@CTNSIS's Weekly Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Brief for East Africa (Kenya & Somalia) Shabaab Al-Mujahideen in Period of January 1st – January 7th, 2022: Tracking and Monitoring Al-Shabaab’s Activity in East Africa
The Al-Qaeda associated militant group, Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen (HSM) commonly known as Al-Shabaab persistently continues to wage attacks both in Somalia and in neighboring Kenya. The militant group notably continue to primarily target military positions (convoys, patrol units and FOBs), government officials besides civilian targets.
The militant group has kick-started attacks from across regions of Somalia targeting AMISOM troops, SNA troops as well as civilians. In Kenya, another target of the Islamist militant group, the operatives have claimed at least three attacks; two in the coastal county of Lamu and one in Mandera, NEP Kenya.
Its imminent that Al-Shabaab is likely to wage dozens of attacks in the first quarter of 2022 citing crescendo that has been witnessed in the first week of January 2022. Counterterrorism operators will need to make hard targets harder to strike by re-inventing on strategies that will mostly involve locals, human intelligence (HUMINT) driven in an effort to thwart or foil attacks.
The use of roadside IEDs, landmines and other forms of explosive devices expected to increase and the militant’s preferred weaponry. Use of VBIEDs also expected to increase especially in Somalia urban areas.
In the week under review, Al-Shabaab has claimed nearly ten attacks in Somalia and Kenya. The trend is expected to rise in the coming days as such all concerned counterterrorism assets to remain on high alert. For Kenya, security to be beefed on all defense outposts along the common border with Somalia, surveillance to be increased in order to pick on enemy signature and scouting routine to be revised to avoid surprise ambush raids on defense posts in the frontier regions.
AS Recently Claimed Attacks: January 1st – January 7th
- On January 1st, Al-Shabaab fighters claimed to have killed and injured several Ethiopian soldiers following massive roadside bomb blast that hit and destroyed their military truck at Jawiil village in Somalia’s Hiran region.
- On January 1st, Al-Shabaab claimed to have fired several shells targeting a defense base located in the vicinity of Jabi village in the area of Rhaamu in Kenya’s Mandera county. No details on casualties were provided.
- On January 2nd, Al-Shabaab claimed an IED attack in the outskirt of Dhusamareb. Initial reports indicate several people including government soldiers were wounded. Al-Shabaab claimed credit for the attack via their affiliated Radio Andalus.
- On January 2nd, one person killed by suicide car bomb blast in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu. Preliminary reports indicate that at least one person was killed and two others injured by a suicide car bomb in Howlwadaag district in Mogadishu claimed by Al-Shabaab.
- On January 3rd, at least six people killed, houses burnt in suspected Al-Shabaab attack in in Widhu, Majembeni area in Lamu county of Kenya.
- On January 3rd, Al-Shabaab claimed to have fired several mortar shells on an AMISOM FOB operated by Ethiopian troops in Wajid, Bakool region of Somalia. No casualties were reported.
- On January 3rd, Al-Shabaab claimed to have assassinated a South West administration official in the general vicinity of Burhakaba district, Bay region of Somalia.
- On January 4th, A civilian killed in Hindi, about 60km away from Witu in another domestic terrorism incident in Lamu county of Kenya. Nassir Mohammed a resident of Kiunga reportedly was killed by IED planted by Al-Shabaab’s local cell.
- On January 6th, Al-Shabaab claimed to have attacked Galmudug forces in the general vicinity of Baxdo, Galgadud region of Somalia. Unknown number of casualties reported.
- On January 7th, Al-Shabaab claimed to have attacked military vehicle belonging to Somali government forces with an improvised explosive device hit between Dhusamareb and Eldhere towns on Friday morning. Two soldiers were reportedly killed, and eight others were injured in the blast.
Assessments/Observations & Insights
Strategic Intelligence Short-term terrorism forecast for Somalia and Kenya indicate that there will be a surge in terrorism in both countries. The main perpetrator group will be Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahideen and the main targets will largely be security forces and partly civilians.
Al-Shabaab remains the biggest threat to peace in Somalia and the broader East Africa region. It is viewed that is their frequent use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), especially vehicle-borne IEDs (VBIEDs), ambush raids and targeted suicide operations will escalate this year.
Al-Shabaab will escalate IED attacks mostly on MSRs especially in the war-torn Somalia where roads are dilapidated. Roadside IED also expected to worsen on Kenya frontier counties (Mandera, Wajir, Garissa and Lamu) targeting security operators.
VBIED also will be common especially in Somalia urban areas while overrunning defense posts/FOBs will be the ultimate goals for the Al-Qaeda associated forces in Somalia regions.
Al-Shabaab has continually deployed suicide bombers with the express intention of targeting specific enemies. Resumption of large explosions in the Somalia capital Mogadishu expected in the first quarter of 2022. Busy joints such as teashops/restaurants especially in the capital Mogadishu are prone targets of the Islamist militants
Targeted attacks also keen on checkpoints manned by Somali security forces within Mogadishu prefectures. For Kenya, counterterrorism operators called to be extra vigilant citing the latest series of attacks witnessed in Mandera and Lamu counties. Al-Shabaab wishes to make headlines at the onset of the year even as the militant group boasts of the Manda Bay attack that happened two years ago. The militant resolve/intent to conduct a replica on a high value target cannot be downplayed.
Notable, Al-Shabaab is reinventing itself to appeal to the Kenyan Ummah, and doing so through its franchise local cells especially those embedded in counties neighboring Somalia. By abusing and further alienating Muslim citizens, and by ethnic profiling to target Somalis in specific security operations besides propagating that land in NEP Kenya and coastal counties belongs to Muslims, the militant group cleverly seeks to exploit this emotive land issues to its advantage and the state need to be keen not to simply play into Al-Shabaab’s hands of dividing its citizens.
Despite important counterterrorism successes throughout 2021, the Al-Qaeda affiliated branch operating in East Africa remained a persistent and pervasive threat. In 2022, the militant group resolve to attack security assets besides toppling Somali government will remain the group’s ultimate goal.
Al-Shabaab has also sharpened their ability, both intelligence and military to track and target visiting officials, government officials, high value targets as well military convoys. Thus, gaining greater insight into how it gathers and collects intelligence on which its acts and gains significant levels of success is paramount and then engaging in counterintelligence campaigns against the group would serve to protect moving targets.
Security operators, counterterrorism assets collaboration with locals much encouraged. Human intelligence (HUMINT) from locals in prone regions and localities is key towards stemming down Al-Shabaab notable successes in their operations.
Strategic Intelligence (S.I) will continue to monitor and track jihadist activities in East Africa and beyond. The group’s capability on carrying out repeat attacks on military, convoys and government officials have sharpened over the years. Thus S.I. reports that, the threat and intent on waging attacks against hard and also on soft targets by the Islamist Al-Shabaab in the coming days remain unchanged.