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The Terrorist Operations to Across East Africa’s Somalia, Kenya – An Intelligence Brief

London(ANN)- Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), commonly known as Al-Shabaab an affiliate of Al-Qaeda operating in East Africa region continue to record increased successful attacks from across regions of Somalia and its neighbor Kenya.

The militant group has entrenched itself in central and southern Somalia with an insurgency that has targeted Somali security forces, foreign troops and Somali citizenry. The group’s increased activity continues to pose threat and significant burden on the countries of the Horn of Africa and more so to regional forces combating them.

This week, Al-Shabaab has upscaled its attacks in Somalia recording more than twenty attacks and recording at least three attacks in the neighboring country (Kenya). Its more of repeat attacks in Somalia. The Islamist Al-Shabaab continue to target SNA and AMISOM troops in their bases and convoys especially in the rural areas and small towns in the southern and central parts of the country.

In East Africa, Kenya has become a direct target of Al-Shabaab. After a lull in group’s activity along the border with Somalia, Al-Shabaab recorded at least three attacks Kenyan county of Mandera bordering Somalia.  Al-Shabaab continue to target military posts, police, police reservists, and telecommunications infrastructure in northeastern Kenya prefectures, a longtime area of recruitment for the militant group.

Recently Claimed Attacks (June 12th – June 19th 2020)

  • June 12. Two government soldiers killed in an explosion in Afgooye district of Lower Shabelle. Two explosion targeted SNA military convoy. Tankers carrying fuel also destroyed.
  • June 12. Al-Shabaab fighters target SNA military base in Awdheengle and Barire areas in Lower Shabelle. Heavy exchange of gun fire reported with casualties from both sides being reported.
  • June 12. Al-Shabaab claimed a cross-amputation (amputation of the right hand and left foot) on a man accused of banditry in the town of Kurtunwaarey, Lower Shabelle.
  • June 13. Heavy IED blast reported in Balcad town, Middle Shabelle. One government soldier killed and two others wounded. Heavy clash reported following the ambush raid, some 30km to the capital Mogadishu.
  • June 13. Al-Shabaab reportedly probed SNA-FOB in Abdale Birole from various directions using PKMs and AK47 rifles.
  • June 13. Attack on Jubaland Security Forces (JSF) reported in Lower Juba region of Somalia. Al-Shabaab claimed to have killed four soldiers in the armed attack, and seized machine guns near Dhobley town.
  • June 13. IED blast reported targeting Ethiopian troops. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for two IED explosions on Ethiopian troops heading to Baidoa in Bay region of Somalia. Another explosion targeted ENDF troops in Yurkud, a small town in southwestern Gedo region. Militants claimed to have killed 10 ENDF. Two military vehicles were also destroyed in the attacks.
  • June 13. Al-Shabaab claimed to have publicly executed two men for allegedly working for Somali Intelligence (NISA). The two men identified as Ahmed Mohamed Foodey and Abdi Dahir Hirey were executed by Al-Shabaab’s firing squad in Ruun-Nirgood district of Middle Shabelle.
  • June 13. Attacks reported on AMISOM base manned by KDF troops in Kolbiyow area near the border.
  • June 13. IED planted in Balcad town of Middle Shabelle successfully defused by anti-mine unit.
  • June 13. Reports from NEP Kenya indicate of possible abductions of non-locals in Fino in early morning hours. Four ladies reportedly abducted. Two reported to have been raped and returned to Fino while the whereabouts of the other two is unknown.
  • June 14. AMISOM military base in Balcad Middle Shabelle attacked. The base manned by Burundian troops attacked with mortar shells. One soldier killed.
  • June 14. Al-Shabaab claim attack on government officials in the districts of Banadir. The Al-Qaeda aligned militant group claimed multiple attacks on government officials in Kaawa Godey, Yakshid and Dharkenley.
  • June 14. Al-Shabaab claim an attack in Warankarra, Lafey in Mandera NEP Kenya. The militants attempted to destroy Safaricom BTS mast with grenades. KPR manning the mast responded killed two militants. One KPR also killed in the intense gun fight.
  • June 15. Al-Shabaab claim several IED explosions targeting AMISOM-Ugandan troop’s convoy on road linking Golweyn and Bula Mareer towns in Lower Shabelle.
  • 16 June. Al-Shabaab assassinate a local government official in Karaan district of Mogadishu.
  • 16 June. Heavy fighting reported after Al-Shabaab fighters attack AMISOM’s Djibouti military base in Beledweyne town, Hiraan region with mortar shells. No casualties reported.
  • June 17. Al-Shabaab militants reportedly probe ASTU camp in Mandera, NEP Kenya. No casualties reported.
  • June 17. Al-Shabaab claimed detonating two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) targeting joint US-Somali forces at Baledogle airbase in southern Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.
  • June 18. At least 3 people killed after a bomb explosion hit a rickshow in Hodan district of Mogadishu. Three members of the same family [Mother and two children] killed, several pedestrians wounded in the IED blast.

Observations

Al-Shabaab has surged attacks targeting foreign forces in the Horn of Africa. Despite regional and international efforts to counter Al-Shabaab in recent years, there are some challenges that prevent the elimination of the group or curbing its activity and strike capabilities. Concerted COIN efforts have significantly stemmed group’s activity in the region; however, the group remains active especially in Somalia’s theater controlling almost a fifth of Somali territory.

Apart the previous trends where the group concentrated attacks in the capital Mogadishu and its environs, the group has boosted its presence in regions where geography and economic activities favors its operations and hence persistently fighting to maintain control. Al-Shabaab main operational areas remains in Lower Shabelle, Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions, Middle Shabelle, Mogadishu and Banadir districts.

Notable are repeat attacks targeting AMISOM troops especially in Gedo, Bay and Bakool regions. Ethiopian troops under the mandate of AMISOM have become key targets of the Islamist militants. Their bases and convoys seem to be on the enemy’s radar. This week ENDF troops have been targeted with more than 7 explosions, dealing a huge blow to the peacekeepers.

Also, its notable of increased military activity and presence in Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions of Somalia. Nearly half of the attacks, this week have happened in these two regions. Preferred attack type remains the use of IEDs, Landmines and Roadside bombs. Out of 21 attacks, the militants preferred to use IEDs, landmines and roadside bombs on their targets.

There is a possibility that Al-Shabaab could expand its attacks and terrorist operations in Somalia and escalate terrorist attacks against AMISOM troops with the aim of accelerating their withdrawal from Somalia and filling the void this will increase its area of control.

Insights

Al-Shabaab remains the primary direct threat to peace and security in Somalia in particular and the Horn of Africa region in general. The uptick in the group’s activity reveals that the region has become a soft flank for terrorist activity in Africa. Though most of the group’s attacks are low-scale raids, they are significant to the group’s survival and relevance.

The group has perfected its propaganda arm.  The group though its pro-media announces claims of attacks by the militants. The group also releases videos of their past campaigns. Earlier in the week, the group released eighth instalment “And Be Harsh Against Them” propaganda series.

These claims and videos are aimed at glorifying the activities by Al-Shabaab. They are also significant as they shed light upon Al-Shabaab’s growing military capabilities and its ability to execute a terror attack on guarded military defense bases as well as successfully executing mass-casualty attacks in the heart of Somali cities, including the federal capital, Mogadishu.

The newly released video is also a manifestation of the fact that Al-Shabaab runs coordinated media operations that is capable of regularly producing propaganda material and disseminate the ideology of the militant groups. The inclusion of previously unreleased archival footage also shows that the Al-Kataib Media Foundation continues to maintain a sizeable number of recorded groups events and other media materials for later use in Al-Shabaab’s propaganda releases.

Through its attacks inside Kenya, the group seeks to invite broader media coverage given the fact that Kenya is a major hub for diplomacy, tourism and business in Africa. In addition, Kenya hosts a number of international organizations, and is therefore a major target for the group to hit interests linked to Western countries in the region.

Apart from attacking security forces and critical infrastructures in NEP Kenya, the group has severally targeted civilians, especially non-locals working in those areas. Education and health sectors have significantly been affected by Al-Shabaab raids. Attacks on education and health are very tactical moves. In the event children and youth from these regions lacks education, it is will become easier for the Islamist group to recruit them. Al-Shabaab have also in a number of occasions raided and looted chemists and other businesses, thus hurting the economy of Kenya frontier counties.

By Samuel Yosef Agnon


Shmuel Yosef Agnon is a Senior Writer and Editor at the Strategic Intelligence (SI). Specializes in writing intelligence reports, geopolitics, military intelligence and crime reports. Agnon holds a Bachelor of Arts in mass media and journalism, and a master’s degree in international media relations from Winchester, University, England.


Source: Intelligence Briefs

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