Analysis Team

Analysis Team

Position Overview: The Senior Intelligence Analyst will plan, collect, process, analyze, and disseminate a variety of finished intelligence products, focusing on security and political risk in Sub- Saharan Africa, including but not limited to counter terrorism and violent extremist organizations, insurgents, state and non-state actors. The key countries of focus are Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, in addition to bespoke reporting on other complex security environments across Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tasks include:

  • Perform qualitative and quantitative research and analysis on information and data from a variety of sources.
  • Conduct forward looking analysis and produce detailed reports on security and political incidents pertaining to activities and threats which may impact customer areas of operations.
  • Track and analyze violent extremist organizations, incidents and propaganda materials to assess operational capabilities and potential future threats.
  • Produce finished intelligence products including scheduled bi-weekly situational analyses on countries of focus, with other bespoke analysis, assessments and briefings as required.
  • Real time verification, alerts and analysis in response to SIGACTs for key countries.
  • Produce formal RFI responses, support proposal writing, and other ad-hoc assessments.
  • Guide junior analyst(s) and OSINT watchkeepers utilizing analytic tradecraft.

Qualifications, experience and other requirements:

  • Minimum Education/Experience Requirements: Bachelor’s degree and five years intelligence analysis experience, or ten years of analysis experience with DoD or a Government Agency.
  • Formal military or government intelligence analysis training course.
  • Experience producing analytical products and assessments for the Horn and East Africa.
  • Experience in producing intelligence analysis on both political and security risk.
  • Comprehension of human terrain, complex societal and cultural relations and the nexus with security and political dynamics in key areas of operation.
  • Must be professional, promote teamwork, ability to cooperate, communicate and work effectively in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual environment.
  • Must be flexible, and able to balance producing qualitative reporting and meeting deadlines.
  • Well organized with the ability to coordinate, prioritize and execute multiple tasks simultaneously in a dynamic work environment.
  • Ability to conduct briefings and produce quality reports for customers from a variety of government, non-government, security and private sector organizations.
  • Proficient in Microsoft office including Office, Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

Advantage to have:

  • Ability to obtain U.S. security clearance
  • Human Terrain Analysis
  • Proficiency in analytic software/ link analysis tools, and ArcGIS
  • Languages – Arabic, Somali, French, Swahili

Company Description: Founded in 2014, Vates is a U.S. Veteran-Owned Small Business and an equal opportunity/ affirmative action employer. Vates provides analysis, assessments and specialized consultancy enabling companies to understand and mitigate threats and risks when operating in dynamic and complex environments throughout sub-Saharan Africa. We have a proven track record of supporting our clients’ high threat operations, and are on the ground with regional offices in Nairobi, Kenya and Mogadishu, Somalia.

Primary Work Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Contract period: Contractor with rotational deployments (105/35 or as agreed), with potential for full time employment.

If you believe you have the requisite skill set and are interested in applying, please send your resume and a cover letter to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Vates Corp Special Report: Analysis of Mogadishu VBIED Attacks Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019

The security state in Mogadishu, Somalia has deteriorated over recent months. Al-Qaida aligned al-Shabaab, and to a much lesser extent ISIS militants, are responsible for an increased tempo of terrorist attacks including murders/ assassinations, grenade and direct attacks against security forces checkpoints and outposts, indirect fire attacks, and attacks involving multiple types of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Militant groups have successfully proven their intent and capability to breach protective security measures in Mogadishu, and to launch high profile and complex attacks targeting areas considered some of the most secure in the capital. This analysis examines data of Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) attacks[i] in Mogadishu for the 27-month period from Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019,[ii] which have proven to be the most deadly tool in the militants’ arsenal.

Our analytical approach utilises our internal incident database as a building block along with other sources to identify relationships between key variables, which enables our analysts to gauge potential future threats and security risks. While past incidents alone are not necessarily a reliable indicator of what may occur in the future, we have focused our assessment on Mogadishu VBIED attacks/ incidents, including targets, timings and militant tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to analyse current and historical trends, and assess how they may impact our clients’ operations. Details from tracked incidents are based on those reported through a number of different sources, and particularly with regards to casualty figures, should be viewed as minimums with the total number possibly higher.[iii]

The number of IED incidents Vates analysts tracked in Mogadishu occurring in the 27 month period between Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 spiked at a record high during the month of Mar 2019 with (28)[iv] incidents/ attacks, of which al-Shabaab was responsible in all but one incident.[v] As militants increased the tempo of IED attacks, we have extrapolated data from (45) separate Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks which occurred since Jan 01 2017, all of which al-Shabaab either directly claimed, or was assessed as having been responsible for undertaking.[vi] While some Mogadishu complex attacks involved multiple VBIEDs, our methodology for this analysis, outlined in the Incident Details section below, classifies VBIED attacks as a single incident when they occurred in close proximity to the attack site, and relative to timing of the incident. As such, we have tracked and analysed a total of (54) separate VBIEDs detonations in the (45) incidents/ attacks which occurred during the period.

Al-Shabaab S/VBIED Tactics, Techniques and Procedures

The (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks resulted in a total number of casualties of at least (1,063) victims killed and (1,068) victims injured. Based on these figures, an average of 23.62 victims were killed per attack/ incident, with 23.73 victims wounded. Notwithstanding that al-Shabaab is known to utilise networks and facilitators to assist in attacks, these 45 attacks analysed were assessed as involving a minimum of 83 attackers, with a kill ratio of at least 12.81 victims killed per attacker.[vii] The Oct 14 2017, Zobe Truck Bombing was the most deadly incident during the period, after the driver detonated a large Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (SVBIED) in a heavily populated urban area, recording the highest number of casualties in a single incident in Mogadishu to date, with at least 587 victims killed and at least 316 victims wounded.[viii] While al-Shabaab did not take credit for this incident, it was almost certainly responsible, and likely refrained from claiming the attack as the driver of the SVBIED was fleeing from a checkpoint when the militant detonated in a heavily populated urban area killing and injuring mostly civilians.

Al-Shabaab VBIED Targeting

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu Somalia al-Shabaab VBIED Heatmap
Figure 1 Jan 01 2017 – Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIED Heatmap/ (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks

Based on our analysis of Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks which occurred during the period, we assess that at least 31.11 per cent of attacks (14 of 45) were complex in nature, involving multiple VBIEDs and other methods of attack.[ix] There were (6) additional VBIEDs that based on the timings and locations we assess were likely intended to be utilised as part of a coordinated or complex attack.[x] Drivers of Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIEDs) were present in 55.56 per cent (30 of 54 VBIEDs) of the incidents/ attacks.[xi] VBIEDs detonated in the vicinity of (IVO) government or allied forces sites and assets in 53.33 per cent (24 of 45) of attacks,[xii] with (7) of these devices detonating after detection at checkpoints or during attempts to disable the device.[xiii] Three of these VBIEDs (3 of 45/ 6.67 per cent) detonated IVO government or allied forces sites and assets involved SVBIEDs attempted to ram security forces convoys, with all three missing their intended target.[xiv] VBIEDs detonated IVO civilian sites or areas in 46.67 per cent (21 of 45) incidents/ attacks,[xv] with (4) of these VBIEDs detonating after detection, in pursuit or prior to attempts to disable the device.[xvi] VBIEDs detonating near civilian sites or areas resulted in at least (876) victims killed, representing 82.41 per cent of (876 of 1,063) the total victims killed, and (798) victims wounded representing 74.72 percent (798 of 1,068) the total victims wounded during the period.

Analyst Comments When further analysing al-Shabaab VBIED targeting by year, in 2017 (20) VBIED incidents/ attacks, (9/ 45 per cent) detonated IVO government or allied forces sites and assets, and (11/ 55 per cent) detonated IVO civilian sites or areas. Of the 2018 (17) VBIED attacks, (13/ 76.47 per cent) detonated IVO government or allied forces sites and assets, and (4/ 23.53 per cent) detonated IVO civilian cites or areas. Already in 2019, al-Shabaab has conducted (8) VBIED attacks (2/ 25 per cent) detonating IVO government sites, and (6/ 75 per cent) detonating IVO civilian sites or areas.

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu Somalia VBIED Timeline/ (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks
Figure 2 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIED Timeline/ (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks

While al-Shabaab has repeatedly sought to justify the targeting of civilian venues such as hotels and restaurants in Mogadishu,[xvii] it is highly likely that the group temporarily altered its targeting methodology following the Oct 14 2017 Zobe attack, as many in the public condemned the group following this tragedy. This likely explains al-Shabaab VBIED attacks mostly targeting government or allied forces sites and assets in 2018. However on Nov 09 2018, the group launched a high profile complex attack against the Sahafi Hotel utilising 3 x SVBIEDs and gunmen, and while militants were unsuccessful in taking control of the hotel, the attack resulted in at least (52) victims killed, and at least (100) victims injured, mostly civilians. Following this attack, we noted in our analysis that considering the limited public outcry against al-Shabaab following the loss of over 50 persons, who were mostly civilian, this may signal a renewed campaign and further targeting of luxury hotels and civilian areas of the capital.[xviii] In fact since Nov 09 2018, 66.67 per cent (6 of 9) of VBIED attacks in Mogadishu have detonated IVO civilian sites or areas. Nevertheless, when analysing only the total (24) VBIED incidents/ attacks which detonated IVO government or allied forces sites and assets since Jan 01 2017, 41.67 per cent (10 of 24) detonated between KM 4 and KM 0 and within approximately 250 metres of Maka Al Mukarama Road.[xix] Similarly, 61.91 per cent (13 of 21) VBIED incidents/ attacks which detonated IVO civilian sites or areas during the period occurred in this same area,[xx] which is also the commercial centre of the capital. The combined total (23 of 45) VBIED incidents/ attacks that occurred IVO Maka al Mukarama Rd accounts for 51.11 per cent of all VBIEDs, which is considered the most heavily protected central business district of the capital. This is likely attributed to a number of factors which may include Mogadishu luxury hotels and restaurants being co-located near government ministries and sites, attacks against upscale restaurants and hotels where individuals with possible links to the government may frequent or reside, and attacks against businesses that refuse or are unable to pay al-Shabaab taxes. It is also likely that some of the attacks occurring in central areas of Mogadishu involved mistakes by militants who were frightened or backed out of attacks and abandoned VBIEDs in the Mogadishu central business district.[xxi] However, al-Shabaab almost always attempts to justify VBIEDs utilised against civilian sites as having targeted or killed senior officials, which is often false or by chance, considering that at any given time most upscale hotels or restaurants in the capital will host guests who may have some links to the government.

Al-Shabaab VBIED Attack Timing

While there were sometimes multiple incidents during a month, some months were without VBIED incident, as noted in the timeline at Figure 2 above. Between Jan 01 2017 - and Apr 08 2019, Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks have occurred at a rate of 1 per 18.40 days. Since Jan 01 2019 Mogadishu VBIED attacks have occurred at a rate of 1 per 12.25 days, and if left undeterred, al-Shabaab is on track to surpass the frequency of VBIED incidents of previous years.

When examining data from all (45) Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks by month of year at Figure 3, results demonstrate that Mar (10) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Feb (6), Apr (5), May (4), Jul (4), Oct (4), Jan (3), Sep (3), Jun (2), Nov (2), Aug (1), and Dec (1). During the period, the highest number of incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 3, results demonstrate that Sun (9) and Thurs (9) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Sat (8), Mon (7), Fri (5), Tues (4), and Wed (3).

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu Somalia VBIED Timeline/ (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks
Figure 3 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIEDs (45) Month of Year/ Day of Week; 2017 Mogadishu VBIEDs (20) Month of Year/ Day of Week

2017 Mogadishu (20) VBIED incidents/ attacks by month of year at Figure 3, results demonstrate that May (4) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Mar (3), Oct (3), Jan (2), Apr (2), Jun (2), Feb (1), Jul (1), Sep (1), and Nov (1). During the period, the highest number of incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 3, results demonstrate that Sun (5) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Mon (4), Tues (3), Wed (3), Sat (3), and Thurs (2).

Vates Corp Jan 01 2018 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu Somalia VBIED Timewheels
Figure 4 2018 Mogadishu VBIEDs (17) Month of Year/ Day of Week; Jan 01 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIEDs (8) Day of Week

2018 Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks by month of year at Figure 4 above, results demonstrate that Mar (4) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Jul (3), Feb (2), Apr (2), Sep (2), Aug (1), Oct (1), Nov (1), and Dec (1). During the period, the highest number of incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 4 above show that Fri (5) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Sat (4), Sun (4), Mon (2), and Thurs (2). In 2019 Jan - Apr 08, Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 4 above, results demonstrate that the highest number of incidents/ attacks occurred on Thurs (5), followed by Mon (1), Tues (1), and Sat (1). While Ramadan is a period when al-Shabaab has threatened to step up attacks and has been associated with a heightened threat in Mogadishu, based on the data analysis, we can see that in 2017 the May/Jun timeframe experienced a high number of VBIED attacks, while the Ramadan period for 2018 did not experience any VBIED attacks.[xxii] The decline in VBIED attacks during Ramadan 2018 was likely related to defensive security measures and checkpoints, effectively restricting movements. Nevertheless, militant groups adjusted their targeting methodology with increased numbers of murders and assassinations during the Holy Month, and in Jul 2018 conducted two complex VBIED attacks within a seven day period, utilising four separate VBIEDs in the attacks.[xxiii]

While the patterns and timing of all al-Shabaab VBIED incidents/ attacks during the period are important tools to understanding the group’s targeting methodology, we have broken down the incidents/ attacks down further below by target type to assist in tactical planning. The first dataset below details al-Shabaab Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 VBIED incidents/ attacks against government targets.

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu Somalia VBIEDs Govt Targets (20)
Figure 5 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu VBIEDs Govt Targets (20)
Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu Somalia VBIEDs Govt Targets Month/Day of Year
Figure 6 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu VBIEDs Govt Targets Month of Year/ Day of Week

Analyst Comment For the purpose of this section of analysis, we have excluded VBIED attacks that occurred after detection by security forces near checkpoints, and incidents/ attacks that occurred on the Afgoye corridor where militants or facilitators may have been staging devices in Mogadishu for a later attack. Furthermore, while detonations such as serial 27 and 28 Danwadaagaha/ Zobe occurred in civilian areas (see Incident Details table below), we have included data from these attacks in the government section of this analysis as prior to detonation both vehicles were detected by security forces, and we assess the attackers were likely enroute to attack Halane, or another government or allied forces site.[xxiv] Based on these parameters in the period Jan 01 2017 to April 08 2019, (20) selected VBIED incidents/ attacks in Mogadishu targeted government or allied forces sites and assets. In this dataset by month of year at Figure 6 above, results demonstrate that Mar (4) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Apr (3), Jul (3), Feb (2), Jun (2), Sep (2), Oct (2), Jan (1), and Dec (1). In this dataset, the highest number of incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 6 above demonstrate that Sat (6) recorded the highest number of incidents/ attacks, followed by Sun (4), Fri (4), Mon (2), Tues (2), and Thurs (2). Of note, the (4) Fri attacks against government or allied forces sites targeted Airport road in the vicinity of Halane and Villa Somalia as most other government sites would have been closed.[xxv] 

The second dataset below details al-Shabaab Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 (15) VBIED incidents/ attacks against civilian cites or areas. For the purpose of this analysis, we have excluded one VBIED detonation that occurred after detection by security forces, one that prematurely detonated, and one that detonated following impact with the parked VBIED.[xxvi]

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu Somalia VBIEDs Civilian Targets (20) Heatmap
Figure 7 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu VBIEDs Civilian Targets (15)

Based on these parameters, we have selected (15) Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks targeting civilian sites or areas in this dataset for the period Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 by month of year at Figure 8 below. The results demonstrate that Mar (4) and Feb (4) recorded the highest number of VBIED incidents/ attacks, followed by Jan (2), May (2), Aug (1), Oct (1), and Nov (1). In this dataset, the highest number of incidents/ attacks by day of week at Figure 8 below, results demonstrate that Thurs (5) recorded the highest number of VBIED incidents/ attacks, followed by Mon (3), Sun (2), Wed (2), Tues (1), Fri (1), and Sat (1).

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu Somalia VBIEDs Civilian Targets (15)
Figure 8 Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Select Mogadishu VBIEDs Civilian Targets Month of Year/ Day of Week; Select Complex VBIEDs Civilian Targets Hour of Day

With this dataset, we also analysed the (4) complex attacks utilising VBIEDs which occurred during the period targeting civilian hotels at Figure 6.[xxvii] The Jan 2017, Dayah Hotel attack was a departure from typical TTPs utilised by al-Shabaab during complex hotel attacks involving VBIEDs and gunmen,[xxviii] as it occurred in the morning hours, at approximately 0840hrs. The Oct 28 2017, attack on the Nasa Hablood II occurred at approximately 1700hrs; the Nov 09 2018, Sahafi Hotel attack occurred at approximately 1625hrs; the Feb 28 2019, Makka Al Mukarama Hotel attack occurred at approximately 2028hrs; a fifth VBIED which was part of the Makka Al Mukarama complex attack detonated approximately 1.4km from the hotel, at approximately 2200hrs after the driver abandoned the vehicle. The attacks occurred between Wed and Sat, with no attacks occurring between Sun and Tues. All four attacks involved multiple VBIEDs, with gunmen often arriving in a VBIED that detonated after the gunmen had entered the attack site. All attacks were reportedly initiated by SVBIEDs detonating prior to gunmen attempting to enter the hotel. For the Makka Al Mukarama attack on Feb 28 2019, there remain questions on exactly how the gunmen arrived at the site, and while they failed to enter the hotel, and took shelter and held positions overnight in a residential building next to the hotel, it is possible the gunmen arrived at the attack site and exited the VBIED prior to its detonation near the café next to Makka Al Mukarama Hotel.[xxix]

Analysis During the period Jan 01 2017 – Apr 08 2019, 46.66 per cent (21 of 45) of Mogadishu VBIED attacks occurred between Feb - Apr, which may point to a planning and attack cycle in addition to the partial year data of 2019. As demonstrated following the Oct 14 2017 Zobe attack, al-Shabaab appeared to effectively weather the public outrage and adjusted its targeting methodology directing attacks towards government or allied forces sites and assets through much of 2018, proving the group’s capability to adapt. However, on the part of the government following the Zobe attack, it failed to capitalise on public outrage, did not follow through with offensive operations against al-Shabaab, and public sentiment is beginning to turn against the government. Al-Shabaab is also known to seek to exploit political tensions, and is well adept at striking during times of political uncertainty. With Mogadishu experiencing an increased tempo of all forms of IED incidents/ attacks since Nov 2018, and (6 of 8) 2019 VBIED attacks in the capital targeting civilian sites or areas, the group appears to be effectively mounting a campaign intended to undermine public trust in the government.

The Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 dataset above on select Mogadishu (20) VBIED incidents/ attacks provides insight into al-Shabaab targeting methodology against government or allied forces sites and assets during the period. With the Somali government work week running from Sat - Wed, half day work on Thurs and Fri off, it is very likely al-Shabaab has planned attacks on days and times when government offices would be occupied, with 50 per cent of incidents/ attacks occurring at the start of the work week (10 of 20/ Sat (6), Sun (4)). Similarly, the Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 dataset above on select Mogadishu (15) incidents/ attacks provides insight into al-Shabaab targeting methodology on attacks targeting civilian sites or areas. At the end of the work week, and when civilian sites and areas would most likely be occupied, 33.33 per cent of attacks occurred on Thurs (5), with 53.33 per cent (8 of 15) of incidents/ attacks occurring between 1600hrs - 2300hrs.

Vates Corp Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu Somalia VBIED Timeline/ (45) VBIED incidents/ attacks Hour of Day
Figure 9 2017 - Apr 08 2019 (45) Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks by Hour of Day

The timing of all (45) 2017 - Apr 2019 Mogadishu VBIED incidents/ attacks[xxx] at Figure 9 above, also demonstrates that 31.11 per cent (14 of 45) occurred between 0700hrs - 1200hrs; 53.33 per cent (24 of 45) occurred between 1200hrs - 1800hrs; and 15.56 per cent (7 of 45) occurred between 1800hrs - 2300hrs. With 68.89 per cent (31 of 45) occurring after 1200hrs, al-Shabaab are likely attempting to launch high profile VBIED attacks with the understanding that security forces are often more relaxed in the afternoon, including a potential that some may have begun chewing miraa (khat), and that the profile at security forces checkpoints may be more relaxed. It is also likely that high profile complex attacks are often launched later into the afternoon to maximise casualties, and with the understanding that only a few specialised units have night vision capabilities, training and experience required to mount a coordinated response. As such, if militants are able to hold or extend a siege throughout the night, and into the next day, as recently seen during the Feb 28 2019 Makka Al Mukarama Hotel attack, the group gains additional international media coverage, which adds to the propaganda value of the attack.

A lack of coordination between AMISOM contingents undertaking limited offensive engagements, domestic political disputes between the government and federal member states, funding issues, and different donor priorities have seen the security transition plan slow and have resulted in minimal pressure on al-Shabaab. This inaction has enabled the militant group to strengthen its presence in areas of the country, including Lower and Middle Shabelle, which is almost certainly contributing to deteriorating security in the capital. The lax security posture in Mogadishu over recent months is also likely contributing to increased attacks. However, security operations and measures put in place since early Apr 2019, if sustained, may have some impact and could potentially delay militants planning and attack cycles. Indeed, on Apr 06 2019, government intelligence and security forces, with information from the public, successfully interdicted a large cache of explosives and IED components on the outskirts of Mogadishu near Elasha Biyaha, which was almost certainly intended to be utilised in future Mogadishu attacks.[xxxi] Nevertheless, al-Shabaab is well entrenched in the capital with facilitation and targeting networks and has proven its intent and capability to routinely mount high profile and complex attacks against the most secure areas of the Mogadishu and against well defended strategic targets.

While there is a perception by some that al-Shabaab has reoriented its targeting methodology toward government targets, the data  indicates that al-Shabaab may have adopted this approach for a period in the aftermath of the 2017 Zobe mass casualties attack that killed at least 587 persons, but has pivoted back to the targeting of government and civilian targets in equal measure, and is using its justification of government officials frequenting civilian locations for attacks on soft targets. As stated earlier, there is a notable difference in al-Shabaab attack timing based on whether it is targeting a government or civilian site, with attacks at the beginning of the Somali working week (Sat-Mon) for government sites, with the exception of sites around Airport Rd and Villa Somalia, and towards the end of the week for civilian sites and areas, with Thurs recording the highest number of VBIED incidents. In addition, we assess that al-Shabaab is likely to continue to launch high profile complex attacks later into the afternoon when there is peak occupancy at these venues, a more lax security posture, and the knowledge of limited security force capabilities during evening hours and that extending a siege into the next day is more likely to attract international media attention.

Based on our available data for the 27-month period of analysis, we assess al-Shabaab will seek to continue to target both government and civilian targets aimed at undermining the government and capitalising on political tensions set to continue with just two years left of the tenure of the current administration.

With the current tempo of VBIED incidents since Jan 01 2019 in Mogadishu that have occurred at a rate of 1 per 12.25 days, al-Shabaab is on track to surpass the frequency of VBIED incidents of previous years unless there is a coordinated effort by the Federal Government of Somalia and allied forces to degrade al-Shabaab’s capabilities. Looking forward, defensive security measures and lockdowns may deter high profile attacks for a limited period of time. However, on its own, militants are likely to adapt, and in time the public is almost certain to protest.

While the world has fixated on Islamic State in recent years, al-Shabaab utilises the same harsh tactics under a separate al-Qaida banner. No matter the justification, the worst atrocities committed by the group often involve VBIEDs, many of which are directed against innocent Somali civilians. As such, the Federal Government must reclaim the narrative. However, a culture of incompetence without accountability and rhetoric without action is likely to test the patience and resilience of the Somali people, as well as international donors. Therefore, the Federal Government, with assistance from international partners must make tangible progress in security sector reform and begin fielding national security forces for offensive activities, and to hold and secure areas retaken in joint SOF operations. Furthermore, success against al-Shabaab must be measured by the ability of allied forces to degrade rather than displace the enemy, and leaders must demonstrate commitment to national security through their actions rather than words. End

Incident Details: Jan 01 2017 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIED Incidents/ Attacks

Ser

DTG

Incident Detail/ Target

Target Type

Complex Attack

Device Type 1

Device Type 2

Device Type 3

FKIA

FWIA

1

04/04/2019 19:04:00

Gen Kahiye Police Academy

Government/ Police Site

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

1

7

2

28/03/2019 13:10:00

Filsan Restaurant

Civilian

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

15

17

3

23/03/2019 10:55:00

Ministry of Labour

Government/ Ministry

Yes

SVBIED

VBIED

N/A

15

15

4

07/03/2019 11:00:00

Blue Sky Restaurant

Civilian/ Restaurant

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

7

 

7

5

28/02/2019 22:00:00

21st October Junction

Civilian (VBIED abandoned)

Yes

VBIED

N/A

N/A

0

0

6

28/02/2019 20:28:00

Makka Al Mukarama Hotel/ Gunmen stormed civilian apartments

Civilian/ Hotel & Apartments

Yes

SVBIED (Sources report the driver left the vehicle prior to detonation)

N/A

N/A

29

131

7

04/02/2019 10:20:00

Mogadishu Mall

Civilian/ Commercial

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

13

10

8

29/01/2019 11:20:00

Café Italia Petrol Station

Civilian/ Restaurant

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

2

2

9

22/12/2018 09:35:00

National Theatre/ Hawo Tako Monument

Government/ CP

Yes

VBIED

VBIED

N/A

30

 

54

10

09/11/2018 16:25:00

Sahafi Hotel

Civilian/ Hotel

Yes

SVBIED

SVBIED

SVBIED

52

100

11

01/10/2018 12:00:00

Jaale Siyaad Military Academy

Allied Forces/ EUTM Convoy

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

3

4

12

10/09/2018 10:00:00

Hodan DC HQ

Government/ District HQ

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

12

 

22

13

02/09/2018 10:10:00

Hawlwadaag DC HQ

Government/ District HQ

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

6

14

14

05/08/2018 19:10:00

Bar Italia Restaurant

Civilian/ Restaurant

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

5

19

15

21/07/2018 11:40:00

Sarkuusta

Government CP/ VBIED identified and detonated at CP following pursuit

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

3

2

16

14/07/2018 12:05:00

Beerta Nabaada/ SYL Monument CPs

Government CPs

Yes

SVBIED

SVBIED

N/A

2

3

17

07/07/2018 11:02:00

Ministry of Interior

Government/ Ministry

Yes

SVBIED

VBIED

N/A

12

 

20

18

06/04/2018 14:10:00

Sei Biano CP

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated)

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Apr 06, 2018 NISA CP 1 incident.

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

3

4

19

06/04/2018 12:45:00

NISA CP 1, Waaberi

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated)

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Apr 06, 2018 Sey Biano CP incident.

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

0

3

20

25/03/2018 15:55:00

Ministry of Interior CP

Government/ Ministry CP

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Mar 25 2018 Siinka Dheer CP incident.

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

4

4

21

25/03/2018 12:10:00

Siinka Dheer CP

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated)

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Mar 25 2018 Ministry of Interior CP incident.

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

0

1

22

22/03/2018 16:35:00

Weheliye Hotel

Civilian/ Hotel

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

17

15

23

01/03/2018 12:00:00

Siinka Dheer CP

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated)

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

2

3

24

23/02/2018 18:40:00

Doorbin Hotel Parking

Civilian

Yes

VBIED

N/A

N/A

18

 

18

25

23/02/2018 18:25:00

Villa Somalia ECP

Government CP

Yes

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

25

18

26

14/11/2017 12:55:00

KM 13

AMISOM Convoy (VBIED missed target)

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

0

5

27

28/10/2017 17:00:00

Nasa Hablood 2/ Daljirka Dahsoon

Civilian/ Hotel

Yes

SVBIED

VBIED

N/A

29

30

28

14/10/2017 16:40:00

Danwadaagaha CP

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated)

Yes

VBIED

N/A

N/A

0

0

29

14/10/2017 15:20:00

Zobe Junction

Civilian (VBIED identified at CP, detonated following pursuit)

Yes

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

587

316

30

28/09/2017 16:45:00

Ceel Gaab Junction

Civilian (VBIED parked, detonated after accident/ collision)

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

7

7

31

30/07/2017 11:10:00

Maka Al Mukarama Rd CP

Government CP/ Waberi Police Station

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

6

13

32

22/06/2017 14:35:00

Waberi Police Station

Government

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

9

10

33

20/06/2017 12:38:00

Wadajir DC Office/ Medina Market

Government/ District HQ - Civilian

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

15

23

34

24/05/2017 17:20:00

Café Restaurant/ Somali Fruits

Civilian

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

8

13

35

17/05/2017 11:15:00

Medina Police Station

Government CP (VBIED identified and detonated while dismantling)

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

3

2

36

15/05/2017 14:10:00

Beco Office/ Via Roma

Civilian (VBIED identified and detonated)

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

0

0

37

08/05/2017 17:30:00

Café Italia/ Maka Al Mukarama Rd

Civilian

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

6

10

38

23/04/2017 19:50:00

Ex Cigarette & Match Factory

Civilian (VBIED detonated prematurely)

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

0

1

39

09/04/2017 12:30:00

Ministry of Defence

Military Convoy/ SNA Commander

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

15

9

 

40

21/03/2017 17:45:00

National Theatre CP

Government CP

No

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

10

15

41

13/03/2017 10:10:00

Weheliye Hotel

Civilian

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Mar 13, 2017 Jazeera incident

SVBIED

N/A

N/A

13

5

42

13/03/2017 08:00:00

Jazeera Training Camp CP

Government CP

Likely linked to/ coordinated w/Mar 13, 2017 Weheliye incident

VBIED

N/A

N/A

2

1

43

19/02/2017 13:10:00

Kawa Godey Khat Market

Civilian

No

VBIED

N/A

N/A

39

46

44

25/01/2017 08:40:00

Dayah Hotel

Civilian

Yes

SVBIED

VBIED

N/A

29

51

45

02/01/2017 12:00:00

NISA CP/ Peace Hotel 1

Government CP - Civilian (MIA Medina Gate likely target)

Yes

SVBIED

SVBIED

N/A

9

 

18

 

 

[i] When generally describing VBIED attacks in the assessment, this should be understood to also include Suicide Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIEDs).

[ii] This promotional version of the Jan 01 2019 - Apr 08 2019 Mogadishu VBIED Analysis analysis has been provided with some sensitive details on al-Shabaab TTPs redacted, which were published in the original client version of the assessment: 20190409 Vates Corp SR - Jan 2017 - Apr 2019 Mogadishu VBIED Attacks.

[iii] Vates Corp makes every attempt to identify all incidents and exact details, however, even with our extensive local networks the nature of reporting in Somalia makes this virtually impossible.

[iv] Number in brackets indicates number of incidents.

[v] On Mar 14 2019, an IED incident in Hawlwadaag district was claimed by ISIS, with no injuries reported in the blast.

[vi] ISIS militants were not responsible for any VBIED incidents/ attacks during the period.

[vii] At least 63 militants were killed during attacks, plus vehicles staged by attacker or arrests - Incident Details section Ser’s: 1,2,4,5,7,8,9x2,22,24,27,28,30,31,34,35,36,37,42,43.

[viii] Hiran Online. (2018, Mar 05). Committee: 587 dead in Oct 14 terror attack. Retrieved Apr 02, 2019, from

https://www.hiiraan.com/news4/2018/Mar/157047/committee_587_dead_in_oct_14_terror_attack.aspx

[ix] Incident Details section: Ser’s 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 16, 17, 24, 25, 27, 28, 29, 44, 45.

[x] Incident Details section: Ser 18: Apr 06 2018, 1245hrs VBIED detonated IVO NISA CP 1, Waaberi and Ser 17: Apr 06 2018, 1410hrs VBIED detonated IVO Sei Biano CP; Ser 19: Mar 25 2018, 1555hrs SVBIED detonated IVO Ministry of Interior CP and Ser 20: Mar 25 2018, 1210hrs SVBIED detonated IVO Siinka Dheer CP; Ser 41: Mar 03 2017, 0800 hrs VBIED detonated IVO Jazeera Training Camp CP and Ser 40: Mar 03 2017, 1010 hrs SVBIED detonated IVO Weheliye Hotel.

[xi] Incident Details section: Ser 5: Sources report the driver of the VBIED may have parked and left the vehicle prior to the Feb 28 2019, Makka Al Mukarama detonation, however, this has not been definitively proven and for this analysis we have classified this as an SVBIED attack.

[xii] Incident Details section: Ser’s 1,3,9,11,12,13,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,23,25,26,30,32,33,35,39,40,42,45.

[xiii] Incident Details section: Ser’s 15,18,19,20,21,23,35.

[xiv] Incident Details section: Ser 10: Oct 01 2018, SVBIED targeting EUTM Convoy IVO Jaale Siyaad Military Academy; Ser 25: Nov 14 2017, SVBIED targeting AMISOM Convoy IVO KM 13; Ser 38: Apr 09 2017, SVBIED targeting Commander SNA Convoy IVO MOD HQ.

[xv] Incident Details section: Ser’s 2,4,5,6,7,8,10,14,22,24,27,28,29,31,34,36,37,38,41,43,44.

[xvi] Incident Details section: Ser’s 28,29,30,36.

[xvii] On Feb 28 2016, al-Shabaab released a propaganda statement in Arabic, entitled “The Hotel Facts”, where it claimed there were at least ten heavily fortified hotels in which ‘Mogadishu apostates take refuge’. It asserted that on more than one occasion, al-Shabaab had advised Muslims to stay away from those hotels to avoid being affected by targeted attacks. The statement claimed the government was seeking to describe hotels as civilian targets to discredit al-Shabaab but it stressed they were in fact government targets. On Mar 30, following the Mar 28 Makka al Mukarama hotel attack, in an audio release al-Shabaab spokesman, Sheik Ali Dheere repeated many of these same claims.

[xviii] See 20190117 Vates Corp – Somalia HOA SA.

[xix] Incident Details section: Ser’s 3,9,16,17,19,20,25,31,32,40.

[xx] Incident Details section: Ser’s 2,4,5,8,10,14,22,24,27,30,37,41.

[xxi] Two recent examples include Ser 4, Feb 28 2019, 21st October VBIED which was abandoned and detonated as part of the Makka Al Mukarama Hotel complex attack; Ser 7, Jan 29 2019, Café Italia Petrol Station VBIED which was abandoned and detonated near the café with no apparent targets, or report of threats against the owner by al-Shabaab.

[xxii] Ramadan 2017 May 26 – Jun 24; Ramadan 2018 May 16 – Jun 14; Ramadan 2019 May 05 – Jun 04* approximate dates.

[xxiii] Incident Details section: Ser 17 Ministry of Interior involving 1 x SVBIED/ 1 x VBIED and gunmen; Ser 16 Berta Nabaada/ SYL Monument CPs 2 x SVBIEDs and gunmen.

[xxiv] Government dataset analysis includes Ser’s 1, 2, 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 23, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 39, 41, 44. We did not include detection Ser’s 14, 22, 34. Additionally, we did not include analysis in this dataset on the (3) SVBIEDs targeting mobile convoys discussed in Endnote 9.

[xxv] Incident Details section: Ser 1 Gen Kahiye Police Academy; Ser 17 Sei Biano CP/ Ser 18 NISA CP 1, Airport Road; Ser 23 Doorbin Hotel/ Ser 24 Villa Somalia ECP.

[xxvi] Incident Details section: Civilian dataset analysis includes Ser’s 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 13, 21, 26, 33, 36, 40, 42, 43. We did not include analysis if this dataset for premature detonation and detections Ser’s 29, 35, 37.

[xxvii] Incident Details section: Ser’s 4, 5, 9, 26, 43.

[xxviii] For additional details on al-Shabaab TTPs for Mogadishu Hotel attacks see 20160908 Vates Corp - Al-Shabaab Jan 2015 – Aug 2016 Mogadishu Hotel Attacks https://vatescorp.com/index.php/blog/item/26-special-report-20160908-al-shabaab-jan-2015-aug-2016-mogadishu-hotel-attacks

[xxix] There are conflicting accounts on Ser 5, with some sources indicating the driver of the VBIED may have parked close to the café next to Makka Al Mukarama Hotel where it detonated, and may not have been driving which is why it did not detonate in front of the hotel. See 20190314 Vates Corp – Somalia HOA SA for additional details.

[xxx] 0800 - 0900hrs (2), 0900 - 1000hrs (1), 1000 - 1100hrs (5), 1100 - 1200hrs (6), 1200 - 1300hrs (9), 1300 - 1400hrs (2), 1400 - 1500hrs (3), 1500 - 1600hrs (2), 1600 - 1700hrs (4), 1700 - 1800hrs (4), 1800 - 1900hrs (2), 1900 - 2000hrs (3), 2000 - 2100hrs (1), 2200 - 2300hrs (1).

[xxxi] Goobjoog News (Apr 07, 2019). Somali Police forces invade explosive devices materials at the outskirts of Mogadishu. Retrieved Apr 07, 2019, from http://goobjoog.com/english/somali-police-forces-seize-explosive-devices-materials-at-the-outskirts-of-mogadishu/

 Mogadishu – Mar 31, Lower House Speaker Vote of No Confidence

A vote of no confidence against the Lower House Speaker of Parliament is likely to proceed, tomorrow, Mar 31, in Mogadishu, Boondheere district IVO Somalia Federal Parliament (see map location above). Heightened security and road closures are expected throughout Mogadishu on Mar 31, with signs of increased security on central roads and junctions reported today in the capital.

Tensions are heightened in the city due to political uncertainty, inconsistent messaging and lapsed timelines on the vote. According to parliamentary standing orders, a motion of no confidence that has met the requisite threshold for support of the motion should be tabled before parliament within ten days for a vote, or it will be considered expired and be nullified. The date from when first deputy speaker of Parliament, Abdiweli Ibrahim Mudey accepted the motion, Mar 14, and requisite ten-day deadline lapsed. On Mar 25, a Senate Committee, established to mediate over the tensions within the Lower House, issued a report that recommended that the ten day timeframe should run from Mar 18 when the parliamentary speaker Jawari formally accepted the motion. According to this date, the motion should have been tabled by Mar 28, however conflicts of interest existed due to the motion being tabled against Jawari. The Senate position was contradicted by Mudey, who issued a press statement that the motion against the speaker would be tabled on Mar 31. Mudey provided no sound legal reason for an extension of the ten day period to Mar 31.

Since the Mar 28 deadline, competing claims from both sides have emerged. Late evening on Mar 28, a statement was released, which allegedly had support from 120 pro-Jawari MPs, and accused Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire of orchestrating the no-confidence motion against the Speaker and warned that the PM and President Mohamed Abdullahi  Mohamed Farmajo would be held responsible should national institutions “collapse”. While the pro-Jawari MPs described the motion as having failed for not taking place by Mar 28, MPs in support of the motion have insisted the vote will proceed on Mar 31. Today, Mar 30, another letter has been released, alleging that 223 MPs are supporting the motion to remove Jawari.

Most concerning is that the motion deadline extensions indicate those driving the agenda have the power to set aside the constitution for political ends. Since the motion has been raised, outside security forces have taken control of parliament, which appear to be linked to those in government looking to unseat Jawari. Jawari has been seeking to have the normal parliamentary security forces reinstated. However, today, Mar 30, Mudey issued another directive ordering the new security forces to remain in control tomorrow’s proceedings, and that no armed guards or personal security for the MPs be allowed into the proceedings.

Given an escalation in political tensions within the government and evidence of political manipulation of security forces, there is a risk that security force units may be compromised which may expose security vulnerabilities in the capital. There remains a heightened risk of politically motivated attacks, and we assess there to be an elevated potential for al- Shabaab to attempt to exploit the discord to execute near term high profile attacks in Mogadishu.

Security managers are recommended to consider reviews on plans and procedures, and may consider limiting non-essential movements in the near term.

For additional analysis please see 20180329 Vates Corp – Somalia HOA SA - Motion against parliamentary speaker extended as parliamentary rifts deepen.

 

Vates Corp Somalia Analysis: AMISOM to draw down 1,000 military personnel by end of 2017

On Dec 01, a meeting of the AMISOM Military Operations Coordination Committee (MOCC) reviewed the preliminary conclusions of the operational readiness assessment (ORA) process, and emphasised that the takeover of primary security responsibility from AMISOM was dependent on enhancing Somali national security forces. The meeting that brought together the chiefs of defence staff and representatives of troop/ police contributing countries (T/PCCs) and donors, stated that although al-Shabaab was significantly weakened, it continued to pose a major security threat. MOCC agreed to refocus offensive operations and to address command, control and coordination issues. This included a directive to immediately review the AMISOM concept of operations (CONOPs) with an experts meeting. The need for sustainable funding for AMISOM and National Security Forces was discussed, in addition to an agreement to step up training support and combat capability of the SNA. The MOCC requested that the Dec 04 Somalia Security Conference outline a comprehensive list of requirements for AMISOM and Somali security forces to take over security responsibilities.[i] The AMISOM exit plan stipulates a phase one reduction of 1,000 soldiers and an increase of 500 police by Dec 31.[ii]

Assessment The MOCC meeting indicated two positive developments - reconsideration of AMISOM’s CONOPs towards increased offensive actions and that AMISOM’s exit should be contingent on national security capabilities. Linking the AMISOM drawdown to SNA readiness will help reduce concerns of al-Shabaab delaying its actions in order to exploit the likely security vacuum. It will require trust and commitment by TCCs, international sponsors and Somalia government that efforts will be directed towards building national security force capabilities within a realistic, but defined timeframe, rather than being used as excuse to further delay the transition. However, there are several issues which could impact on a successful transition and AMISOM exit after over a decade of the mission in Somalia. AMISOM TCC have complained about underfunding since Jan 2016 when the European Union implemented a reduction of its allowances by 20 per cent. Even though the EU had given notice of its intent a year before the cuts were implemented, there has been continued push back from TCCs and African Union that the responsibility for the mission should be through the UN and as such allowance payments should be on par with that of UN missions, which it is not. The EU is due for another round of cuts in assistance in 2018. Reduced allowances have negatively impacted on morale of AMISOM troops. TCCs will almost certainly continue to threaten their participation in AMISOM over the allowances dispute, which is likely to undermine the transition process and further weaken coordination of any offensive operations.

While AMISOM and the security conference agreed that AMISOM’s exit should be aligned to national force capabilities, the phase one draw down is moving forward. The existing timeframes for drawdown appear overly optimistic given the challenges to overcome. Another concern is how the draw down will be implemented. According to some reports, the phase one troop reduction has been agreed to be evenly shared between each TCC rather than based on a threat assessment of al-Shabaab in different sectors of the country. This may indicate that a deal was reached aimed at securing the same proportional share of allowances to TCCs rather than prioritising operational requirements. While funding of the mission is a critical issue, there is no guarantee that this will result in alignment to a central command strategy where the priority is to degrade al-Shabaab rather than the current situation where respective TCCs are focused on what they perceive to be in their national interests. This approach has arguably manifested in a lack of coordination among respective commands and for forces adopting defensive positions inside Forward Operating Bases (FOBs). It is highly probable that this will continue to be a barrier to effectively coordinating offensive operations in spite of an agreement to review the CONOPs.

Furthermore, capacity building of a national army by a multitude of donors has been ongoing for a number of years and it has failed to result in a professional, and capable national armed forces. Some have also argued that focus on AMISOM TCCs have contributed to the difficulties of mobilising large scale investment for national security forces.[iii] However, while populist sentiment may want AMISOM to exit as soon as possible and signs of mission creep will do little to degrade al-Shabaab capabilities, without significant international investment in training and development of an effective Somali National Army, there is a significant risk of a security vacuum should the exit go ahead with the current schedule. Indeed, it is highly probable that AMISOM TCCs understand and may be exploiting this reality through limited offensive operations accompanied by threats of withdrawal and calls for additional assets and funding. As such a coordinated strategic military campaign focused on degrading al-Shabaab remains an elusive critical element to security sector reform, capacity building, development, and ultimately to future stability in Somalia. End 

 

[i] The Security Pact in May and U.N. Security Council Resolution 2372 on Aug 30, determined that AMISOM and its partners will build “a capable, accountable, acceptable, and affordable Somali-led security sector” to enable AMISOM to exit Somalia.

[ii] Recommendations from the African Union-United Nations Joint Review on AMISOM, includes a phased draw down, with the first phase recommended to take place by Dec 2017 of a reduction of 1000 military personnel to be replaced by 500 police personnel. Phase two consists of an additional reduction of 1000 military personnel by October 2018.

[iii] There appears to be a shift towards focus on national security forces, possibly influenced by what has been achieved in terms of the development and general national support towards Danab and Gashaan Special Operations Forces, as well as the challenges facing AMISOM and stalled progress after a decade long engagement in Somalia.

 Al-Shabaab calls on all Muslims to take up weapons in response to U.S. President Trump’s announcement recognising the Jerusalem as the capital of Israel

Figure 1 Al-Kataib Support Al-Aqsa Mosque, Oct 11, 2015

On Dec 06, U.S. President Donald Trump declared the U.S. officially recognises Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The U.S. Embassy is to also relocate to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.[i] On Dec 07, Shahada Agency published a statement by al-Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dheere, who called upon all Muslims to take up weapons and defend “al-Aqsa from the America-backed Zionist occupation”. Ali Dheere said U.S. President Trump’s decision to officially recognise Al-Quds[ii] [Jerusalem] as the capital of Israel “is evidence of the rise of its [America’s] aggression against Islam and the Muslims”. He stated, “In any event, it does not change the truth that all of Palestine was and will always be the holy land of Muslims”. Palestine’s leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniya, has declared Friday Dec 08 as the beginning of a new Palestinian Intifada or uprising.

Assessment As expected, al-Shabaab has issued a new threat against the U.S. following President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.[iii] It is assessed as highly probable that al-Shabaab may attempt to step up attacks against U.S. targets during this period, with a heightened near-term threat to Mogadishu International Airport (MIA), and Balidogle, as well as other Western international interests in Somalia. Al-Shabaab is likely to exploit the announcement, which it said was ‘evidence of U.S. aggression against Muslims’, in order to seek to justify its actions as retaliation for airstrikes and alleged civilian casualties. The declaration may also see al-Shabaab renew its attempts to rally civilian support and potentially gain East African recruits for its terrorist campaign. However, we do not expect a shift away from targeting of Somali government and security officials, which al-Shabaab will continue to portray as legitimate targets for serving as ‘puppets of Western interests’. Furthermore, while the group may possess the intent to undertake attacks against U.S. and Western interests, the group's capabilities to mount effective attacks against hardened military targets in Somalia may be limited. This could see the group attempt to target other locations of the country where internationals and aid workers operate, such as Baidoa, Bosaso, Galkayo, Garowe, Kismayo and potentially less secure cities of Somaliland.[iv] The U.S. move could also possibly motivate al-Shabaab attacks and potential lone wolf attacks against Western and Israeli interests in neighbouring countries in East Africa.

Threats to step up attacks against the U.S., Israeli and potentially general Western interests worldwide from radical elements, including both al-Qaeda, Islamic State and other extremist groups, are likely in the near term. In addition, Hamas’ declaration of a new intifada could spark sympathetic protests and attacks in other countries. The declaration has also been met with apprehension and condemnation from moderate voices over concern that it may jeopardise the Israel-Palestine peace process as well as to alienate key allies from Muslim majority nations. It is highly likely that civilians will hold protests directed against the U.S. decision in key East Africa cities, including Mogadishu, which may have potential to become violent. The period following Friday prayers is almost certain to become a focal point for protest activity. U.S. citizens, and other Western internationals should exercise heightened security awareness while reaction to the declaration is monitored and assessed. End

 

[i] President Trump stated that this decision did not reflect a departure from the U.S.’s commitment achieve lasting peace or the possibility of a two state solution between Israel and Palestine if agreed by both parties. President Trump called for calm, peace, moderation and tolerance.  

[ii] Arabic name for the city of Jerusalem, “the holy one”.

[iii] Al-Shabaab media, Al-Kataib previously issued a written warning, “Support Al-Aqsa Mosque”, Oct 10, 2015, calling upon Muslims to target Israelis and their allies to defend Al-Aqsa Mosque. See 20151012 Vates Corp – Somalia HOA SA.

[iv] Historically al-Shabaab does not attempt to target Somaliland, with the last significant attack by the group in Somaliland territory targeting the UN Compound, Oct 28, 2008.

 Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

Vates Corp: Puntland Somalia VEO AO's - al-Shabaab, ISIS
Figure 1 Vates Corp: Puntland Somalia VEOs Approx. Areas of Operation (current as of Oct 26).
Key: Al-Shabaab AO - red; Al-Shabaab transit areas – orange; Pro-ISIL AO – grey.

 Puntland Pro-ISIL group occupies Qandala Town, Bari region

On Oct 26, at around 0300 hrs, reports indicate that approximately 80 members of a Puntland pro-Islamic State (ISIL) group entered Qandala Town, Bari region. Sources reported the militants were armed with PKMs, AK47 rifles, RPGs, with indications some militants arrived in the area in four Technicals. When confronted by elders in the city who requested the militants depart, the group reportedly stated that it was in Qandala to stay and govern the area under Sharia Law. The group’s leader, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, reportedly gave a speech in the mosque and a flag was hoisted above the old Italian colonial administration building. A number of civilians fled the area by sea. Al Furat media released a short 01:09m video purporting to show the militants enter Qandala on foot.[i] Later on Oct 26, ISIL propaganda outlet Amaq Agency reported the incident. In the evening hours of Oct 26, the group withdrew from the town and moved into the wadis and mountainous areas on the outskirts of Qandala. Since Oct 27, militants have remained in the Qandala area in de-facto control of the town. From Oct 26 evening, there have been reports of Ali Saleban clan militia undertaking vehicle ambushes and preventing access to coastal areas east of Bosaso, including Qandala. Mumin’s group is based in Bari region and swore allegiance to Islamic State in Oct 2015 after breaking away from al-Shabaab.

Also on Oct 26, at approx. 1930 hrs, a grenade attack was reported targeting Biya Kulule Police Station in Bosaso Town. Reports indicate that unknown assailants threw two grenades at the station, however one device failed to detonate. One to two inmates held at the station were injured. Amaq Agency issued a short press release, claiming ‘Islamic State fighters’ carried out the attack on Bosaso police station.

Vates Corp- Oct 26, ISIS Qandala Puntland Somalia

Assessment The trigger for the movement is unconfirmed, but the impact has been a major publicity coup for the group given the widespread international media attention that has eclipsed al-Shabaab’s arguably more substantial terrorist activities over the past weeks. Small numbers of pro-ISIL militants have reportedly re-entered the town since Oct 27, with the majority of the group said to be staged in mountainous areas just outside the town. Prior to this movement, the group was not known to be mobile, with unconfirmed reports indicating vehicles sighted may be linked to the arms smuggler and former pirate gang leader, Isse Yulux, who hails from the same sub-clan as Mumin (Ali Saleban). The militants may have entered the town ahead of a possible arms shipment or movement of personnel through Qandala, as this is a known smuggling route linked to Al Mukalla, Yemen. However, given the open and exposed terrain, and size of Qandala, it is highly improbable the militants will attempt to hold the city with such limited number of forces. Following the release of a propaganda video by the pro-ISIL group on Sep 16, there were indications that it was growing in strength with an increase in the number of fighters, quality of uniforms and weapons, with possible indications of external funding.[i] The video showed the presence of several foreign fighters in the group. Additionally, there are unconfirmed reports that Mumin’s faction numbers may have been recently strengthened by the defection of approximately 30 al-Shabaab members from the Golis Mountains.

There is likely correlation between the activities of Mumin’s group and dynamics within his sub-clan. Given the proximity and accessibility of Bosaso to Qandala, the grenade incident involved militants or individuals separately deployed to Bosaso, and the grenade attack was almost certainly timed to coincide with the occupation of Qandala. This was likely intended to give the appearance of an expanding ISIL group operating at multiple locations across Bari region, however the information on numbers of militants and capabilities does not support this. It is plausible that the group’s leader, Mumin, drew on his sub-clan network to undertake the grenade attack, with limited information to indicate there is an established presence of pro-ISIL fighters in Bosaso. Mumin’s pro-ISIL faction’s area of operations has been in Bari region from Iskushuban and Ufeyn and up to the outskirts of Qandala, where he has drawn membership and been afforded protection from stronghold areas of his Ali Saleban clan. Since Oct 27, Ali Saleban militia manning roving check points have intermittently prevented vehicles from accessing the coastal areas east of Bosaso on the routes to Iskushuban, including Qandala. This is a concerning development which should be considered against the backdrop of political negotiations between Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali (Gaas), and renegade militia leader and former Bari Governor, Abdisamad Galan (sub-clan Ali Saleban). Meetings between Gaas and Galan have taken place since Oct 27, which reportedly included demands by the Puntland administration for Galan and his sub-clan to remove the pro-ISIL group from Bari and prevent its spread into key towns in return for a high level political appointment. The talks coincide with the federal Lower House elections which provide opportunity for both sides to negotiate using the prospect of potentially lucrative positions inside Puntland and/or federal government structures, which will also be important to his sub-clan’s political stake and influence.

Previously Mumin’s pro-ISIL group, Yulux, and Galan’s militias have operated from bases in proximity to each other in the eastern Bari region. While the levels of support or cooperation cannot be confirmed, Galan has publicly opposed the ISIL group. However, Galan and Yulux’s militias have cooperated in the past, and reports indicate Yulux is supplying weapons to Mumin’s group. Events since Oct 27 strongly suggest an overlap and some degree of coordination between clan militia and ISIL, and that the Ali Saleban (and Galan) may be exploiting the threat of ISIL and insecurity to pressure the Puntland administration into meeting their political demands. While the coordination of activities remains unconfirmed, some in the region describe the situation as extortion. Following the meeting with President Gaas, it is possible that Galan’s militia may agree to move against Mumin’s group as part of the political deal, although it is unclear to what extent the Ali Saleban will be prepared to take direct action against Mumin; rather than merely giving the appearance of doing so. The situation is fraught with risk should Puntland acquiesce to the demands of Galan without guarantees to remove the pro-ISIL group from the region and prevent them from moving into new areas. What is clear is that Mumin’s group requires the support of the Ali Saleban to maintain and grow its position in Bari region. Furthermore, Puntland will be under pressure to act on this movement and the increasing threat from pro-ISIL militants in Bari region. The occupation of Qandala comes at a time when significant numbers of the Puntland Army are mobilised on its southern border and in conflict with Galmudug forces centred on Galkayo, Mudug region, while the greatest portion of its forces remain engaged in the Golis mountains to counter the ongoing al-Shabaab threat. As such, any Puntland response to the pro-ISIL group activities in Bari may conversely result in a de-escalation in Galkayo, supported by the recent UAE brokered peace agreement between Puntland and Galmudug. However, there is no indication yet of Puntland mobilising a large number of forces to move against the group. Puntland PMPF reportedly have a small number of forces in the area on land, and patrol boats have fired at militants in Qandala town on Oct 31 and Nov 01.

The Qandala occupation and the Bosaso grenade attack both claimed under the ISIL banner have already elicited widespread media attention with commentators speculating on the emerging ISIL threat to Somalia. Invariably, media commentary appears to be premised on the notion that Islamic State in Somalia is a monolithic entity, with Mumin’s group and claimed activities by small pro-ISIL cells in Southern Somalia as proof of the group’s area of operation across the length of Somalia.[ii] Indeed, pro-ISIL allegiances are fluid in the South and could evolve with the defection of a senior al-Shabaab commander(s), although estimated numbers of Mumin’s faction in Puntland have exceeded 200 in some media, without any indication of how they have arrived at this position. Based on our previous information and following the Sep video, we assessed the Mumin’s pro-ISIL group to comprise 50-60 militants, and with recent reports of approx. 30 al-Shabaab defectors joining the group, this appears in line with our source information of approx. 80 fighters in the Qandala area. It is important to note the underlying factors in Puntland which may be linked to recent events, and are almost certainly being exploited by this pro-ISIL faction in northern Somalia. The movement around Qandala is further confirmation of an evolving ISIL threat in Puntland which, if left unchecked, is likely to become more dangerous. End

 

[i] On Sep 16, Islamic State (ISIL) media wing, al-Furat Media Foundation, released a Terrorist Propaganda Video, ‘Eid on the Frontlines of Somalia’. The 17:34min video included Somali, Arabic, Kiswahili and English language speakers. There were approximately 50-60 militants filmed in an area almost certain to be north eastern Puntland. Pro-ISIL fighters from Sheikh Abdulqadir Mumin’s group were seen with weapons including AK47s, M16s, PKMs, and at least one RPG, all in good condition.

[ii] Mumin has acknowledged the plight of pro-ISIL former al-Shabaab members that have been subject to a purge in southern areas of Somalia. On Apr 15, Islamic State media wing, al-Furat Media Foundation, released a Terrorist Propaganda Video, “The Camp of Abu Noman the Martyred Commander, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Somalia”. Sheikh Mumin’s video release was dedicated to a leader of a pro-ISIL breakaway faction who was murdered by al-Shabaab militants near Sakow, Jilib in Nov 2015.

[i] Al-Furat Media Foundation has also released previous propaganda videos of Puntland ISIL group, including a 17:34min video entitled ‘Eid on the Frontlines of Somalia’ on Sep 16.

 

With the succession of high profile attacks by al-Shabaab on Mogadishu Hotels and Restaurants, some assess these incidents as an indication of the group’s strength. Indeed, the Aug 30, LVBIED[i] attack targeting the SYL hotel became the 18th high profile al-Shabaab attack IVO Mogadishu hotels and restaurants since Jan 2015 – Aug 30, 2016.[ii],[iii] While past incidents alone are not necessarily a reliable indicator of what may occur in the future, there are several items of note which may provide insight into al-Shabaab’s current targeting methodology, and why similar future attacks may be expected. 

Of the attacks analysed, total casualties included at least 249 people killed, 690 wounded, 66 al-Shabaab militants killed, and at least 2 attackers captured. Based on these figures, at least 13.8 victims were killed per attack, with 38.33 wounded. Over 72 per cent of the attacks were complex, involving multiple methods of attack, with some form of IED employed in all. The deadliest attack of 2015 was the Feb 20, Central Hotel, complex RCIED, SVIED, employing just one attacker, with at least 27 killed, and 50 wounded. Similarly, the deadliest attack of 2016 has thus far been the Aug 30, SYL Hotel LVBIED, employing just one attacker, with at least 28 killed, and 45 wounded. Al-Shabaab will have at times utilised facilitators to assist in attacks, however, the 18 attacks analysed were assessed as having employed 61 attackers, or approx. 3.39 assailants per attack. Based on the data, this means that each assailant killed at least 4.08 persons and wounded at least 11.31 persons per attack.

 

Friendly Killed al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 1 Friendly Killed
Friendly Wounded al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 2 Friendly Wounded 
Enemy Killed al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 3 Enemy KilledFigure 1 Friendly Killed
Number of al-Shabaab per Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 4 Enemy Numbers Per Attack 

There is a high concentration of over 25 hotels housing politicians, businessmen and influential members of Somali society, stretching from the Mogadishu Airport north towards Lido Beach, and from KM4 to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Mogadishu. These attacks occurred in an area approx. 6.3km stretching from Mogadishu International Airport, to Lido Beach with the largest concentration of attacks on Hotels and Restaurants IVO Villa Somalia.

Vates Corp: Jan 2015-Aug 2016 al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 5 Heat map of Hotel and Restaurant attacks in Mogadishu Jan 2015 - Aug 2016 

As several attacks occurred near Villa Somalia, some hotels suffered multiple attacks on or IVO their locations, as noted in the illustration below. 

Vates Corp Analysis: al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attacks
Figure 6 Number of Attacks Occurred IVO

The timing and number of attacks average 0.9 attacks per month, or one per 33.78 days, however as noted in Figure 7 below there were sometimes multiple attacks per month, and other months had no attacks. This is further broken down in Figure 8 (Attacks by Month of Year), which show Jan, Jul, and Aug as the having the highest number of attacks, with 3 respectively. Friday remains the day with the greatest number of high profile attacks on Hotels and Restaurants as shown in Figure 8 (Attacks by Day of Week) below, with 28 per cent of attacks occurring on Friday.

Jan 2015-Aug 2016: al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attack Timeline
Figure 7 2015-2016 Mogadishu Hotel and Restaurant Attack Timeline

While there have been at least two attacks which occurred prior to 1100hrs, 61 per cent of attacks have taken place from 1600hrs, Figure 8 (Attacks by Time of Day). Al-Shabaab is likely undertaking late afternoon attacks and attempting to hold overnight, which may extend international media coverage and add to propaganda value. The militants are almost certainly taking advantage of low light situations and limited capabilities of the Somali security forces to engage attackers holding hostages. Furthermore, as seen in Figure 8, (Attacks by Moon Phase) below, there has yet to be a high profile Hotel or Restaurant in Mogadishu during a Full Moon.

Vates Corp: al-Shabaab Mogadishu Hotel Attack Timings
Figure 8 2015-2016 Detailed Attack Timeline

These previous attacks indicate significant networks and al-Shabaab cells in and around Mogadishu capable of planning and conducting operations. The small number of militants required to carry out these operations lowers the risk for the group in attempting similar future attacks. As example, of the 18 attacks analysed, the Lido Seafood and Beach View employed the greatest number of attackers (8), with the average attack conducted by 3.39 persons. With such low risk, and high reward, al-Shabaab is almost certain to be planning similar future attacks. However, a measure of success of these attacks for al-Shabaab is likely less about the total number killed, which often disproportionately affects Sunni Muslim civilians, and is more about the media attention that al-Shabaab is able to attract. This attention is often amplified by the length of time which the assailants are able to hold and remain in control of the attack sites, with longer duration events often attracting a number of social media users and international news organisations attempting to provide minute by minute reports, often based on limited, or false information provided by al-Shabaab. Such media coverage is essential to the group for morale, potential future recruitment, and donations or support from terrorist networks and financiers. Furthermore, with ongoing international counter terrorism operations focused on Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL), some analysts have argued that al-Qaeda affiliates have quietly grown in strength over the past several years by following Usama bin Laden, and later Ayman al-Zawahiri’s direction of winning support from the local Muslim populations. Indeed, al-Qaeda affiliates such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, and Jabhat al-Nusra, now rebranded as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, have seen successes in this strategy. However, al-Shabaab’s harsh treatment of civilian in areas under its control, and continued targeting of Sunni Muslim civilians sets the group apart from these other affiliates. While al-Shabaab has issued a series of warnings as justification following attacks on civilian hotels,[iv] the group’s continued targeting of Muslim civilians is against the teachings and direction from al-Qaeda Central Command, and closer in line with ISIL methods and ideologies, which al-Shabaab is desperately seeking to counter from growing in Somalia. 

In addition to hotels, there has arguably been a repositioning of attacks by al-Shabaab under its leader Abu Ubaidah a.k.a. Diriye, which has seen a shift from more traditional asymmetric attacks in Somalia towards a high risk high reward tactic of direct attacks on AMISOM forward operating bases.[v] There has also been a notable uptick in complex attacks on luxury hotels and restaurants in Mogadishu under Diriye. This may, however, be linked to explosives captured from AMISOM base attacks used in the construction of IEDs, as well as the increased development and returning diaspora businesses in Mogadishu in the last two years, rather than any change in direction per se, which has formerly prioritised complex attacks against high value targets in Mogadishu but at a lesser frequency. AMISOM and SNA forces have had some success in regaining territories and regional capitals, but with stalled offensives, limited direct engagements, and a lack of capacity to hold and secure territory, these attacks are likely to continue in the near term. Furthermore, al-Shabaab is nearly certain to be planning to carry out attacks against high risk high reward targets, including hotels, restaurants, guesthouses and other government and international targets, intended to disrupt high level IGAD meetings this week, and national elections scheduled to take place between Sep 25 and Oct 30. While AMISOM has committed to support and assist in securing the electoral process, al-Shabaab networks are present in most regional capitals, and a daunting task lies ahead. In the medium to long term, capacity building of the Somali security forces, and a cohesive offensive engagement strategy must be put in place to degrade and destroy al-Shabaab, rather than the current dispersal strategies which have enabled militants to build facilitation networks and operational cells inside of protected areas. Furthermore, aggressive offensive engagement as seen with ongoing raids by U.S. trained Somali Special Operations Forces, must be supported by AMISOM and SNA operations to deny al-Shabaab safe haven to plan and conduct future attacks. While there has been much progress in rebuilding Somalia over the past several years, al-Shabaab is likely to continue targeting these soft targets in Mogadishu and other regional capitals posing an ongoing threat to peace and stability in the country. END

 

[i] Large Vehicle Improvised Explosive Device

[ii] Jan 22, 2015: Hotel S.Y.L, Complex SVBIED Armed attack; Feb 20, 2015: Central Hotel, Complex RCIED, SVIED; Mar 11, 2015: Hotel Makka al Mukarama, VBIED near the hotel; Mar 27, 2015: Hotel Makka al Mukarama, Complex SVBIED, Armed attack; Apr 21, 2015: Banoda Restaurant, IVO Central Hotel RCIED; Jul 10, 2015: Hotel Wheliye, Simultaneous Complex SVBIED, Armed attack; Jul 10, 2015: Hotel Siyad, Simultaneous Complex SVBIED, Armed attack; Jul 26, 2015: Jazeera Palace Hotel, LVBIED Detonated near the entrance; Aug 22, 2015: Restaurant IVO Hotel Juba, RCIED; Sep 21, 2015: S.Y.L. Hotel IVO Villa Somalia, SVBIED; Nov 01, 2015: Sahafi Hotel, Complex SVBIED, Armed attack; Jan 02, 2016: Ex-Village Restaurant, SVIED Attack; Jan 21, 2016: Lido Seafood and Beach View Restaurants, Complex VBIED, Armed attack; Feb 26, 2016: S.Y.L. Hotel and Beerta Nabadda (Peace Garden) Complex VBIED, Armed attack; Jun 01, 2016: Ambassador Hotel, Complex VBIED, Armed attack; Jun 25, 2016: Naso Hablood VBIED, Armed Attack; Aug 25, 2016: Banadir Beach Hotel, Complex VBIED, Armed Attack; Aug 30, 2016: SYL Hotel, LVBIED Attack

[iii] There were additional small scale attacks targeting security forces in and around small cafés during the same period, however we have focused this analysis on high profile attacks, targets and venues to illustrate current and historical trends, and how they may impact our clients’ operations.

[iv] Al-Shabaab has stated its aim and intent of assaults on restaurants and hotels in Mogadishu has been the targeting of high level government officials, other VIPs, and for meetings involving internationals, who are known to regularly and routinely use these venues for meetings and as long-term residences. Sep 02, 2015, al-Shabaab Governor of Banadir, Sheikh Ali Jabal, issued a warning against Somalis who frequent hotels, beaches and nightclubs in Mogadishu, and vowed they would increase attacks inside Mogadishu; Jan 25, 2016, al-Shabaab Governor of Banadir, Sheikh Ali Jabal, warned that al-Shabaab would continue its attacks including against hotels and Lido Beach; Aug 31, al-Shabaab spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage (Ali Dheere) in an interview to Radio Andalus, warned local residents to stay away from hotels and government buildings.

[v] Burundi, Leego base attack June 2015; UPDF, Janale base attack Sep 2015; KDF El Adde base attack Jan 2016; ENDF Halgan base attack Jun 2016.

 

 

20160519: SPECIAL REPORT: SOMALIA ELECTION 2016 – The Road to Villa Somalia No. 9

With three months left before Somalia’s elections are due to begin, the 2016 election model is yet to be approved by the Federal Parliament. On Apr 15, UN Representative to Somalia, Michael Keating, said "Somalia’s political future is on hold until this model is approved”. The proposal followed months of stakeholder consultations and tense negotiations between Federal Member States (FMS), cabinet and international community, with the last remaining dissenter coming on board in the signed Garowe agreement on Apr 03, and endorsed by the National Leadership Forum (NLF) on Apr 12. The proposal has been before a parliamentary electoral review committee for 18 days, with reports that, far from rubberstamping the model, a raft of amendments are being drafted. This is setting the stage for a political standoff between the FMS and Parliament, which may jeopardise not only the ability for a transition process to take place in Aug but, arguably, the country’s near term political stability. This Special Report identifies the possible amendments, likely reactions and scenarios for moving forward against the backdrop of the increasingly complicated federal state map.

Parliamentary approval Since Apr 30, the election blueprint has been before parliament, where it is being reviewed by a 26 member parliamentary committee comprising former and serving MPs. Procedurally, the model requires approval by the federal parliament before it can be implemented. Rather than endorse the proposal as had been hoped by regional states and the international community, there are indications that the committee plans to recommend significant changes to the model. The committee was to present their amendments to the House for discussion on May 18, but delayed reportedly due to objections and possible plans to engage Puntland over the addition of Banadir MPs. While it may still be subject to change before it is presented to parliament, revisions are expected to focus on five key areas:

There are indications that proposed amendments are likely to include reducing the size of the Electoral College to nominate each MP. Proposed numbers have been reported as between 10 and 31 which would reduce the initial proposed number of delegates participating in the Lower House elections by at least 38 per cent.[i] No reason has been offered for this amendment but it suggests that MPs are keen to reduce the number of people they will be required to influence in order to be appointed. Another possible change is to remove the requirement for Member State Presidents sign off on the final list of appointments to both houses. While on paper this change should not make any difference to the final appointments as the sign off is described as a procedural affair, it will eliminate possible manipulation by regional leaders to representatives in parliament. This is indicative of the disconnect between the incumbent MPs and regions and wider tensions over the level of authority perceived as tipped in favour of the regions in the proposed election model. This clause is likely to draw protests from the FMS. The committee may also call for the proposed independent dispute resolution to resolve election disputes to be dropped and for this role to be deferred to the 135 traditional clan elders, also responsible for selecting the electoral colleges, thus reducing independent oversight of the election process. The committee has raised concern over compiling the finalised list of traditional elders, which will reportedly fall to the Ministry of Interior. The quota for females has not been mentioned and was conspicuously omitted in relation to the MP seats for the Lower House in the Apr 03 agreement on the election model.[ii]

Major changes to the Upper House have been mooted, including its removal. The Upper House seats are entirely nominated by regional administrations.[iii] The opposition is based on nominated allies of FMS forming the Upper House and its oversight function over the existing Lower House, stemming from the resistance to influence afforded to the regions over the functioning of Parliament. Instead of its removal, an alternative recommendation being discussed is to allocate Banadir an equal number of seats as a FMS in the Upper House. The status of Banadir is not resolved, therefore affording it the same status as an existing or emerging federal state could open the process up to other ‘new states’ calling for equal representation in the house, such as Khatumo or Northeast.[iv] Structurally, the Upper House has a fixed number of 54 seats, with eight allocated to each FMS and an additional six seats to be divided equally between Somaliland and Puntland. While on paper these ‘additional’ seats could be redistributed to Banadir, Puntland would almost certainly challenge this. Politically, this will add to clan tensions and conjecture that the dominant Hawiye Clan in Mogadishu is attempting to gain political influence through the back door, and speculation that this is a bid to reduce the apparent numerically advantageous allocation of seats to the Darood in the existing electoral model. Ongoing major difficulties facing Hiraan Middle Shabelle state formation is likely to lead to uncertainty and weaken the ability to manoeuvre their voting allocation to benefit incumbent President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. If the change to include Banadir or remove the Upper House is approved, this is likely to prove a fatal blow to any agreement being reached with FMS, many of who have repeatedly expressed concerns over the priority, development and control of donor funds through Mogadishu perceived to be to the detriment of regions.

Puntland and Jubaland have issued separate strongly worded statements warning against any amendments, reasoning that the proposed election blueprint followed months of negotiations between stakeholders, regions, the Federal Government, and international community, and therefore has already achieved broad consensus. Puntland has accused parliament of ‘deliberate sabotage’ of the whole process, called any amendments ‘gross violations’ and said that it would hold the Speaker of Parliament and supporters responsible for any ‘unsustainable outcomes’. Jubaland has accused MPs in the committee of serving their vested interests aimed at postponing the national elections and extending the term of parliament and government. Jubaland has said it will not accept any change from what was agreed. However this stance may soften as a result of the new Jubaland cabinet appointments.[v] Both Jubaland and Puntland have called on the international community to monitor and sanction any deviation from the blueprint. UN Security Council scheduled to visit Somalia May 19, and is expected to attempt to impress the message of international partners for parliament to endorse the electoral model and to proceed with implementation.[vi] Of note is the silence from the other FMS of Galmudug, South West and Hiraan Middle Shabelle. This may be linked to their own internal unity issues[vii] or that they may be awaiting the outcome of the parliamentary vote before commenting. The leaders were all known to be supportive of President Mohamud, and there remains speculation that an election delay would benefit him with a term extension, which a parliamentary amended election model would likely bring. Another factor involves Ethiopian and Kenyan contingents that have been visiting these federal entities, and have also been reported to be lobbying for their own political interests, outside of the AMISOM mandate.

It appears highly likely that parliament will endorse amendments to the electoral model, possibly as outlined above by sources from the parliamentary committee. Based on the supposition that any endorsement of amendments to the original proposal by parliament will be rejected by FMS, four possible scenarios may proceed.

  1. Federal Government and international partners engage in negotiations with MPs who are persuaded to remove revisions and endorse the initial election model. While there is a small possibility this may happen as a result of coercion and lobbying efforts, most recommendations appeared to be aimed at limiting FMS authority, and reducing oversight and the number of people involved in the elections, in order for MPs to be in a better position to retain their current positions.
  2. Federal Government and international partners engage in negotiations with MPs but no agreement is reached, resulting in delays. Following the expiry of Parliament’s tenure in Aug, a new parliament based on the original election model is constituted. This scenario requires acceptance that there will be some form of technical delay to elections.
  3. Federal Government and international partners determine to disband parliament before their term ends to enable implementation of the election process. There is a credible argument that the ‘sitting duck’ parliament is seeking to use a procedural issue to spoil the political process and to extend their tenure, when the election model has been widely consulted on and endorsed. The argument continues that elections would be legitimate even if they were to bypass parliament. This approach would risk a backlash over external influence and sovereignty, particularly in light of evidence that some senior political players who also want a delay may exploit this angle.
  4. Parliament approves amendments, Jubaland and Puntland boycott the election model, resulting in an impasse and political instability.

The suggested amendments to the election blueprint appear to point to a more fundamental dispute over the distribution of power between the centre and regions, the constitutional model of federalism, and a clear path to re-election by those in current government. Failure to achieve a political solution is not an option. A political impasse would delay the critical security sector reform and integration of regional forces, at a time when al-Shabaab continues to prove its resilience and with signs that Islamic State is trying to establish itself in the country. These threat groups and the strategic importance of the Horn for regional stability between Eastern Africa and the Middle East may be the determinants to persuade the international community that a more sustainable political solution, involving all the main stakeholders, needs to be developed, rather than a stop gap measure that meets few of its original aspirations for the sake of having a timely political transition. However, based on past performance, there is limited evidence to demonstrate that a delay would benefit the country as a whole and lead to a more inclusive election model. Rather, those in power who may be proposing changes are likely to be seeking delays for clan or personal benefit, and to ensure the system best supports their future re-election bids.

Bearing in mind there are just three months left of the mandate of parliament, including the holy month of Ramadan, the possibility of an election taking place on time appears improbable. Even in the unlikely event that parliament winds back its rhetoric and rubberstamps the initial election model as proposed, it will be difficult to implement and hold elections as scheduled. The situation is fraught with challenges that could see the process delayed for a number of months. Although the amount of leverage from MPs and parliament remains questionable, what is clear is that the decision they take could make or break elections proceeding on schedule, and of the hard fought consensus over the election model risks falling apart.

It is expected that political pragmatism will persevere and some form of political transition may occur within the next six months. However, the next parliament and President will need to fair far better in achieving its political mandate and work towards a unified agenda than the incumbent, if it is to successfully contend with the challenges that lay ahead, and further attempts for universal suffrage in the 2020 Somali elections. END

 

[i] Amendment calls for the size of each electoral college to be reduced to 10-31 from 50 members, who will be responsible for appointing one MP. There are 275 seats in the Lower House. This means that a total of 8,525 delegates will take part in the Lower House elections, as opposed to the proposed 13,750.

[ii] NLF (2016) ‘National Leaders Forum Communique’ Apr 12, 2016. Refers to the electoral college comprised of 30 per cent women, but no reference is made about a 30 per cent quota of seats for women in the Lower House. The Upper House maintains a 30 per cent reservation requirement for females.

[iii] NLF (2016) ‘National Leaders Forum Communique’ Apr 12, 2016. Process Upper House: State executives will nominate at least two candidates for each seat. The state assemblies will vote for each seat individually. Presidents of the Federal member States shall duly sign the list of official members of the Upper House of the Federal parliament for their respective States.

[iv] On May 16, a statement was issued, purporting to be on behalf of the people of Sanaag and Sool regions, where they declared the establishment of an interim Federal Administration named Northeast Federal State. At this stage the new state does not appear to have wide consensus between the two regions.

[v] Jubaland President Mohamed Ahmed Islam (Madobe) signed a reconciliation agreement with Gedo leaders on Mar 16, part of which involves reconstituting a state cabinet representing all constituency interests. On May 15, Madobe appointed as new First Deputy President Mohamoud Sayid Aden while Second Deputy President retained his position, with other cabinet appointments made public on May 18. His selections will need to meets the expectation not only of the Marehan but of other clan interest groups, including the Rahanweyne that comprise Jubaland. The Federal Parliament came out in support of the Gedo leaders during the dispute with Jubaland Administration, even voting in a favour of a no confidence motion against Jubaland Assembly in Jun 2015.

[vi] On May 14, a joint press release by the United Nations, the African Union Mission in Somalia, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, the United States of America, Sweden and Italy expressed their deep concern over the protracted process to approve the 2016 electoral model. Part of the statement read: ‘We urge Parliament to understand the mounting sense of urgency and to fulfill their responsibilities in an appropriate manner.’

[vii] On May 16, Galmudug State Assembly Speaker Mohamed Hassan Hussein admitted that the Speaker and two deputies had been absent for two months, and the assembly was unable to function. Hiraan and Middle Shabelle state formation conference has failed to engage with key stakeholders leading to protracted delays.

We can form a single united body, while the enemy must split up into fractions. Hence, there will be a whole pitted against separate parts of a whole, which means that we shall be many to the enemy’s few. (Sun Tzu, The Art of War)

There have been a series of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS) related events in Somalia since the beginning of April. On Apr 25, Islamic State media outlets released a message claiming ISIL aligned fighters destroyed a military vehicle belonging to the African Union on the outskirts of Mogadishu. On Apr 24, National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) announced the capture of Hassan Mohamed Siyad, a.k.a. Hassan Fanah, a former member of al-Shabaab and now ISIL aligned militant, along with twelve others in Mogadishu. There was also an incident prior to the arrest, where an unknown male approached a checkpoint in Bakara Market area and began running, resulting in security forces opening fire. The individual was killed, and on searching his body, a phone was found with messages of attacks that may indicate links to ISIL outside of Somalia, in Africa and the Middle East. A propaganda video was released on Apr 15 by Abdulqadir Mumin’s ISIL aligned faction in Puntland, reaffirming its loyalty to al-Baghdadi and using hadiths to justify and call for others to join Islamic State group. On Apr 07, a twitter account calling itself Jahba East Africa pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a pdf message, and denounced al-Shabaab, though its operational capacity is highly dubious.[i]

Assessment The primary near and medium term terrorist threat to Somalia, and the East Africa region, is assessed as coming from al-Qaeda aligned al-Shabaab. The appetite for ‘all things ISIS’ has grown in international mainstream media, but it is important to note that international media are reliant on Islamic State propaganda material as a primary source. They often do not have alternative or credible sources in the regions to verify the videos, images and claims by Islamic State, and typically relay Islamic State statements, which can lead to consumers assuming the reports are an accurate portrayal of what is happening.[ii] This appears to be the case with the widespread attention given to the attack claimed by Islamic State group in Mogadishu on Apr 25.[iii] It is highly probable the group has confused the messaging, that it falsely reported this incident, or that an intended attack failed in its targeting and there was a disconnect on the ground and those communicating with Amaq Agency. There have been ideologically aligned ISIL members captured or killed in Southern Somalia, but Apr 25 is the first claimed attack which may possibly be attributed to an operational ISIL cell in Somalia. At this time, Abdulqadir Mumin’s group is a confirmed, active cell in Somalia, based in northeast Puntland. This does not discount the possibility that there may be other small groups (<10 people) or the probability that pro-ISIL individuals may be in Mogadishu, and throughout Southern Somalia, with sources indicating several foreign fighters are reported to be ideologically aligned, yet remain with al-Shabaab at this time for their own safety.

There remain several key challenges and phases to the emergence of Islamic State group in Somalia such as the threat from international counter terrorism efforts, al-Shabaab, a safe haven, ideology and preaching campaigns to grow support, and access to weapons and money. When Mumin initially announced his support to ISIL in Oct 2015, al-Shabaab militants based in Galgala Mountains began fighting his small unit and forced him to flee. Mumin is currently operating from the Bari region and has sought the protection of his Ali Salebaan clan. While mainstream media has attempted to portray competition for space in Somalia as somewhat of an ‘even fight’ between al-Shabaab and Islamic State, the currently known active entities in each camp number an estimated 4000-6000 al-Shabaab militants compared with approximately 35 members in Mumin’s group. Al-Shabaab command has taken decisive action by killing those that have attempted to breakaway from its al-Qaeda aligned roots to ISIL, confirming it has no intent to change its position or allow the other to co-exist. There are indications that a number of active members of al-Shabaab, especially in the foreign ranks, may ideologically sympathise with ISIL or believe a realignment could see increased funding and recruitment. However, the circumstances of the recent capture in Mogadishu of former al-Shabaab and now ISIL aligned militant, Hassan Fanah and twelve others, appears to confirm the threat posed by al-Shabaab and counter terrorism efforts against ISIL supporters.[iv]

While Mumin’s faction is small, his video release provides evidence of his intent to unite and grow an Islamic State movement in Somalia. Mumin’s latest release was dedicated to a leader of a pro-ISIL breakaway faction who was murdered by al-Shabaab militants near Sakow, Jilib in Nov 2015. This gesture may bolster pro-ISIL members, but with al-Shabaab’s hardline stance and the recent successes of allied forces’ targeted operations, their most viable opportunity appears to be through defectors moving to the north, rather than attempting to establish and sustain themselves in Southern Somalia. Given the current loyalties of al-Shabaab leadership, there appears little prospect of a change by its leaders to switch allegiance in the near term. However, a major strike on top level leaders, combined with further successes of allied forces and state building, could shift the balance.

At this stage, Mumin appears to be trying to spread ISIL ideology and build its numbers. It is anticipated that, in time, the group will seek to undertake operations and attacks, which will require resources. Mumin’s allegiance, as well as his current base of operations in Puntland, may allow access to additional weapons and resources through supply routes via Yemen and the Gulf of Aden through known arms smugglers that operate along the Puntland Coast, including Isse Yulux who also hails from the Ali Salebaan clan. While Somalia would be an important acquisition for Islamic State to expand its regions (Wilayats), the command has yet to formally acknowledge Mumin’s bayah and it is unclear how much finances it has available for affiliates with the pressure the group is facing in Syria and Iraq.[v] This external pressure is also affecting foreign fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria with recent U.S. DOD estimates of drops by as much as 75% in the last year,[vi] which may see renewed focus and travel to Somalia by international jihadis. Regardless of external support, Mumin will be aware that in order to survive, he will need to fundraise and build his faction locally, as well as to raise its profile as part of the ISIL map. It is plausible to consider that the group may look to piracy or kidnap for ransom to sustain and grow the movement, which poses a particular threat to Bari region, including Bosaso, and a wider threat to internationals in Puntland.

Given the challenges to Mumin and other pro-ISIL elements, Islamic State in Somalia is not yet in a position to be considered a viable and operational Violent Extremist Organisation (VEO). A more accurate description of the current ISIL situation in Somalia is assessed as disparate individuals and small cells who may be ideologically aligned, and operating independently or in small groups, and in the early phases of attempting to build a VEO. Some of these ideologically aligned individuals and cells may be capable of executing low level attacks in Somalia. However, their near term success should not be measured by the strength of a cell, name of a senior al-Shabaab defector, or successful attack, but rather in their ability to evade capture by security forces or conflict with al-Shabaab as the network grows. Furthermore, and with many VEOs and insurgencies, the groups’ success is often a result of the weaknesses of the nation state and security forces, to which the insurgents are able to use to their tactical advantage. For this reason the greater war on al-Shabaab and rebuilding of the Somalia state and security apparatus is already impacting these pro-ISIL individuals and cells in their ability to operate and grow into viable networks. Nevertheless, the succession of ISIL related incidents in recent days indicates that Islamic State’s direct appeals to al-Shabaab and Somalis since Oct 2015 may be gaining some traction. These individuals and cells may inspire low-level attacks in Somalia, and highlights that fractures within al-Shabaab remain. This emphasises the importance of engaging counter terrorism efforts to degrade and destroy Mumin’s cell in Puntland. If left untouched, these fractures could also be further impacted by any successes of ISIL affiliated groups, or international media coverage that any ISIL claim or incident is likely to bring to Somalia. End

 

[i] Jahba East Africa ‘Our Bay’ah to The Shakyh Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi Al-Hussayni Al-Qurayshi’ Jahba East Africa Apr 07, 2016. A PDF statement purported to be authored by ‘Jahba East Africa’, appeared on a Twitter account.  The statement offers allegiance to Islamic State Khalifa, al-Baghdadi. The statement claims that many in the ‘newly created’ Jahba East Africa were fighting in Somalia and that some returned home to open up new fronts. There is no evidence that Jahba is an operational violent extremist organisation (VEO), nor that it is based in Somalia, nor if was part of al-Shabaab, nor if it exists beyond a Twitter account. Note that the name of the group was initially spelled Jahba, including in the Apr 07 statement but later changed to Jabha.

[ii] Williams, L (2016) ‘Islamic State Propaganda and the mainstream media’ (Sydney: Lowy Institute): Pg 6: Media outlets have become dependent on videos and images produced and released by Islamic State. Consequently, Islamic State has been able to exert significant control over the way in which it is depicted. There is almost no way to verify the information first-hand, meaning reports about Islamic State often rely on material released by the group itself. (http://www.lowyinstitute.org/files/islamic-state-propaganda-western-media_0.pdf Last Accessed Apr 27, 2016)

[iii] AMISOM statement said the claim was false, but reported an IED exploded in Arbiska after their convoy passed. Arbiska is approx. 10.5km away from the Tredice KM13 area. Sources indicate that following the ISIL statement, AMISOM visited the Tredice area and inspected the route at least three times over the course of the afternoon, and were repeatedly told by Somali commanders that no IED explosions had occurred in the area.

[iv] Some reports claimed that the group had travelled to Mogadishu from Lower and Middle Juba areas, in order to hide or seek protection from al-Shabaab militants, said to be pursuing them for their defection to ISIL.

[v] U.S. Department of Defense Press Briefing by Maj. Gen. Gersten Apr 26, 2016: U.S. Intelligence community estimates between $300 million to $800 million ISIL cash has been destroyed in recent targeted operations.

[vi] Strobel, W. & P. Stewart, ‘U.S. military softens claims on drop in Islamic State's foreign fighters’ Reuters Apr 28, 2016: U.S. DOD estimates the number of foreign fighters travelling to Iraq and Syria to join ISIL is down from 1,500 to 200 per month in the past one year.

 

On Apr 15, Islamic State media wing, al-Furat Media Foundation, released a Terrorist Propaganda Video, “The Camp of Abu Noman the Martyred Commander, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Somalia”. The 16.46min Somali and Arabic language video features approx. 15 fighters in a training camp showing them undertake physical fitness exercises, marching in formation with weapons, and speeches and preaching from camp commanders undertaking instruction. Mumin and the group also reaffirm the bayah [pledge of allegiance] to the Calif [leader] of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. This special report provides detailed analysis of the video release, Islamic State in Somalia, and the likelihood of further fractures in al-Shabaab.

The Special Report can be viewed by clicking the link: PUNTLAND ISIL - The Camp of Abu Noman the Martyred Commander, Soldiers of the Caliphate in Somalia; Terrorist Propaganda Video Analysis

For any comments or questions regarding the report, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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