Somalia

Overview:  Al-Shabaab continued to pose a significant terrorist threat in Somalia and the region, despite shared efforts by the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), neighboring countries, and the African Union.  Al-Shabaab continued to leverage its influence in Somalia to extort millions of dollars in revenue from residents and businesses.  The group regularly conducted deadly operations, including IED attacks, suicide bombings, complex attacks, targeted assassinations, ambushes along supply routes, and indirect fire.  Al-Shabaab’s tactics, techniques, and procedures preserved its ability to strike U.S. interests in the region, and the group conducted a major propaganda campaign distributed in local Kenyan and Ethiopian languages and dialects to increase foreign fighter recruitment.

ISIS-Somalia remains isolated in Puntland, northern Somalia, owing to pressure from al-Shabaab, and in 2022 focused its efforts on revenue generation and extortion activities rather than on high-profile attacks, with some reports of intent to expand revenue generation into the neighboring Somaliland region.  In November, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated eight individuals and one entity as part of the weapons trafficking networks integrated with ISIS-Somalia.

The FGS made security gains against al-Shabaab in 2022 with international assistance.  Led by the U.S.-trained Danab Advanced Infantry Brigade, the Somali National Army (SNA) and local clan militias dubbed Ma’awisley conducted clearing operations against al-Shabaab in the Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions and transitioned control of some of these areas to local authorities.  Holding recovered areas remained a significant challenge.  International stabilization assistance has helped establish governance structures and repaired community infrastructure in newly liberated areas, which in turn has contributed to greater security in some areas.  Al-Shabaab fighters contested SNA control of defensive positions and supply lines.

2022 Terrorist Incidents:  Somalia suffered continual, low-intensity conflict between government-aligned forces and terrorists in 2022.  High-profile terrorist incidents included the following:

  • On May 3, al-Shabaab attacked an African Union Transition Mission in Somalia base in Ceel Baraf, killing about 35 Burundian soldiers.  Roughly 300 al-Shabaab fighters breached the base perimeter, using two car bombs, followed by heavy gunfire.
  • On July 20, al-Shabaab militants attacked towns located along the border with Ethiopia in Bakool region, where they clashed with Ethiopian paramilitary forces.  Following a three-day battle, Ethiopian officials reported more than 100 fighters had been killed after the militants crossed the border, reportedly traveling about 100 kilometers into Ethiopia.  Numbers of civilian and security forces killed or wounded were not published.
  • On August 19, al-Shabaab launched a complex attack on Mogadishu’s Hayat Hotel, which ended after a 40-hour siege, with at least 32 killed.  This marked the first hotel attack in Mogadishu since January 2021.
  • On October 3, at least 20 people were killed in a triple car bombing attack by al-Shabaab in the city of Beledweyne in central Somalia.
  • On October 29, two vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) detonated near Zobe junction in Mogadishu, killing about 121 people and injuring more than 330, the largest civilian casualty attack since a suicide VBIED attack in the same area in 2017.
  • On November 27, al-Shabaab launched a high-profile, complex attack on Villa Rays Hotel, located adjacent to Mogadishu’s highly protected government mall area.  The subsequent attack and siege lasted 22 hours, with nine persons killed and five wounded, including the Minister of Internal Security.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  The FGS and local authorities demonstrated a continued commitment to improve Somalia’s law enforcement and judicial entities and made progress on U.S.-supported counterterrorism initiatives.  In 2022 the Somali Police Force leveraged U.S. mentorship and increased its capacity to investigate and prosecute terrorism cases.  Draft legislation on counterterrorism, the National Intelligence and Security Agency Act and the National Identification and Registration Act were introduced to Parliament in December 2021 and approved in mid-January, but they have yet to be signed.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism:  Somalia is a member of the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force.  Its FIU is the Financial Reporting Center.  In December the FGS closed around 250 bank and 70 mobile money accounts with suspected al-Shabaab connections, and it will continue to investigate the suspicious accounts.

Countering Violent Extremism:  The Office of the Prime Minister is responsible for coordinating FGS efforts and international support for the prevention and countering of violent extremism.  The FGS has gathered religious leaders to counter al-Shabaab religious narratives, supported in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development.  In 2022, U.S. support enabled continuance of a messaging and hotline campaign that boosted enrollments in defector rehabilitation centers.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The African Union Mission on Somalia evolved into the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) in March, as endorsed and authorized by the UN Security Council in resolution 2628 with a mandate (subsequently extended in United Nations Security Council resolution 2670) through midyear 2023.  ATMIS’s anticipated exit is envisioned as year-end 2024, when Somalia is expected to assume full responsibility for its own security.

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