Killings: Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. Clan-based political violence involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes between clan-based forces and with al-Shabaab in the Galmudug, Lower Shabelle, and Hiiraan Regions, also resulted in deaths.
Somaliland used military force to suppress opponents of voter registration in contested regions (see section 1.a.).
According to UNSOM reports, security force attacks against al-Shabaab, other armed groups or individuals, and civilians between January and August resulted in 492 civilian deaths, with casualties attributed to the SNA (44 deaths, 76 injured), AMISOM (eight deaths, nine injured), and Kenya Defense Forces operating bilaterally (38 deaths, including four children, and 11 injured). Al-Shabaab caused significant civilian casualties, including 214 deaths and 346 injured, during that period.
Al-Shabaab committed politically motivated killings that targeted civilians affiliated with the government and attacks on humanitarian NGO employees, UN staff, and diplomatic missions. Al-Shabaab often used suicide attacks, mortar attacks, and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). It also killed prominent peace activists, community leaders, clan elders, and their family members for their roles in peace building, and it beheaded persons accused of spying for and collaborating with Somali national forces and affiliated militias.
On August 21, al-Shabaab used vehicle-borne IEDs to attack a government office located next to a market in Galkayo; 23 persons were killed, including government officials, security personnel, students, and merchants.
Abductions: From January to September, al-Shabaab abducted 152 persons, 80 of whom it subsequently released.
Following a September 22 attack on a Kenyan police station in the border town of Liboi, al-Shabaab publicly claimed it had captured two Kenyan police officers. According to Kenyan officials, the two officers remained missing at year’s end.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: Government forces, allied militias, men wearing uniforms, and AMISOM troops used excessive force, including torture, and raped women and girls, including IDPs. While the army arrested some security force members accused of such abuse, impunity was the norm.
Al-Shabaab also committed sexual violence, including through forced marriages.
On May 7, 14 AMISOM soldiers from Ethiopia allegedly raped two girls, ages 15 and 17, in the Galguduug Region. AMISOM investigated but stated it could not corroborate the facts sufficiently to convene a board of inquiry.
According to UN Mine Action Service, IEDs killed 267 persons and injured 727; land mines killed one person and injured another; explosive remnants of war killed one person and injured 13.
Child Soldiers: During the year there were continued reports of the SNA and allied militia, the ASWJ, and al-Shabaab using child soldiers.
UN officials documented the recruitment and use during the year of 1,744 children (1,679 boys, 65 girls), including by al-Shabaab (1,091), the SNA (169), clan militia (415), the ASWJ (67), and other armed elements (two). There were 1,381 children (1,306 boys, 75 girls) abducted: 857 by al-Shabaab, 373 by the SNA, 125 by clan militia, and 12 by the ASWJ, with AMISOM and unknown armed elements responsible for seven abductions each. More than half of the children al-Shabaab abducted were used to increase its numbers before joint SNA/AMISOM operations, including the March attack in Puntland. The number recruited during the first half of the year equaled the total number recruited throughout 2015, demonstrating an increase in al-Shabaab recruitment. Children abducted by AMISOM were typically released unharmed within a couple of days. The reason for the abductions remained unclear.
Implementation of the government’s 2012 action plan with the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of children by the national army remained incomplete.
The SNA’s Child Protection Unit (CPU) reported it conducted training awareness campaigns in Mogadishu, Guul Wadayasha, and at the Siyad Army Base on the importance of preventing child recruitment into the security forces. The CPU and regional focal points continued to monitor the SNA, including conducting inspections of the main SNA training center in Mogadishu and several subnational military recruitment and stipend payment locations in Mogadishu, Guul Wadayasha, and at the Siyad Army base. The CPU did not identify any child soldiers during the year.
During the year the United Nations supported the reintegration of 854 children associated with armed forces (722 boys, 132 girls) into their families and communities. Reintegration activities included the provision of psychosocial assistance, “back-to-school” support programs, and vocational training.
Due to the absence of birth registration systems, it was often difficult to determine the age of national security force recruits.
Al-Shabaab continued to recruit and force children to participate in direct hostilities, including suicide attacks. Al-Shabaab raided schools, madrassas, and mosques to recruit children. Children in al-Shabaab training camps were subjected to grueling physical training, inadequate diet, weapons training, physical punishment, and religious training. The training also included forcing children to punish and execute other children. Al-Shabaab used children in combat, including placing them in front of other fighters to serve as human shields and suicide bombers. In addition, al-Shabaab used children in support roles, such as carrying ammunition, water, and food; removing injured and dead militants; gathering intelligence; and serving as guards. The organization sometimes used children to plant roadside bombs and other explosive devices. The Somali press frequently carried accounts of al-Shabaab indoctrinating children at schools and forcibly recruiting students into its ranks.
Authorities transferred children separated from armed groups to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
In March government forces in Puntland and Galkayo captured 108 children fighting alongside al-Shabaab in Puntland and Galkayo. Of the 108 children in Puntland, soldiers transferred 70 to Mogadishu to receive reintegration support from an NGO supported by UNICEF. Although the president of Puntland expressed his commitment not to execute any of the 108 children, 10 received death sentences and 28 received prison sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years, based on age. UNICEF continued to advocate for the reduction of sentences and for the transfer of the remaining 38 children for integration support.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: Armed groups, particularly al-Shabaab but also government forces and militia, deliberately restricted the passage of relief supplies and other items indispensable to the survival of the civilian population as well as access by humanitarian organizations, particularly in the southern and central regions.
Humanitarian workers regularly faced checkpoints, roadblocks, extortion, car-jacking, and bureaucratic obstacles. Humanitarian organizations were often treated with suspicion and extorted. In the first six months of the year, according to the United Nations, more than 80 security-related incidents with direct effect on humanitarian organizations occurred, including the deaths of five aid workers, injuring of eight, arrest of 10, abduction of three, and physical assault on five.
Government forces seized relief supplies. For example, on March 31, SNA forces reportedly intercepted a World Food Program (WFP) truck traveling from Mombasa, Kenya, to El Wak, Somalia, and stole the food. The El Wak local administration recovered the consignment. In May and June, government authorities seized WFP food at the Mogadishu airport following anonymous and incorrect reports that it had expired. While in government custody, the condition of the seized food deteriorated and it was no longer fit for human consumption.
Al-Shabaab also seized relief supplies. For example, on April 13, al-Shabaab seized a truck transporting WFP food commodities near El Wak. WFP halted critical activities outside El Wak, including the treatment of acute malnutrition, until the driver, truck, and commodities were released.
Conflict in contested territories of Sool and Sanaag, between Somaliland and Puntland, restricted humanitarian access. NGOs reported incidents of harassment by local authorities in both Somaliland and Puntland.
Al-Shabaab blocked humanitarian access to 28 districts in southern and central Somalia, including critical transportation routes to areas liberated by AMISOM. Human Rights Watch reported al-Shabaab imposed blockades around Hudur, Bulo-Burte, Elbur, Qoryoley, and other towns that had been liberated by AMISOM and Somali government forces, severely restricting the movement of goods, assistance, and persons.
Al-Shabaab restricted medical care, including by impeding civilian travel to other areas to receive care, destroying medications provided by humanitarian agencies, and closing medical clinics.
International aid organizations evacuated their staff or halted food distribution and other aid-related activities in al-Shabaab-controlled areas due to killings, extortion, threats, harassment, expulsions, and prohibitions by al-Shabaab. On March 15, for example, unidentified gunmen kidnapped three aid workers in the southwest. International aid agencies continued to rely on Somali staff and local organizations to deliver relief assistance, particularly in remote rural areas.
Because of fighting between al-Shabaab, AMISOM, and the SNA, al-Shabaab’s humanitarian access restrictions and taxation on livestock, and the lack of security, many residents in al-Shabaab-controlled areas fled to refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia and IDP camps in other areas of the country. ASWJ militias and federal forces skirmished throughout the year, displacing civilian populations.