Horn Dispatch Weekly Security Brief 09.26.23

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin with President of Somalia Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Djibouti, Sept. 24, 2023. (Photo Credit: US Department of Defense)

US Defense Secretary Meets Somali President to Discuss Al-Shabab Fight

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Djibouti on Sunday, during which they discussed efforts to combat the threat of the militant group al-Shabab.

Austin praised the Somali security forces for their progress against al-Shabab but warned of the group’s continued threat.

“I think they made more progress in the last year than was made in the previous five years,” Austin said.

The Somali government launched a war against al-Shabab in August 2022 and much of the security operation has focused in central regions.

This visit marked Austin’s first trip to the African continent as the US Secretary of Defense, and he is touring Djibouti, Kenya, and Angola with a focus on counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

The meeting between Austin and President Mohamud took place one day after al-Shabab carried out a car bomb attack in Beledweyne town in the central region, killing 20 people and injuring over 50 others.

Al-Shabab continues to launch attacks against government military bases and African Union troops in Somalia.

Somalia Seeks UN Delay in AU Troop Drawdown Amid Ongoing Al-Shabab Operations

The Somali government requested the United Nations Security Council to delay the drawdown of some 3,000 African Union troops.

In a letter dated September 19, the security advisor Hussein Sheikh Ali appealed for a 90-day delay for the AU forces’ departure.

“This unforeseen turn of events has stretched our military forces thin, exposed vulnerabilities in our frontlines and necessitated a thorough reorganization to ensure we maintain our momentum in countering the Al-Shabaab threat,” Ali said.

According to the administration, its troops are unprepared to take over the territories currently occupied by departing AU forces. This is due to continuing security operations against the insurgent group al-Shabab in the central regions.

In August of last year, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched a security campaign against al-Shabab to protect the country from terrorist threats and attacks.

The request comes days after the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) began the second phase of its withdrawal from Somalia by handing over the military base of Biya Adale in Middle Shabelle to Somali security forces.

“We have witnessed developments on the battlefield where Somali security forces have demonstrated their increasing capability to secure the country. We have seen the forces attack, seize and hold ground,” Philippe Butoyi, the ATMIS commander for Biya Adale said in a statement.

Some 2,000 African Union peacekeeping troops have left the country as part of the Somalia Transition Plan. This plan guides the host country and its partners to transfer complete security responsibilities to Somali security forces by the end of 2024.

At least 70 Militants Killed in Central Somalia

The Somali government said at least 70 al-Shabaab terrorists were killed Sunday in a military operation in the Mudug region.

The Somali army and local militias conducted a security operation, raiding al-Shabaab terrorist hideouts and gathering places in the town of Aad.

Speaking to reporters, Somali Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Al Adala said key leaders of the group were among the dead.

Al-Shabab Claims Attacks on Various Locations Across Somalia

The Somali militant group al-Shabab claimed that it carried out an explosion targeting the house of the District Commissioner of Beled Hawo, Hassan Ganey. It is unclear whether the commissioner was present at his house during the attack. The group also claims that its assassins killed a government soldier in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab claims responsibility for an attack on the Maya Fulka, Darfur, and Bulo Jame’o bases outside Baidoa. The attack resulted in the death of one soldier and injuries to nine others.

In the Bakool region, al-Shabab fighters have claimed to have attacked an Ethiopian military convoy outside Rabdhure town. No reports of casualties.

Al-Shabab claims killing five Somali soldiers and the injury of seven others following intense fighting outside Mahaday town in the Middle Shabelle region. The militant group remains engaged in offensives against government forces, seeking to regain control of territories previously lost to Somali government troops and clan militias.

Truck Bomb Kills Over 20 in Central Somalia 

A suicide bomber has killed over 20 people and wounded dozens more in Beledweyne, central Somalia.

According to officials, the militant organization al-Shabab carried out the attack using a truck laden with explosives, which detonated at a security checkpoint, killing people and destroying homes and businesses.

“What has happened here is a heinous act,” Abdulahi Ahmed Malim, the governor of Hiran, told reporters at the scene. “This was a disaster today and the damage it has inflicted is not small. It destroyed the whole area,” he said.

The region has been a focal point in Somalia’s ongoing conflict against al-Shabab since August 2022, with local clans successfully retaking towns and villages from the militant group.

Mogadishu Commissioner Urges Property Owners to Verify Tenants for Security

A district commissioner in Mogadishu, Somalia, has issued a warning to property owners in the Yaqshid district, cautioning them against renting their houses to unknown individuals.

The commissioner Suleiman Mohamud Fargah, instructed property owners to seek confirmation from his office before leasing their properties to anyone.

The district administration, under the leadership of the commissioner, conducted a neighborhood patrol on September 24, aimed at engaging with the public to enhance security in the area.

“We recently apprehended thieves and an Al-Shabaab member residing in a house that was rented without proper documentation. Owners who disregard this rule will share responsibility for any criminal activities,” he said.

Mogadishu has generally maintained a level of peace, and attacks have decreased due to the government’s offensive against the militant group al-Shabab in central regions, aimed at pushing the group out of towns and villages.

During his address at the 78th United Nations General Assembly, Somalia’s Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre said that the government had successfully liberated 45 percent of areas previously controlled by al-Shabab in less than a year.

Al-Shabab Claims Attack on Kenyan Army Base, Injuring US Officials

The Voice of America reports that American officials have confirmed a US contractor was wounded in an al-Shabab attack on a Kenyan military base in the town of Kulbiyow.

Al-Shabab, the al-Qaida-linked militant group in Somalia, claims to have injured four US officials and nine Kenyan soldiers in an attack on a Kenyan army base in Kulbiyow village.

According to Radio Furqan, an affiliate of the group, a helicopter landed at the Kenyan army base to evacuate the wounded.

Somali Court Convicts Three IS Militants

Somalia’s federal state, Puntland, has convicted three people of security incidents related to terrorism.

The court has sentenced Farah Mohamed to 15 years in prison, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamud to 10 years, and Abdullahi Shire to five years for their involvement in terrorism in the region.

According to Somali media reports, the men confessed to being affiliated with the Islamic State’s terrorist branch in the country.

The Islamic State maintains a limited presence in Puntland and sporadically conducts attacks against security forces and the population.

Al-Shabab Claims Civilians Killed in US Airstrike

Somali militant group al-Shabab claims a US airstrike has killed eight women and children in the Bakool region.

A pro-jihadist website Alamada (Calamada), on Friday published the alleged names of the victims killed in Bur Dhuhunle town but did not indicate when the alleged US airstrike occurred.

Somali officials reported that an airstrike in the Bakool region killed a senior al-Shabab member and seven other group members Friday.

Al-Shabab frequently accuses the United States of causing civilian casualties in its airstrikes within the country.

The United States provides aerial support to the Somali government, targeting the group’s leaders and assisting the country’s security forces in countering the al-Qaida-linked fighters.