Al Shabaab is a militant Islamist group and an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union. It took over most of southern Somalia in 2006, seeking to establish an Islamic state. With an estimated strength of 7,000–9,000 militants, it continues to aggressively recruit new members.? Al Shabaab has control of significant territory, mostly in rural south-central Somalia. It invests in infrastructure in occupied areas as well as collecting taxes, managing its aid organisation, managing prisons, and practicing Sharia law in its areas of control. By limiting access to humanitarian actors and distributing aid in occupied areas, Al Shabaab has reportedly broadened its base of popular support, which could be used to expand beyond current occupied areas. ? Al Shabaab typically targets Somali government officials, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, and perceived government allies. Attacks in urban centres and along transport routes are common, although a shift in tactics in 2015 saw Al Shabaab concentrate attacks on small and remote AMISOM bases, with increased use of suicide bombings and improvised explosive devices.?? Al Shabaab-related violence is most frequent in south-central Somalia. Most casualties come from the explosion of landmines planted by the group, or from IEDs. In Mogadishu, Al Shabaab frequently targets public figures and public buildings, often using explosive devices. ?
African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), and Somali National Army (SNA) forces
AMISOM is a regional military support mission mandated by the African Union to stabilise Somalia. The UN Security Council has requested the mission maintain a maximum level of 22,126 troops. Troops are from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia.?AMISOM announced they will begin withdrawing from Somalia between December 2017 and October 2018, handing over control to Somali National Army forces. At the end of June 2017, 4,300 Ethiopian soldiers had withdrawn from Somalia. Uganda reduced its contigent by 1,000 tropps by the end of December 2017. ? The withdrawal of Ethiopian troops was a major blow to AMISOM's mission as they were the most experienced of the peacekeeping force.? A weakening of the AMISOM force allows Al Shabaab and other Islamist militants to gain momentum and territory during battles. AMISOM forces have been accused of child recruitment and other human rights violations including the killing of civilians.? The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), which provides support in peace-building and state-building, until 31 March 2018.?
The Somali National Army (SNA) consists of 12,000 active personnel and 24,000 reservists. ?The Somali National Army and AMISOM started a joint military offensive against Al Shabaab-held areas in March 2014.?SNA and AMISOM have since consolidated control over Mogadishu and the surrounding regions, including Bakool, though attacks persist.
Frequent disputes over unpaid salaries continue to undermine security operations by AMISOM and SNA. Salary delays are between 6-13 months for soldiers?
The US military supports the Somali federal government with drone strikes against armed groups. On 3 November, in Qandala, Bari region (Puntland), the US conducted its first drone strikes against the IS in Somalia. ?
Ahlu Sunna wal-Jama'a (ASWJ)
ASWJ was a militia group made up of moderate Sufi Muslims that formed in 1991, seeking to prevent the influence of Wahhabism and its imposition of strict Sharia law, mainly by opposing Al Shabaab, although it had clashed with government forces as well. ? Their focus of operations against Al Shabaab was in the Galmuduug region.? On 6 December 2017, ASWJ and the Galmudug government signed a power-sharing agreement intended to end the conflict between them. ? On 18 January, ASWJ announced to merge into the political and military structure of Galmudug, which the presidents of Galmudug and Somalia considered to be the end of the conflict between ASWJ and the government. ASWJ's leader Sheikh Mohamed Shakir was to be named Chief of Ministers under the power-sharing agreement. ?
Islamic State (IS)
There are two IS cells in Somalia, who have criticised Al Shabaab's links to Al Qaeda and seek to wage terrorism on a wider scale than Al Shabaab. The first cell operates in the Bari mountains of Puntland with around 300 fighters who are supported financially and logistically by IS fighters in Yemen. The second cell, Jabha East Africa, operates in the Raas Kaambooni area of southern Somalia, with an unknown number of fighters.? Both groups face strong resistance from Al Shabaab, who view IS as a rival.? In 2017, IS claimed responsibility for three attacks in Bossasso, Bari region, most recently on 3 October, when gunmen killed one person and injured two. ? IS captured its first town in Somalia on 26 October 2016, when it overran Qandala, Bari region, but the town has since been retaken by Puntland forces. ? ?