Killings: Conflict during the year involving the government, militias, AMISOM, and al-Shabaab resulted in death, injury, and displacement of civilians. State and federal forces killed civilians and committed sexual and gender-based violence, especially in and around Lower Shabelle. Clan-based political violence involved revenge killings and attacks on civilian settlements. Clashes between clan-based forces and with al-Shabaab in Puntland and the Galmudug, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba, Baidoa, and Hiiraan Regions, also resulted in deaths. According to the United Nations, killings by clan militias increased compared with previous years, likely as a result of increased tensions following flawed state formation processes.
For example, in April at least three persons were killed in clashes in Middle Shabelle when a dominant clan reportedly attempted to take over disputed land by force.
Civilians reported that many residences were burned down during the fighting, prompting displacement of village residents. Some marginalized communities, particularly the Somali Bantu/Jareerweyn, reported they were victims of attacks with no recourse since regional administrations characterized incidents as clan conflicts.
Somaliland used military force to suppress opponents of voter registration in contested regions (see section 1.a.).
According to UNSOM reports, between January and November security force attacks against al-Shabaab, other armed groups or individuals, and civilians resulted in civilian deaths, with casualties attributed to the SNA (107 deaths, 115 injured) and AMISOM (33 deaths, 60 injured). Al-Shabaab caused significant civilian casualties, including 880 deaths and 864 injured, during that period.
According to UNSOM reports, 2,785 cases of civilian casualties, including rape, were recorded during the year.
In April AMISOM troops were reported to have killed five civilians, including three children, in Lower Shabelle Region after a bomb blast targeted AMISOM forces in the area. African Union officials had not released a statement regarding the incident by year’s end.
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, electoral delegates, 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. Targeted assassinations, particularly of electoral delegates and elders, humanitarian workers, and civilians, increased in the first half of the year compared with prior years, as did violent punishments including amputations and stonings.
For example, on May 25, a female delegate involved in the 2016-17 electoral process for Galmudug was shot and killed by unknown assailants in Mogadishu. No arrests were made, but authorities believed al-Shabaab was responsible. This was the 23rd delegate killed since the February election. An unknown additional number of elders who participated in the electoral process were also killed.
On the same day, two female khat traders in Dirir-weyn village between Leego and Wanla-weyn towns in Lower Shabelle Region were abducted from their homes and beheaded. Their heads and bodies were found in the road thereafter. No one was arrested, but al-Shabaab gunmen were suspected, as the group was known to target khat traders who sold to government soldiers.
In May al-Shabaab stoned a man to death for adultery after a woman claimed he had raped her. On May 6, al-Shabaab publicly beheaded two men, deemed enemy soldiers by the militant group, in the village of Quar’a Madobe. On June 7, two suspected al-Shabaab gunmen killed the chairperson of the Diinsoor District Women’s Association in her home in South West State. On July 11, suspected al-Shabaab gunmen shot and killed a tax official in Mogadishu.
Abductions: Al-Shabaab frequently abducted AMISOM troops during attacks. For example, the Ugandan government confirmed seven Ugandan AMISOM troops remained captive from a 2015 attack on the AMISOM base in Janale. An unknown number of Kenyan and other AMISOM troops remained captive.
Al-Shabaab abducted 216 persons in the first half of the year and released 127, according to UNSOM. Between May 21 and May 24, al-Shabaab abducted approximately 70 persons, including women and children, burned numerous homes, and caused more than 15,000 persons to flee their homes during raids in Lower Shabelle, according to the United Nations. Some men who were abducted told human rights groups they were held in makeshift facilities in an al-Shabaab-controlled town for up to three weeks with scarce food and water and no opportunity to contest their detention. According to witnesses, one man died of dehydration while detained. The men were not allowed to pray and did not have access to water for ablutions. According to a Human Rights Watch report, at least two dozen were released following clan intervention, but an unknown number remained in detention.
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.
The United Nations documented reports of an April 17 sexual assault on a 21-year-old woman who was beaten and raped at gunpoint by three uniformed men in North Galkayo; their affiliation was not known. The police opened an investigation, but no arrests were made.
According to UN Mine Action Service, IEDs killed 152 persons and injured 226 in the first half of the year, with civilians constituting 57 percent of casualties. Lower Shabelle and Banadir Regions were the primary regions affected by IEDs.
Child Soldiers: During the year there were continued reports of the SNA and allied militia, the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama (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 children abducted: 584 by al-Shabaab and 15 by clan militia; figures were unknown for the SNA, AMISOM, AWSJ, or other armed elements. 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 February during inspection visits in Kismayo and Dhoble, Interim Jubaland Administration, and in Baidoa, Interim South West Administration in May 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, Baidoa, Kismayo, and Dhoble. During the February screening of SNA military training centers in Dhoble and Kismayo, 1,670 43rd Brigade SNA soldiers and 550 Jubaland Security Force members were screened, and all were determined to be at least 18 years of age. In May the CPU screened 287 police officers from a Somali Police Force unit in Berdale, Interim South West Administration. The CPU did not identify any child soldiers during the year but conducted several individual interviews and medical inspections of individuals who appeared to be underage.
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 reported accounts of al-Shabaab indoctrinating children at schools and forcibly recruiting students into its ranks.
Authorities transferred children separated from armed groups to UNICEF.
In March 2016 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. On April 8, five of the boys were executed by firing squad. Family members of the boys told human rights groups that the boys confessed only after being subject to electric shocks and burned with cigarettes on their genitals.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
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, carjacking, and bureaucratic obstacles.
Humanitarian organizations faced rising levels of violence during the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2016. The upsurge was mainly attributed to an increase in targeted attacks on humanitarian organizations by nonstate armed actors and increased violence at aid distribution sites. Between January and June, more than 90 violent incidents impacted humanitarian personnel, facilities, and assets, leading to the deaths of four humanitarian workers, injury to nine, arrests and temporary detention of six, and abduction of 13. Seven humanitarian workers were expelled from Somalia by authorities in the first half of the year. There was also an increase in the number of violent armed incidents associated with relief aid distributions. By the end of August, nearly 30 incidents accounted for the deaths of 32 civilians and injury to 38 others, with the majority associated with food distribution conducted by local authorities.
For example, on May 29, at least four civilians were killed when an SNA soldier began shooting at a feeding center in Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab seized relief supplies. 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 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.
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.
On July 27, al-Shabaab issued a statement forbidding civilians in areas under its control from taking assistance from humanitarian organizations and threatening to execute as spies anyone who contacted aid agencies.