Country Report on Terrorism 2013 - Chapter 2 - Somalia

Overview: In 2013, the Federal Government of Somalia – with the support of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and regional and international partners – continued to battle the threat posed by al-Shabaab. While progress was made in some areas, al-Shabaab continued to exploit divisions within Somalia and commit asymmetric attacks to destabilize the country. Compared with previous years, the terrorist group al-Shabaab executed a wider spectrum of attacks in Mogadishu and throughout Somalia, including more sophisticated, asymmetrical attacks and assassinations; and destruction of property. Several larger and more deadly al-Shabaab attacks in Mogadishu involved two-part operations, where attackers targeted first responders and onlookers, producing higher casualties. Al-Shabaab also executed attacks on harder targets in Mogadishu, including international compounds and convoys.

While AMISOM and Somali forces continued to control major population strongholds, al-Shabaab continued to control large sections of rural areas in south-central Somalia, including areas in the Juba, Shabelle, Bay, and Bakol regions. Al-Shabaab also continued to operate in northern Somalia along the Golis Mountains and within the federal state of Puntland’s larger urban areas. Areas controlled by al-Shabaab provided a permissive environment for the group to train operatives and plot attacks. The ability of federal, local, and regional authorities to prevent and pre-empt al-Shabaab terrorist attacks remained limited. The overstretched AMISOM forces could not take the offensive against al-Shabaab nor liberate new areas controlled by al-Shabaab in 2013. In November, the UN Security Council approved an increase of 4,000 troops for AMISOM to enable increased offensive operations.

Somalia remained a safe haven for al-Shabaab. The group continued to plan and mount operations within Somalia and in neighboring countries, particularly in Kenya. However, despite its successes, al-Shabaab continued to face internal pressure and experience internal leadership disputes. The primary faction, controlled by Moktar Ali Zubeyr “Godane,” wielded increasing influence, and reportedly ordered the deaths of several prominent members, including U.S. citizen Omar Hammami (also known as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki) outside of Dinsor, Bay region, on September 12, and Somali national Ibrahim al-Afghani in Barawe, on June 19.

2013 Terrorist Incidents: In 2013, al-Shabaab conducted suicide attacks, remote-controlled roadside bombings, kidnappings, and killings of government officials, foreigners, journalists, humanitarian workers, and civil society leaders throughout Somalia. Al-Shabaab executed attacks in Mogadishu targeting convoys, and popular gathering places for government officials, diaspora, and foreigners, using beheadings, stonings, and other forms of public executions to instill fear and obedience in communities.

Examples of high-profile al-Shabaab incidents in 2013 included:

  • On March 18, al-Shabaab detonated a car bomb targeting and injuring Somali intelligence Chief Kahlif Ahmed Ereg near the National Theater in Mogadishu. Ten civilians were killed and 15 were injured.
  • On April 14, nine heavily-armed al-Shabaab suicide bombers raided Mogadishu’s Supreme Court complex – the Benadir Regional Courthouse – and then executed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) secondary attack on first responders and onlookers, killing more than 30 persons and injuring another 35. Later in the day, al-Shabaab attacked a Turkish NGO vehicle with a VBIED in Mogadishu, killing two Turkish aid workers and other civilians.
  • On June 19, al-Shabaab attacked the UN Common Compound, located 100 meters from Mogadishu International Airport, using a VBIED. Attackers entered the compound with a secondary vehicle and used small weapons to kill 22 people, including three international staff, and injured many more.
  • On July 12, al-Shabaab struck an AMISOM convoy near Mogadishu International Airport. Al-Shabaab later publicly admitted that they had tried to target U.S. intelligence officials.
  • On July 27, al-Shabaab attacked the Turkish Embassy housing complex in Mogadishu, using a VBIED and small weapons. All three al-Shabaab attackers died, along with one Turkish security guard and seven Somali security guards. The attackers also injured 13 others.
  • On September 3 and 4, al-Shabaab attacked the convoy of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud with improvised explosive devices (IED) as the President traveled to Merka, Lower Shabelle.
  • On September 7, al-Shabaab executed a two-part VBIED and suicide attack against the popular Villa Restaurant in Mogadishu, killing at least 18 civilians.
  • On September 12 and November 5, al-Shabaab targeted the convoy of Interim Juba Administration President Ahmed Madobe with a VBIED outside of the Kismayo airport, killing civilians and slightly injuring Madobe in the September 12 attack.
  • On November 8, al-Shabaab failed to detonate fully a sophisticated IED embedded in a laptop at the popular Maka al Mukarama hotel in Mogadishu, frequented by high-level government and security officials. The attack killed six and injured 15, when a secondary VBIED detonated in the parking lot.
  • On November 19, al-Shabaab attacked the police station in Beledweyne with a VBIED, grenades, and small weapons, killing 21 Somali police and one Djiboutian AMISOM soldier.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Somalia possessed limited investigative and enforcement capacity to prosecute terrorists effectively. Somalia currently employs an outdated penal code, last updated in 1963. Somalian officials lack the capacity to develop comprehensive counterterrorism laws without substantial international assistance. The Parliament did not approve draft counterterrorism legislation in July 2013; work is ongoing to develop new draft legislation.

Due to lack of civil judiciary capacity, the federal government tried terrorism cases in its military court system. Puntland – a semi-autonomous northeast region in Somalia – also lacked regional counterterrorism legislation and tried terrorism cases in its state military court. On March 21, the Puntland military court convicted 36 people accused of links to al-Shabaab. The court sentenced several individuals to life imprisonment, while others received the death penalty. On April 30, Puntland executed 13 al-Shabaab members and supporters whom the court convicted in March.

Somali law enforcement’s basic capacity needs improvement, including basic investigation skills, cordon and search operations, and coordination with the judicial branch. Somalia also lacks capacity, transparency, and institutions to operate an effective judicial and law enforcement system, which, in turn, hinders the federal government’s ability to develop and enforce the rule of law, prosecute criminals, and serve justice to the Somali population. In 2013, with assistance from the U.S. Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, Somali Federal Police received a modest amount of training on crisis response, border security, and leadership and management capacity building.

Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency takes the lead in counterterrorism functions and serves as the rapid-reaction response force to terrorist attacks in Mogadishu. Interagency cooperation and information sharing remained inadequate at all levels on counterterrorism issues, although this year’s appointment of a new National Security Advisor and Council helped bridge some of the coordination gaps. Almost all Somali law enforcement actions against terrorists and terrorist groups were reactive in nature.

Somalia has porous borders. Most countries do not recognize Somali identity documents, leaving Somalia with little to no travel document security. Somalia currently does not have a central or shared terrorist screening watchlist, nor does it have biographic and biometric screening capabilities at ports of entry. Minimal cooperation occurred between the federal and regional governments and U.S. law enforcement to investigate suspected terrorists, kidnappings, and other incidents of terrorism committed inside and outside of Somalia.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Somalia does not belong to any Financial Action Task Force regional body. The Ministry of Interior drafted a counterterrorism law in 2013 with the assistance of a British legal adviser. Parliament did not review or pass the law in 2013 – the draft remained insufficient to provide adequate oversight over the financing of terrorism and did not include provisions to freeze or confiscate terrorist assets. Somalia does not have a commercial banking sector, and the Central Bank lacks the capacity to supervise or regulate the hawala (money service businesses) sector. Somalia does not have laws or procedures requiring the collection of data for money transfers or suspicious transaction reports. Somalia did not distribute the UN list of terrorists or terrorist entities to financial services. Somalia lacked the funding and capacity to investigate and prosecute incidents of terrorist financing. The supervisory and examining section of the Somali Central Bank attempted to develop procedures to oversee the policies governing the establishment of commercial banks in the country. The section suffered from limited staffing and lacked additional funding to pay the salaries of its staff.

In 2013, government entities lacked the capacity to track, seize, or freeze illegal assets. The Somali hawalas, most of which operate abroad, employed self-imposed minimum international standards to continue operating in countries with comprehensive anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) laws. In May, Barclay’s Bank in the UK informed all small money service businesses (MSBs), including all Somali hawalas, that the bank would close their accounts. Dahabshil, Somalia’s largest MSB, sued Barclay’s Bank, claiming the decision was discriminatory. The judge awarded Dahabshil a stay until the court hears the case. Barclay’s Bank claimed that U.S. AML/CFT laws prompted the bank to make the decision due to the risk factors associated with bank accounts from Somalia.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes:

Regional and International Cooperation: Somalia is a member of the AU, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the League of Arab States, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Somalia is also a member of the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism.

Following the al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya, from September 21 to 24, Somalia expressed greater interest in increasing intelligence sharing and conducting joint operations with its Horn of Africa neighbors against al-Shabaab.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: With U.S. and international support, in 2013, the Federal Government of Somalia increased its capacity to deliver public messaging that counters al-Shabaab’s violent extremist messaging. Radio Mogadishu and state-owned TV stations broadcasted programs aimed to counter al-Shaabab’s propaganda and violent extremist messaging. The Somali government continued to air the Islamic Lecture Series (ILS), which began in Mogadishu in 2010, and the reach of its programming has since expanded to include the former al-Shabaab strongholds in Baidoa, Beledweyne, Dhusamared, and Abudwaq. The ILS employs an hour-long, call-in radio program designed to undercut al-Shabaab’s efforts to acquire religious legitimacy for its violent extremist ideology. The Federal Government of Somalia also began to implement its National Program for Disengaged Combatants and At-Risk Youth, an interagency program to register, de-radicalize, rehabilitate, and reintegrate low-risk fighters that are disengaging from al-Shabaab and associated militias.