Al Shabaab has grown to become the continent’s most active and lethal actor. Since 2008, events involving al Shabaab have numbered more than 8,400 and have been linked to more than 22,000 fatalities. Violent activity related to the group reached a high point in 2014, with 1,293 events. This figure has remained relatively stable in the short term, with the group involved in an average of over 1,100 events per year through 2016-2017. Led by Ahmed Abdi Godane, al Shabaab found its roots in the political chaos following the First Somali Civil War and established itself as the primary al Qaeda affiliate in the region. Despite Godane’s assassination in September 2014, al Shabaab reached peak influence over this period, controlling several major cities, including large portions of Mogadishu. Throughout 2016-2017 the Somali military, in conjunction with African Union forces, pushed al Shabaab forces into mainly rural encampments in the Shabelle River Valley. Al Shabaab continues offences against military forces and civilians alike, currently focusing on unmanned improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. October 2017 saw the deadliest single attack in the country’s history, when an explosive detonated near a Mogadishu hotel caused over 500 fatalities. United States forces launched a substantial southern air campaign following the bombing, causing large numbers of al Shabaab elements to migrate northward into Galguduud and Hiiraan regions. Elsewhere, al Shabaab continues limited activity in the far north of Somalia. In 2015, Islamic State forces under leadership of former al Shabaab adherent Abdul Qadir Mumin, established a notable presence in the northern coastal areas of Bari and have split loyalties of area al Shabaab adherents. However, internal al Shabaab politicking was somewhat short-lived. The majority of current activity between the two groups has concentrated on competition for land and influence.

Key Figures

Time Period: 2008-01-01 (ongoing)
Number of Events: 11,027
Reported Fatalities: 29,679
Reported Civilian Deaths from Direct Targeting: 3,653
Number of Armed Active Agents: 641

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