hotel. 16 hours later, the Somali security forces ended the siege. 26 people died as a result of the attack, including a prominent Somali Canadian activist Hodan Nalayeh and her husband. Tribal leaders and regional president aspirant were also among the dead. Nationals from Kenya, Tanzania, and the UK were among the dead. 56 people were also injured in the attack.

Many analysts suggest the hotel was targeted because it was housing many of the delegates in town to elect the Jubaland parliament and later, the presidency. “There were many people, including officials and elders, mostly from one clan, who were discussing the coming Kismayo election.”

Al-Shabaab militants carried out an attack near a busy security checkpoint outside Afrik Hotel, killing 17 people and injuring dozens more. “A suicide bomber drove the rigged car into a security checkpoint … at the highway road leading to the airport. We have collected and confirmed the bodies of 17, including the suicide bomber,” Ahmed Bashane, a police officer, told the media.

New York Times claims that Qatar is responsible for some attacks in Somalia. The media house said they had obtained an audio recording from a phone conversation between Qatari ambassador to Somalia and Qatari businessmen close to the Emir of Qatar boasting about militants who had carried out a bombing in the port city of Bosasso, Puntland administration. The attack was meant to advance Qatari interest by driving out rivals, United Arab Emirates (UAE). A UAE affiliated company- DP World, runs the port of Bosasso. The bombing that the audio is recalling took place in May 2018 outside Bosasso courthouse that wounded 10 people, including a judiciary official. In another incident, unknown gunmen assassinated the Head of DP World in Bosasso on 3rd

Qatar denied the allegations by the New York Times. “The state of Qatar’s foreign policy has always been one of creating stability and prosperity – we do not meddle in the internal affairs of sovereign Anybody doing so is not acting on behalf of our government,” the statement said in part.

Somalia came for Qatar’sDefense, with the Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmed Isse saying, “the Qatari government released a statement that they shared with us in which they denied the claim. And we are satisfied with it.”

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive at the mayor’s office while Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman was chairing a security meeting. Eleven people, all government officials including district commissioners, were killed by the blast. The mayor was seriously injured and was later taken to Qatar for specialised treatment. The UN Support Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) head, Ambassador James Swan, was earlier at the security meeting but left before the bombing.

Following the attack, Somali security agencies revealed a blind female suicide bomber. She had been working in the mayor’s office for at least a year before the attack. This is the fifth time that al-Shabaab used a female suicide bomber.

Mogadishu Mayor, Abdirahman Omar Osman died from injuries sustained in an al-Shabaab attack at his office last week. Following the attack, the Mayor was transported to Qatar to get specialised treatment.

In a military operation, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) take control of Awdheegle town from Al-Shabaab. The recapture of the town is a significant victory to Somalia as the town served as a major source of revenue.

Army General Stephen Townsend, the New commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), visited Somalia and pledged to continue pressuring Al-Shabaab and Islamic State (ISS). He said “I am committed to working together and advancing our partnership with Somalia,” Townsend said in the release. “Along with Somalia and other international partners, we will apply continued pressure on violent extremist organisations. This pressure creates conditions and opportunity for further political and economic development.” “We’re in the business of protecting our country from these threats,” Townsend said. “Degrading the capability of terrorists who operate here makes the entire region safer and prevents its export to other places. This is important work for our country, the Somalis and our allies.”

Two al-Shabaab fighters surrendered to Somali government forces in Jubaland. The two militants, Gedi Mohamed Ali and Abdulaziz Mohamed were paraded in Afmadow town. They surrender their weapons as well.

The two defections come after two other militants defected five days prior in Dinsor Town, South West administration.

At least 9 people are reportedly killed, including government forces, after double suicide car bombs were detonated. The vehicle bombs targeted a military base in Awdhegle town, lower Shabelle, Somalia. The attack also killed two al-Shabaab militants.

U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting an al-Shabaab terrorist in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow, Somalia. At this time, it is assessed the airstrike killed 1 militant.

Clashes between Ma’awisley, a local militia group affiliated to Somali Government, and Al-Shabaab were reported in the outskirts of Jowhar, Middle Shabelle, in Southern Somalia. Ma’awisley claim to have killed 11 al Shabaab militants and injured an additional 15. The clash occurred after al-Shabaab militants attempted to attack a military base

Two al-Shabaab militants surrender to government forces in Bay region in Southern Somalia. “The two al-Shabab operatives identified as Mohamed Hassan Osman and Hussein Marshale Mohamed defected from the al-Shabab extremist group and joined government forces in Dinsor town in Bay region,” said Ibrahim Mohamed Nour, governor of Dinsor.

Two al-Shabaab militants surrender to government forces in Bay region in Southern Somalia. “The two al-Shabab operatives identified as Mohamed Hassan Osman and Hussein Marshale Mohamed defected from the al-Shabab extremist group and joined government forces in Dinsor town in Bay region,” said Ibrahim Mohamed Nour, governor of Dinsor.

U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting and killing 1 al-Shabaab militant in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia.

Al-Shabaab militants attacked a Burundi AMISOM contingent, killing at least 12 troops. The terrorist group claimed to have killed 14 troops. The Burundian contingent was travelling on the road linking Mogadishu and Jowhar.

Somali National Army (SNA) liberated three villages from Al-Shabaab in Bay region in Southwestern region of Somalia. Nour Ali Mohamed, acting commander of the Somali military’s 154th battalion, told media that Somali forces liberated Rahole, Biyo-dhale and Bandhub villages 

Somali National Army (SNA) and Al-Shabaab fighters clash in El-Salini area in Lower Shabelle region in Somalia. SNA claims to have killed 13 militants while Al-Shabaab claims to have killed 23 soldiers. The SNA offer refuted AS claims through another officer claimed that 8 soldiers were killed and several others injured.

Al-Shabaab conducted two separate attacks against the US and Italy in Somalia. The militants hit US base in Baledogle, with explosives before gunmen opened fire on the compound. in Mogadishu, the militants attacked an Italian convoy were train the Somali National Army. Both the EU and the US confirmed the attacks, adding that no personnel were killed or injured by the attack. Interestingly, the attack on the Italian convoy was on the one anniversary of an attack on an Italian convoy in Mogadishu.

Following an al-Shabaab attack on US base in Somalia, AFRICOM released a statement. They comfirmed that al-Shabaab conducted a Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Device attack at Baledogle Military Airfield (BMA) complex in Baledogle, Somalia on Sept. 30. No US or partner force personnel were injured or killed during the attack. 

“This attack, though ineffective, demonstrates the direct threat al-Shabaab poses to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. “Incidents like this will not compromise the pressure being placed on this terrorist network by the Federal Government of Somalia and international partners.”

In response to this attack and in self-defense, U.S Africa Command conducted two (2) airstrikes and used small arms fire targeting al-Shabaab terrorists. It is assessed U.S. and partner forces killed ten (10) terrorists and destroyed one (1) vehicle involved in the attack. Currently, U.S. Africa Command assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this attack and airstrike.

U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting and killing 1 al-Shabaab militant near Qunyo Barrow, Somalia.

Mr Fawaz Ahmed Hamdun, one of the most wanted al-Shabaab operatives, was arrested at his house in Mombasa. Mr Hamdun is linked to the DusitD2 complex attack in January 2019 in Nairobi. Mr Hamdun was placed on the most-wanted terror list after he was accused of killing a police officer at the Royal Court Hotel in 2014. He then fled to Tanzania. Also, he has helped other young radicalised youth to go to fight in Somalia.

A group of Somali police officers travel to Turkey to receive counterterrorism training. The six-week course is part of a deal between Turkish and Sudanese governments. Currently, 10 police officers have been trained by Turkish officers on how to check residential areas for terror threats and neutralise terrorists in those areas, on handling landmines and homemade explosive devices and how to respond to attacks. They learned about types of explosives they may come across in counterterrorism operations and how to carry out counterterrorism raids.

At least ten General Service Unit (GSU) officers were killed when their vehicle ran over an IED on Degoh road in Garissa. The GSU officers were patrolling the road along the Kenya-Somalia border when the attack took place. A joint patrol team of Kenya Defense Forces, Administration Police, Rapid Response Police Unit and Police have been dispatched to the area.

Police in Somalia has handed over two suspected al-Shabaab members to Kenyan authorities. The duo is suspected of having fled to Somalia after committing crimes in Kenya. The two suspects were found with several loaded firearms and other explosives.

Al-Shabaab attacked Dabajabula police station, Wajir county, in Kenya, where two suspected militants were arrested. They attacked the police station with heavy artillery, including Rocket-propelled grenades (RPG). For twenty minutes, the police, backed later by Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), and the militants exchanged fire. By the end, 2 militants were killed, and two police officers and a reservist were nursing injuries.

Clashes between Somali National Army, backed by Jubaland regional state forces, and Al-Shabaab results in the death of seven militants and wounding eight others. A senior commander commented on the clashes, saying that “We started the offensive in Koban village passing through Bangeni, Arare and Mana Mufo villages and there was stiff resistance from the militants, but our forces finally drove them out of those villages.” A villager confirmed the incident, adding that “The government army attacked Al-Shabaab militants in the town, both sides exchanged heavy fire, but the forces are now in the town, and the militants are outside of it.” 

3 al-Shabaab members were charged with planting IEDs in Mogadishu on various targets. Two suspects were accused of planting nine IEDs targeting government forces and African Union peacekeepers while the third was accused of storing IEDs in his shop. One of the suspects, who is accused of joining the terror group in 2016, had previously been arrested for training others in making car bombs but was released.

On Nov. 5, al-Shabaab released a 52-minute video narrated by al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyda calling for attacks against Americans wherever they are.  The al-Shabaab leader specifically said, “Our biggest target today is the Americans, not the apostates,” he says. “The only reason we have exerted all this effort and undertaken all this preparation today is to attack the American troops.  Therefore you must carry out the operation with great efficiency.”  The Emir is talking to militants before the raid on the US base in Somalia in Ballidogle. The video does not show the images of the Emir but rather we see his hands and shoulders and his face is blurred out. 

The U.S. has offered a reward of up to $6 million for information leading to Ubaidah’s capture.  Ubaidah, previously known as Ahmed Diriye, became al-Shabab’s emir in 2014 after the death of the previous leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

Somali military court based in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, has sentenced eight men and a woman after being found guilty of being part of the terror group, Al-Shabaab, One suspect was sentenced to life in prison, five were sentenced to 15 years in prison while 2 were sentenced to 8 years. One suspected who was accused of the rest was found to be innocent and was released

AFRICOM commander, Gen Stephen Townsend, met with Somali president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed ‘Farmajo” and Somali National Army (SNA) Chief of Staff, Gen. Mohamed Ali Barise. The objective of his trip is to 1) discuss the US and Somalia security development since his last visit on July, 2) visit American troops and asses the progress of the US counterterrorism campaign in East Africa and 2) assess the progress made against Al-Shabaab and ISIS. Gen Townsend said, “Al-Shabaab, and ISIS, are a threat to our African partners, to U.S. interests in East Africa as well as to the U.S. homeland. They possess the desire and intent to attack the U.S. Due to the persistent pressure our campaign puts on al-Shabaab and ISIS, we believe they lack the actual capability to attack our homeland, but we must stay vigilant and keep pressing them. U.S operations help to build critical Somali defence capability and counter-terrorist plots and plans,” Townsend said. “Our actions keep Somalia, the region, and the U.S. safer and more secure.”

134 Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers completed a two months training at the UK funded military academy in Baidoa, South West regional state. The soldiers acquired skills in field-craft leadership, human rights, first-aid treatment, patrolling and the delivery of defensive operations. The UK ambassador to Somalia Ben Fender praised the soldiers for completing the training and reiterated his country’s commitment to rebuilding Somalia’s security forces.”

The Somali regional state, Puntland, executed five men found guilty of being members of ISIS and Al-Shabaab. The militants were blindfolded with their hand-tied to poles behind their back before they were shot dead with a firing squad. The men were between the ages of 19 and 39.

U.S. Africa Command conducts an airstrike targeting and killing 3 al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia. 

The District Commissioner of Aw-Dhegle town in southern Somalia was killed with an IED planted by al-Shabaab. Aw Dhegle was recently liberated by Somali Armed Forces, with the support of African Union troops, AMISOM.

Kenyan police foiled an al-Shabaab attack aimed at disrupting communication services and possibly conduct a secondary IED attack in northeastern Kenya. The regional commissioner said that the militants crossed the porous Kenya-Somalia border. The militants managed only to destroy a diesel generator that powers telecommunication mast after they struck at around 1 a.m. in Diiso village.

At least eleven people were killed when al-Shabaab militants stormed into a bus travelling in northeastern Kenya. The majority of the dead were police officers going back to their duty station in El Wak, a border town with Somalia. The bus was en route from Nairobi to Mandera. Commuters on the bus told the media that the militants targeted non-Muslim passengers. Three Christians managed to escape.

Days after the attack, the police arrested the driver and one passenger of the bus as potential accomplices of the attack.

On the evening of 9 December, 5 Al-Shabaab militants stormed the Somali Youth League (SYL) hotel, a popular hangout spot for government officials and high ranking Somali National Army (SNA) officials). Unlike previous attacks, the group did not use a VBIED to kill maximum civilians then storm the building. SNA quickly killed three of the attackers. The reminder two militants took their positions at the top of the hotel. At the end of the seven-hour siege, ten people were killed – 5 attackers, 2 civilians and 3 SNA. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

Ahmed Ali Aybakar, a key al-Shabaab facilitator, sentenced to ten years in prison by the Mogadishu military court. He allegedly rented homes for the militants for them to escape detection

Al Shabaab has claimed the attack outside the Galkayo Hotel in Northern Somalia. The car bomb killed seven civilians, a local military officer said. Local media speculates that the intended target of the attack was General Abdihamid Mohamed Dirir, who was in the hotel and managed to escape the attack unharmed.

On Saturday morning, at around 8 AM, a Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosion (SVBIED) detonated at a busy checkpoint in Somalia’s capital city of Mogadishu. According to government records, at least 86 people were killed and 125 injured. Independent sources place the death toll to over 100. Qatar and Turkey airlifted some of the seriously injured victims of the attack to their respective countries.

A day after the attack, Al-Shabaab was forced to take responsibility following a report by the Somali intelligence community that said that the attack was conducted with the support of a foreign country. Many local Somali and Turkish media were quick to place the blame on Qatar thought there was no proof.

Al-Shabaab later claimed the attack, which was unusual for the insurgent group. They do not claim the attack that has many civilian deaths. The militant group apologised to the families that lost their loved ones and told them that the civilians who died are martyrs. The group also claimed that the attack did not kill as many civilians as the government reported. Al-Shabaab said that the attack targeted Turkish nationals who were manning the post and engineers who were doing construction work near the checkpoint

S. Africa Command conduct 3 airstrikes in 2 locations targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow and Caliyoow Barrow, Somalia, respectively, Dec. 29. The initial assessment concluded that two airstrikes killed 2 militants and destroyed 2 vehicles in Qunyo Barrow and Caliyoow Barrow.

Kenyan soldiers killed four suspected al-Shabaab fighters and captured another after they attempted to attack a bus in Lamu county, Kenya. The militants sprayed bullets on a bus that refused to stop for them. The police are yet to release the official figures of casualties. 

At 5:30 AM, Al-Shabaab militants attempted to breach the parameters of the Manda Bay camp, alias Simba Camp, a shared camp with US and Kenyan troops. The militants were only managed to reach the airstrip as the US and Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) repelled the attack. The group managed to set on fire to infrastructure and equipment, including an aircraft, at the airstrip. AFRICOM announced that one US service member and two departments of Defense contractors were killed in the attack. Two additional Department of Defense members were wounded but are in stable conditions.

AFRICOM confirms the al-Shabaab attack in Manda Bay airstrip in Kenya.  Manda Bay is an area where U.S. forces provide training and counter-terrorism support to East African partners. Initial reports reflect damage to infrastructure and equipment. An accountability of personnel assessment is underway.  The final analysis is that one (1) U.S. service member and two (2) Department of Defense contractors were killed at a Kenya Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya. In addition, two (2) Department of Defense members were wounded. The wounded Americans are currently in stable condition and being evacuated.

“Al-Shabaab resorts to lies, coercion, and the exertion of force to bolster their reputation to create false headlines,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations.

U.S. Africa Command’s East Africa Response Force (EARF) arrived at Manda Bay, Kenya, Jan. 5, to augment security to secure the airfield after an attack by al-Shabaab terrorists. “The EARF provides a critical combat-ready, rapid deployment force,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. “The EARF’s ability to respond to events spanning a vast area of responsibility provides a proven and invaluable on-call reinforcement capability in times of need.” The EARF, under the command and control of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, responds to a broad range of military operations including the protection of U.S. citizens and diplomatic facilities, support for non-combatant evacuation operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, and other missions as directed. 

Four school children at a primary school in Kenya were killed in the suspected al-Shabaab attack. Three of the four school children belong to the same family.  Two suspected militants were killed when local police responded to the attack. 

Senior U.S. Africa Command officials visited partner forces and U.S. troops stationed at Camp Simba and Manda Bay Airfield, Kenya.  “I immediately sent members of my command team to hear directly from our troops and commanders on the ground about the details of the attack by al-Shabaab,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “I want ground truth to assess the situation and hear from the troops to ensure they have what they need to accomplish their mission. As the circumstances surrounding this attack are investigated, our deepest condolences remain with the families of our fallen teammates. Their sacrifices will never be forgotten.”

Following the Manda Bay airstrip attack where 3 Americans were killed, al-Shabaab issued a statement detailing the attack.  al-Shabaab tells Kenya to withdraw all its troops from Somalia or face further attacks. The group added that citizens and tourists visiting the country “will no longer be safe” during their holidays and travells.  

At least 5 al-Shabaab militants were killed and others injured after Jubaland Security Forces (JSF) raided their base in Lower Juba region. 

3 non-local teachers working at Kamuthe primary school were killed by al-Shabaab militants. The militants also attacked the Kamuthe police post, and Safaricom telecommunications mast.

Danab, US-trained Somali Special Forces, recaptured Toratorow, a key revenue collection region for al-Shabaab.  “Our Somalia National Army liberated Toratorow from al-Shabaab without any resistance from the militants. Ten militants were arrested during the operation,” Ismail Malin, the Commander of the 16 Brigade, told journalists. Ten militants were arrested during the military operation.  

U.S. Africa Command conducts an airstrike targeting and killing 2 al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow, Somalia.

SNA officials claim more than 40 militants and 4 soldiers were killed after al-Shabaab attacked an SNA military base in middle Shabelle region, Somalia.  An additional 30 militants and 3 other soldiers were wounded during the gunfight. 

At least four people have been killed and 15 others wounded in a suicide car bomb claimed by al-Shabaab in Afgoye, 20KM south-west of Mogadishu. A suicide car bomber drove his car into a place where Turkish engineers and Somali police were having lunch. According to the Turkish Health Minster, Fahrettin Koca, six Turkish nationals were wounded by the bombing, two of whom are in critical conditions and are undergoing surgery. 

al-Shabaab, who claimed responsibility the attack, explicitly said that they are targeting Turkish nationals working in Somalia in a statement following the 28 December bombing that killed at least 80 people. 

Kenyan security agencies thwart an al-Shabaab attack who attempted to attack Pandanguo village in Witu Division, Lamu county, Kenya. The gun battle, which was between at least 50 heavily armed suspected al-Shabaab militants and unspecified number of security forces, lasted for about five hours. 

U.S. Africa Command conducts an airstrike against al-Shabaab militants who engaged Somali National Army Danab Unit near Bangeeni, Somalia, Jan. 19. This attack kills 3 militants.

Zubair al-Muhajir, a British national but originally from Ivory Coast, defected to the Somali government troops. He is believed to be one of the most senior foreign fighters. 

Zubair travelled from London to join al-Shabaab in 2006. He rose through the ranks to be part of the Shura Council of religious scholars, one of the key governing bodies within the militant group.  In 2011, his guidance was sought after to mediate the tension between the founding members Godane, then leader of al-Shabaab but was killed in an airstrike in 2014, and Ibrahim al-Afghani, Mukhtar Robow, who defected to the government in 2018, and Faud Khalaf Shongole.  His mediation efforts were not successful as Godane called for the execution of al-Afghani in June 2013. He has been at odds with the group since 2013 when he was arrested and jailed by al-Shabaab for three years. 

According to an interview, Zubair said that he defected because he believed that the group was using the Sharia law to “lie to the Muslims and to the world.” 

John Muimi surrendered himself to the police, telling them that he was an al-Shabaab returnee who had fleed from the militant group in Somalia.  John, who is from Samburu region in Kenya, told the police that he joined the group in June 2019 and was taken to Likoni, Mombasa on November 29 the same year.  After Mombasa, he was taken to Mandera, a border town along the Somali-Kenya border, then was transported to Somalia for training. He claims that he was transported alsongside six other Kenyans.  John claims that he only underwent a month-long training before fleeing back to Kenya on 6 January.  He is currently under investigation by Anti-terror unit. 

A local Somali signer was arrested by the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) who they claim is a spy for al-Shabaab. NISA posted a video on Twitter showing the singer allegedly confessing that he was a finance manager for the group.  He will be handed over to the courts for prosecution after he is interrogated by NISA. 

al-Shabaab, through its media, refused the claims, saying the singer has no relation with the group. 

According to the investigation on the attack, al-Shabaab initiated mortar fire on the Kenyan Defense Force installation and Camp Simba, while simultaneously assaulting the airfield. U.S. forces are primarily located at Camp Simba, about one mile from the airfield. Shortly after the attack began, U.S. forces at Camp Simba quickly responded and actively counterattacked the enemy at the airfield. U.S. forces and Kenyan Defense Forces repelled the attack, killing five al-Shabaab terrorists with no additional losses to U.S. or Kenyan personnel. While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled. Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure. 

The three Americans killed in the Manda Bay attack are  U.S. Army Spc. Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Mr. Bruce Triplett and Mr. Dustin Harrison.

U.S. Africa Command conducts an airstrike targeting and killing 1 al-Shabaab militant in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia.

Ahmed Ali Omar and Abdulkadir Ali Abdi, two of the twenty Somali-Americans who left America to join al-Shabaab, are no remorseful for joining the group.  The two have been in hiding for the last sixteen months from the group then defected to the government officials, along with other al-Shabaab members.  Omar and Abdi said that began moving away from the group after the indiscriminate bombing of 14 October 2017 that killed at least 600 people.  After defecting to government officials, the two went through a reabilitation program. 

The Wadajir district police commissioner was fired following mortars shells targeting the so-called Green zone, also known as Halane by the locals, which houses UN, AMISOM and other international partners and organisations.  The mortar attack was claimed by al-Shabaab.

al-Shabaab militants attacked a construction site in Milihoi area in Lamu County, destroying two vehicles. The drivers of the vehicles managed to escape unharmed.  The drivers said that the KDF in the area responded in less than 5 minutes, thwarting any further attacks. 

In an operation in Lower Shabelle, Somali National Army (SNA) claims to have killed at least 12 militants during a clash.  The commander fo the 16th unit of the Somali Special Forces, Ismail Abdi Malik, the army launched an attack on an al-Shabaab base in Wan lawayn town. 

al-Shabaab launched twin attacks on SNA military bases in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. The first base attacked was El-Salini, some 55 KM southwest of Mogadishu, where the SNA repulsed the attack. at least nine militants were killed in the first attack while four Somali soldiers were killed. 

The second attack, an attack on Qoryoley base, which is located 120 km from Mogadishu,  was repulsed with the help of AMISOM Troops. 

U.S. Africa Command conducts a precision airstrike targeting and killing 3 al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Wadajir, Somalia.

At least three people were killed, and six others injured during an al-Shabaab attack on a public bus in North East Kenya.

Suspected al-Shabaab militants attack an ethnically Somali police reservist’s home in Sangalu area in Garissa, Kenya. No casualties have been reported. This attack is the fourth of its kind in the month of February. The militants claim that the reservists are feeding information about their whereabouts to security agencies.  

Post-strike assessments confirm two militants killed precision airstrikes. The two militants were identified as a senior al-Shabaab leader, who was in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay, and his wife, who also was a witting and active member of al-Shabaab responsible for facilitating a wide range of terrorist activities.

The suspected perpetrator is Bashir Mohamed Mohamoud, aka Bashi  Qoorgab, according to AFRICOM spokesperson Col Chris Karns. Qoorgaab, who has been part of the group as early as from 2008, is one of the most battle-hardened al-Shabaab commanders of the military or Jabhat. Two Jabhat units operate in Kenya including the notorious Jaysh Ayman unit which attacked Manda Bay.  Before he led the Jabhat, he led al-Shabaab’s special militia commandos, Jugta Ulus. The US placed him in the designated terrorist list in April 2010 and placed a $5 million bounty on his head. 

al-Shabaab claims responsibility for the mortar attack on the Green-zone, which houses the UN, AU and other international partners and organisations, in Mogadishu. Local media reports two to four mortars were fired towards the Green-zone. None of the inhabitants comfirmed the attack nor stated the number of casualties. 

From the beginning of 2020, al-Shabaab has conducted several attacks on schools in North-East Kenya. The increased number of attacks was followed by a video by the extremist group saying that all non-local teachers should leave the area immediately or the group will continue their attacks on teachers. The sustained attacks on teachers prompted an education crisis with thousands of non-local teachers fleeing the area.  With limited teachers, many schools have been forced to close.