Country Report on Terrorism 2019 - Chapter 1 - Somalia

Overview: The Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) remained a committed partner of the United States in the ongoing fight against al-Shabaab (AS) and ISIS-Somalia, taking significant steps to implement security sector and other institutional reforms designed to improve its CT capabilities. However, AS retained de facto control over significant portions of the country, particularly in south-central Somalia, continuing to move freely, collect “taxes,” and exert governing authority in the areas under its control. AS conducted multiple significant and high-profile terrorist attacks in Somalia and appeared to increasingly use targeted assassinations against key government figures and community leaders to undermine the credibility and effectiveness of Somali government institutions.

AMISOM, Somali National Army (SNA), and U.S. forces increased the level of pressure against AS in parts of Somalia in 2019, primarily intending to disrupt the flow of IEDs into the capital Mogadishu. In April 2019, in cooperation with the United States and AMISOM, the FGS launched an operation to retake key territory near Mogadishu from AS control; the FGS is preparing further operations for 2020.

AS also continued to attack targets in the border area between Somalia and Kenya. Further, ISIS-Somalia remains involved in fundraising, intimidation campaigns, and assassinations in Mogadishu and northern Somalia. Somalia is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

2019 Terrorist Incidents: Key terrorist incidents within Somalia in 2019 included:

  • On February 28, three VBIED attacks in Mogadishu killed at least 30 people near the popular Makka al-Mukarama hotel. AS claimed responsibility.
  • On March 23, in a complex attack that lasted several hours, attackers killed at least five people, including the Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, after detonating multiple IEDs in Mogadishu, including at a government compound hosting Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Public Works. AS claimed responsibility.
  • On July 12, one American died after a complex attack – involving a VBIED and multiple gunmen – on the Asasey hotel in Kismayo, Somalia. Media reported 27 total casualties. AS claimed responsibility.
  • On July 24, a blind female suicide bomber killed herself and seven other people, including Mogadishu Mayor Abdirahman Omar Osman, during a security meeting in the mayor’s office. AS claimed responsibility.
  • On September 30, assailants detonated a VBIED outside Baledogle Military Airfield, then launched an attack at the SNA base. SNA forces repelled the attack with no deaths or injuries. On the same day, a VBIED targeted an EU convoy in Mogadishu, injuring multiple Somali civilians. AS claimed responsibility.
  • On December 28, more than 80 people were killed by a truck bomb on the outskirts of Mogadishu, according to preliminary reports. AS claimed responsibility.

Legislation, Law Enforcement and Border Security: FGS remained a willing partner to U.S. efforts to improve the quality of policing entities throughout the country, especially the CT and criminal investigation capabilities of the Somali Police Force (SPF). In 2019, the FGS took renewed interest in police reform, appointing new leadership to key posts, including the SPF commissioner. Additionally, on September 8, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Justice, Military Courts, the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Internal Security, SPF, and the Somali Bar Association approved a U.S.-supported roadmap for transferring serious cases from military to civilian courts.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Somalia is a member of MENAFATF. In 2019, FGS continued to strengthen institutional AML/CFT efforts, including support for the Financial Reporting Center, the country’s FIU, which began operations in November 2018. Commercial banks and “hawala” money transfer bureau compliance officers, in accordance with legislation and regulations, have been submitting suspicious transaction and large currency transaction reports to the FRC on a monthly basis. The Central Bank of Somalia adopted its first-ever strategic plan, which identified full implementation of an AML/CFT framework as its number one strategic goal.

Somalia finalized AML/CFT regulations in September, which will operationalize the government’s ability to monitor financial transactions and take action to investigate potential terrorism financing. The government also adopted regulations governing mobile money transactions in August to close gaps in the AML/CFT regime and more closely monitor the substantial movement of money through services provided by the telecommunications sector.

Countering Violent Extremism: The FGS Office of the Prime Minister is responsible for coordinating government efforts and international support for CVE. The Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism Coordinator was established in 2018 and now leads a regular working group. The National Strategy for Public Awareness was established by the Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism in 2018 as a three-year strategy that includes specific lines of effort for CVE through the media. Following the February 2017 presidential election, the FGS announced its intent to offer amnesty to any AS member willing to denounce terrorism and support the FGS. A donor-supported effort to reintegrate former AS combatants continues, primarily through reintegration centers operating in Mogadishu, Kismayo, and Baidoa. Somalia is also a newly established GCERF beneficiary country.

International and Regional Cooperation: The FGS continued to partner closely with AMISOM to help enable the transition of security responsibilities from AMISOM to Somali security forces. Between February and March 2019, 1,000 Burundi National Defense Forces left Somalia as part of the first scheduled drawdown for AMISOM forces. The next drawdown of AMISOM forces is scheduled for February 2020.