(New York, N.Y.) – Somalia was struck by twin car bombings near Somalia’s education ministry in Mogadishu on Saturday. More than 100 casualties were reported, with 300 others wounded. Al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s formal affiliate in East Africa, claimed responsibility for the bombings—together the deadliest since 2017. The group reportedly targeted the ministry for what it claims are efforts to “remov[e] Somali children from Islamic faith” by receiving support from non-Muslim countries. Al-Shabaab has also been “angered by a high-profile new offensive” by the Somali government in targeting its financial network.
The United States has declared “al-Shabaab as one of al-Qaida’s deadliest organizations” and has recently targeted the terror group militarily with airstrikes in conjunction with the Somali government. The U.S. also levied sanctions targeting al-Shabaab’s leaders and weapons trafficking network.
“Al-Shabaab’s devastating attack on civilians in Mogadishu demonstrates how powerful the group has become and the lengths to which it will go to regain full control of the country,” stated Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Senior Director and former Coordinator of the U.N. Security Council’s ISIL (Da’esh), al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Monitoring Team, Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler. “The internal security situation has been deteriorating for quite some time and al-Shabaab has been able to grow into one of the most significant al-Qaeda affiliates in Africa and the wider region. Due to its pervasive intrusion into the Somali economy and a range of criminal operations, including extortion on a large scale, it is certainly the best financed affiliate in Africa. Somali President Hassan Mohamud must continue to work with his allies in the region and beyond as well as with the international community to stabilize the country. In turn, the Biden Administration should maintain its support to the country through physical or financial pressure against the terror group. The tools at Somalia’s disposal are effective measures that will disrupt and mitigate future threats.”
To read CEP’s resource Somalia: Extremism and Terrorism, please click here.
Since the spring of 2022, the United States strengthened their efforts against the threat posed by al-Shabaab. Following Biden’s May 2022 order authorizing the deployment of 450 U.S. Special Operations forces inside Somalia, the U.S. and Somali governments began actively targeting the group with airstrikes to offset growing violence. Biden also authorized the U.S. military to target suspected leaders of al-Shabaab, particularly a dozen special-skilled militants who are suspected of playing roles in developing plots outside of Somalia. As recently as October 23, the U.S. carried out an airstrike near Buulobarde, northwest of Mogadishu, which killed two al-Shabaab members. A few weeks before that, on October 1, the United States launched an airstrike near Jilib, southwestern Somalia, that killed Abdullahi Nadir, a co-founder of al-Shabaab who was in line to succeed the group’s current ailing leader, Ahmed Diriye.
On October 17, the U.S. Department of State designated five al-Shabaab leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) including Mohamed Mire, who leads the group’s interior wing and oversees the group’s strategy and activities in Somalia, and Yusuf Ahmed Hajj Nurow, chief of Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing that plays a major role in carrying out suicide attacks and assassinations in the region.
To read CEP’s resource Al-Shabaab, please click here.