Please find below our most recent Somalia Weekly Security Report. If you have any queries about our reports please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Week in Review
The leaders of Jubaland and Puntland states have demanded the exclusion of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Farmaajo) from talks over the election process. Both leaders were absent in a meeting convened by Farmaajo on Sunday 21 February to discuss the delayed elections. Instead, an alliance of 15 opposition presidential candidates wrote to the UN Security Council (UNSC) urging it to intervene in the country’s political impasse.
On Friday 19 February, five government soldiers were killed and several other people, mostly civilians, were injured during armed clashes between opposition supporters, who were protesting over the delayed elections, and federal government soldiers in the capital, Mogadishu. Allegations of attempted political assassinations also emerged.
The Somali National Army (SNA) claims to have killed over 70 al-Shabaab members, including senior commanders, and injured several others in security operations in the southern Lower Shabelle region on Thursday and Friday last week. In other security developments, on Tuesday 16 February, the US Navy announced that its guided-missile destroyer, the USS Winston S. Churchill, had seized illegal shipments of weapons and weapons components from two small ships during a maritime security operation in international waters off the coast of Somalia. The recipients of these shipments are unknown.
The government issued a COVID-19 update on Wednesday 17 February, during which Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe announced that the federal government had banned all public gatherings effective immediately due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Read more about all these incidents and developments in the Strategic Developments section, below.
While Somalia’s constitution allows the President to continue to extend his/her stay in office until a new president is elected, upon the approval of Parliament, an extended stay risks frustrating the political balance that is built around clannism and a regional balance of power. The heavy-handed response by the sitting government coupled with the allegations of attempted assassinations reduces the likelihood that a negotiated solution will be reached without some form of foreign intervention.
Notably, the protest violence witnessed in Mogadishu on Friday has been widely condemned by the international community. The Friday violence is deemed to be a huge setback to talks over a political solution to the delayed elections. There are fears that the simmering political tensions fuelled by the delayed elections could plunge the country back into civil war. New protests have been called for Friday 26 February and are likely to be similarly violent.
Moreover, the sudden announcement of new COVID-19 regulations has sparked an outcry from the opposition who have said that the ban on gatherings is aimed at preventing planned protests over the delayed elections. These new regulations further heighten the likelihood that the upcoming protest on Friday 26 February will be met with a heavy-handed response from the government.
While the pace of al-Shabaab attacks declined in the capital this week, a high risk of an attack is maintained for Mogadishu as the group will look to exploit the political situation. Attacks in the capital regularly target the airport, hotels, police stations, government buildings, major intersections, and government personnel. Al-Shabaab has also demonstrated the capability and intent to target foreign nationals, such as Turkish contractors.
Mudug region: Tuesday 16 February - eight people were killed in armed clashes between SNA troops, area residents and al-Shabaab militants in Jiicdheere village. The clashes started after al-Shabaab militants attacked the village.
Lower Shabelle region: Thursday 18 February - the SNA claimed to have killed at least 20 al-Shabaab members, including senior commanders, and injured several others in a security operation in villages near Qoryoley and Janale towns.
Lower Shabelle region: Friday 19 February - the SNA claimed to have killed more than 50 al-Shabaab members, including two senior commanders, in an operation in the Mushaani, Daniga, and Majabta areas.
Banadir region: Thursday 18 February - al-Shabaab militants killed two prison workers in the Karan and Hawl Wadag districts of Mogadishu.
Lower Jubba region: Thursday 18 February - al-Shabaab militants attacked Kenyan military bases in Hosingow, Taabta, and Qoqani near Afmadow district in southern Somalia’s Lower Jubba region.
Banadir region: Friday 19 February - five government soldiers were killed and several other people, mostly civilians, were injured during armed clashes between opposition supporters, who were protesting over the delayed elections, and federal government soldiers in Mogadishu.
Bari region: Saturday 20 February - Puntland forces clashed with armed militia in Gardo, managing to reopen roads that had been controlled by the militia group. A security operation was subsequently launched in the area, to seek members of the group. There were no immediate reports on casualties
Banadir region: Sunday 21 February - three people were killed and five others injured in an improvised explosive device explosion at the Abdirashid Cemetery in the Hodan district of Mogadishu.
National - Jubaland and Puntland want President Farmaajo excluded from talks over the election process
On Sunday 21 February, the presidents of Jubaland and Puntland released separate statements demanding the exclusion of President Farmaajo from talks over the election process, as his term has already expired. A statement from Jubaland’s State House said that Farmaajo “should not have a role in the process of elections in order for all political stakeholders to have confidence in it”. In a televised address, Puntland President Said Abdulahi Deni stated that “we are not going to a conference with Farmaajo”.
The federal government has not responded to the statements by the two Federal Member States. President Farmaajo met with the Prime Minister and presidents of the Hirshabelle, Galmudug and South West states, the Mayor of Mogadishu as well UN representatives on Sunday 21 February. The Office of the President said the meeting was a preliminary one but did not indicate when further meetings would be held. The leaders of Jubaland and Puntland skipped the meeting saying they no longer recognise the President.
Somalia’s constitution allows the President to continue to extend his/her stay in office until a new president is elected, upon the approval of Parliament. However, an extended stay risks frustrating the political balance that is built around clannism and a regional balance of power.
National - Opposition presidential candidates appeal to UNSC to eject President
On Saturday 20 February, an alliance of 15 opposition presidential candidates - the Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC) - wrote to the UNSC urging it to intervene in the country’s political impasse. The CPC urged the UNSC to pressure President Farmaajo to step down, to hand over power to a National Transitional Council consisting of Federal Member State Presidents and the two Speakers of the Lower House and Upper House of Parliament, and to cease all interference in the electoral process. The group accused President Farmaajo of clinging to political power and seeking to assassinate his political opponents.
The statement read in part that “federal government forces under the command and control of former President Farmaajo attempted to assassinate several presidential candidates and opposition leaders on 18 and 19 February, as the forces opened fire on them and other protesters who had gathered peacefully in Mogadishu to demand immediate elections”.
National - Government issues new COVID-19 directives
On Wednesday 17 February, Somalia Health Minister Fawzia Abikar Nur issued a COVID-19 update. During a press briefing, Ms Nur announced that as of Wednesday, the total number of confirmed cases in the country stood at 5,500 with 172 deaths and 3,750 recoveries. Of the confirmed cases, 127 had been confirmed in the previous 24 hours; 126 in the Banadir region (Mogadishu and surrounding areas) and one in Hirshabelle State, one of the five Federal Member States.
On the previous day, Ms Nur had announced that the country is experiencing a second wave of the pandemic. She said that many patients were admitted at the De Martino Hospital in Mogadishu, the only hospital admitting COVID-19 patients in Somalia. She further said that according to the country’s Health Ministry, the country’s infection rate had increased by 52% in February compared to January.
During the same press briefing, Information Minister Osman Abukar Dubbe announced that the federal government had banned all public gatherings effective immediately due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Mr Dubbe instructed all civil servants not to report to their workstations until further notice except for essential workers who are required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. The Minister further said that inter-regional non-essential movements have been restricted.
This is the first time in months that the government has issued an update on the COVID-19 situation in the country. As such, the timing of the directives prompted the opposition and critics of the government to allege that the move was aimed at preventing planned protests by the opposition over the delayed elections. It, therefore, raises the risk that such protests will turn violent as security forces use COVID-19 restriction measures to suppress them.
Moreover, the figures announced by the Health Minister are not assessed to be a true representation of the country’s COVID-19 infection rate due to the country’s almost dysfunctional health system.
Mogadishu - Five people killed in opposition protests over delayed elections
On Friday 19 February, five government soldiers were killed and several other people, mostly civilians, were injured during armed clashes between opposition supporters, who were protesting over the delayed elections, and federal government soldiers in the capital, Mogadishu. Late Thursday and early Friday, government soldiers in armoured vehicles were deployed to the streets near where the protests were planned. The soldiers also sealed off other major streets in the city. Thousands of protesters turned up in the streets of Mogadishu on Friday morning, but the protests quickly escalated into clashes with government soldiers as some of the protesters were armed.
Gunfire and mortar shelling could be heard in several streets, near the presidential palace and at a hotel where two former presidents who are now opposition presidential candidates, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, were staying. Opposition leaders alleged that government soldiers attacked the hotel in a bid to assassinate the two presidential candidates and accused President Farmaajo of being behind the incident. Later in the day, there was more gunfire as former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire led protesters towards the KM4 junction which is usually guarded by government troops. A mortar round was reported to have landed inside Mogadishu’s Aden Abdulle International Airport, starting a fire at one of the airport’s compound restaurants.
The Friday violence was widely condemned by the international community, including by the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and the UN office in Somalia. The US has warned its citizens against travelling to Somalia. In a statement, the US government said that over 20 people were killed or injured during the clashes between government forces and the opposition on Thursday and Friday. The African Union has warned its forces serving in Somalia not to be involved in the ongoing political dispute in the country and instead act with impartiality.
Analysts have warned that the simmering political tensions fuelled by the delayed elections could plunge the country back into civil war. The Friday violence is deemed to be a huge setback to talks over a political solution on the delayed elections. On Saturday, opposition candidates vowed to continue with protests over the delayed elections. Already, new protests have been scheduled for Friday 26 February in Mogadishu. See Security Alert from Monday 22 February for more details.
Lower Shabelle - SNA claims to have killed more than 70 al-Shabaab members in Lower Shabelle
On Thursday 18 February, the SNA claimed to have killed at least 20 al-Shabaab members, including senior commanders, and injured several others in a security operation in the southern Lower Shabelle region. Security sources indicated that the operation was launched after intelligence was received that al-Shabaab militants were holed up in villages near Qoryoley and Janale towns, about 95km southwest of the capital Mogadishu. The agriculturally productive area was liberated from al-Shabaab following a military offensive in March 2020.
A day later, on Friday 19 February, the SNA claimed to have killed more than 50 al-Shabaab members, including two senior commanders, in an operation in the Mushaani, Daniga, and Majabta areas of Lower Shabelle. The SNA Chief of Staff Odawa Yusuf Rageh said that the members killed included Moalim Bukhari, al-Shabaab’s intelligence chief in lower Shabelle and Sheikh Hasan Ganeey, the group’s commander in the region. Mr Rageh further said that the SNA also destroyed al-Shabaab training camps in several villages.
Meanwhile, multiple media sources have reported that a self-organised anti-al-Shabaab militia group known as Ma’awisley has been sighted in parts of the Lower Shabelle region; in Leego, Yaaq Bariweyne, Beled Amiin and in areas around Ballidogle airport. This is the first time the group, which has previously been operating in the Middle Shabelle and Hiran regions, has been sighted here. The presence of the group has coincided with SNA operations in the region and has triggered fears of heavy fighting with al-Shabaab which controls large parts of Lower Shabelle amid political instability caused by the delayed elections.
Indian Ocean - US Navy seizes large cache of smuggled weapons off the coast of Somalia
On Tuesday 16 February, the US Navy announced that its guided-missile destroyer, the USS Winston S. Churchill, had seized illegal shipments of weapons and weapons components from two small ships during a maritime security operation in international waters off the coast of Somalia on 11 and 12 February. In a statement, the US Navy said that "The weapons seized consisted of thousands of AK-47 assault rifles, light machine guns, heavy sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and crew-served weapons. Other weapon components included barrels, stocks, optical scopes and weapon systems”. The statement said that the guided-missile destroyer halted and searched the two ships for illicit cargo over the course of two days as part of the Navy’s routine maritime security patrol in the region. Those aboard the vessels were released after the operation.
The US navy has said that the source and destination of the smuggled weapons have not been identified yet, but security sources indicated that they may have been headed for Yemen. Some news sources have, however, quoted Somali officials as saying that the weapons may have been purchased by al-Shabaab. With regards to the source, the Associated Press quoted Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons flows, saying that Tuesday’s seizure was of “the unique blend of material consistent with multiple interdictions over the years that have been definitively linked back to Iran”. The seizure comes about a month after the US completed the withdrawal of its troops from Somalia to other countries in Africa.
The Week in Pictures
President Farmaajo convened a preliminary meeting with leaders of the Federal Member States to discuss the delayed elections on Sunday 21 February. The leaders of Jubaland and Puntland states skipped the meeting saying they no longer recognise the President. (Twitter)
Opposition supporters flee from violent clashes during protests over delayed elections in Mogadishu on Friday 19 February. (Twitter)
The US Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Winston S. Churchill, intercepted illegal shipments of weapons and weapons components from two small ships during a maritime security operation in international waters off the coast of Somalia on 11 and 12 February. (Twitter)
Heightened political unrest in Mogadishu and countrywide following collapse of talks. High risk of terrorism maintained.
End of 2021
Proposed withdrawal of AMISOM troops
Heightened risk of terrorism and political unrest countrywide
Security Advice in the COVID-19 Environment
Crime will increase in the coming days and weeks, as incomes reduce. It is prudent to start examining your security arrangements and your behaviour to ensure that you are as prepared and protected as possible. The following advice is specifically about security.
See our COVID-19 Information Service for advice on staying healthy in this COVID-19 environment.
Your home will be your safe haven in the coming weeks and maybe months. It will be a place where you and your family will spend most of the time. Take some time to make sure it is as safe as possible.
Look after your domestic staff. Even if you have decided to send them home to isolate your family from infection, try to continue to pay them. Remember they have information about your property that would be very useful to intruders. Hungry people are desperate people. Stay in touch with the staff that you have temporarily sent home. Aside from it being the humane thing to do, they may have useful information to help you better understand what is going on in the area.
Conduct your own security survey at your home. Think like an intruder - view your property from the outside and consider how you would break-in, or how an intruder could attack you as you arrive or leave to gain access to your home. Make a list of what could be improved and prioritise what is most important, bearing in mind what you can afford. Don’t forget security lighting, ideally linked to passive infra-red (PIR) sensors. Good lighting at vulnerable points, including gates, perimeters and doors can act as an excellent deterrent. Remember that worthwhile enhancements can be made to your security without spending any money - changing procedures and being more security-aware will help a lot. Good security risk management companies, including Castor Vali, can help with this and will notice things that you may not.
If you have a safe, ensure that it is fixed to a supporting wall and is well hidden. If you have two, keep the important items in the better-hidden one and be prepared to give up the more obvious one should you be unlucky enough to be the victim of a home invasion. Use your safe. Don’t leave valuables out unless they are needed. They probably aren’t.
Strengthen your links to the local community. For many reasons, not just security, you will likely need good neighbours in the coming weeks and months. Take the time to check on their welfare; this will be repaid.
Maintain a rolling stock of what is essential. Medication, baby items, long-life food, cash, water, torches, batteries and fuel for vehicles and generators are some items to consider. Don’t go overboard. Try and remember to keep your phone charged, have a power bank handy (and charged) and keep emergency numbers saved as favourites.
If you don’t have a well-stocked first aid kit, do a little research and create one that is appropriate for your family. Medical facilities may not be available to you in a time of need. Ensure you know how to use everything in the kit, working it out when you have a medical emergency is not ideal!
Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your car and know where your nearest “safe-haven” is. This could be a friend with a well-secured house or the local police station.
If you feel confident, make links with your local police commander. Pay them a visit and offer them some kindness. It doesn’t have to be a senior officer, but having such links locally could prove valuable.
Out of the home
If you have to leave home for essential work or to buy essential provisions, think about these points.
Don’t break the curfew. Tell yourself that it starts at 2000, not 2100 – this may help you from being caught out by traffic, bad weather, or an emergency.
You are vulnerable when leaving and arriving at your property. The curfew hours have an hour of darkness at the start and end but don’t travel in dark hours unless it’s an emergency. Don’t leave the vehicle to open your gate without taking the keys and locking the doors. Try and have a good look around as you arrive at the gate and before leaving the vehicle if you have to open the gate. Use a torch in the dawn and dusk, even if you have good lighting at the gate. This will demonstrate to anyone watching that you are security-aware. Calling ahead to the guard so that he or she can do this surveillance for you, and open the gate as you arrive, is good practice. Ensure that your guard has a torch, ideally a rechargeable one.
Never travel in a car without all the doors locked and the windows up. If you open the windows, do not leave enough space for a criminal to get their hand through the gap.
Be security-aware when leaving shopping malls and supermarkets. Groceries could become much sought after and a car full of shopping may become an increasingly attractive target. For this reason, consider who is best placed to make shopping trips and who may be less vulnerable to a robbery in your family or household.
Vehicles may become more vulnerable to attack or carjacking. Be cautious in slow-moving traffic and be very cautious if something forces you to stop the vehicle, such as an unexpected obstruction or a person(s). Your first instinct should be to drive away from the obstruction. If that isn’t possible, it is best not to open a window or door; instead, you should telephone for help. Many security risk management companies, including Castor Vali, offer tracking applications for smartphones with panic buttons, linked to Operations staff who can summon appropriate help quickly.
Avoid walking on roads if it is possible, especially if you are carrying a bag or shopping. If you are confronted by a robber, expect them to threaten violence. They will likely not use violence if you comply and hand over what they want. Do not become aggressive – remember that many of us can inadvertently become aggressive through fear – try and be controlled. Don’t carry or wear anything that you cannot afford to lose.
Criminals and fraudsters are already attempting to use the COVID-19 to exploit people’s fear and hunger for news. In these worrying times, we can forget our usual caution. We must guard against this.
Be cautious of prompts to click on links marked promising access to critical information. Many of us have joined new social media groups recently in our hunger for news. Use your usual caution when you receive posts from anyone you don’t know personally. Being in a group with people does not mean you can trust them.
Be selective and thoughtful in what news you choose to read, trust and share online, particularly on social media groups. Don’t contribute to the spreading of misinformation – it can be very harmful to the public good and we all have to exercise our usual social responsibility.
You have received this report as part of your organisation’s subscription. Castor Vali assessment and advice is given based on the information received and processed by us and the surrounding circumstances known to us to exist at the time. Subsequent changes to relevant information or the surrounding circumstances may affect the reliability of our assessment and advice, but we do not accept responsibility for that effect. We do not accept responsibility for the outcome of any action taken or not taken as a result of our assessment and advice unless the possibility of that action being taken or not taken is set out in specific terms in our instructions.
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