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Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Somalia

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 18 August 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, Country Reports on Terrorism 2010 - Somalia, 18 August 2011, available at: [accessed 21 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Overview: Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) continued to have a fragile hold on power and exerted control over only a small portion of the capital of Mogadishu. This, together with Somalia's protracted state of violent instability, long unguarded coasts, and porous borders, made the country an appealing location for terrorists seeking a transit or launching point for operations there or elsewhere. The capability of the TFG and other Somali local and regional authorities to carry out counterterrorism activities or develop a counterterrorism agenda was extremely limited. Clan dynamics remained an influential factor in governance and security issues.

The terrorist and insurgent group al-Shabaab and other anti-TFG clan-based militias continued to exercise control over strategic locations in central Somalia. The TFG and peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) remained confined to parts of Mogadishu such as the main seaport, airport, and neighborhoods near Villa Somalia. Al-Shabaab's continued destabilizing influence gave the group and allied violent extremists a safe haven to train and plan terrorist activities.

Several senior al-Shabaab leaders have publicly proclaimed loyalty to al-Qa'ida (AQ). In some terrorist training camps, AQ-affiliated foreign fighters led the training and indoctrination of the recruits. Al-Shabaab conducted suicide attacks, remote-controlled roadside bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations of government officials, journalists, humanitarian workers, and civil society leaders throughout Somalia. Al-Shabaab also threatened UN and other foreign aid agencies and their staff, resulting in the withdrawal of significant humanitarian operations, including that of the World Food Program (WFP) from southern Somalia in January 2010.

Al-Shabaab's influence in Somaliland and Puntland, though on a much smaller scale than in southern Somalia, remained a concern to local and regional authorities.

2010 Terrorist Incidents:

Puntland: An estimated 50 government officials, security officers, and leading elders were killed in terrorist-related attacks in Puntland. A clan militia led by Siad Atom, connected to al-Shabaab, in the mountainous Sanag region, was believed to be behind these attacks. From July to November, Puntland forces launched military operations against Atom and his allied clan fighters. Puntland's president announced the end of the operation in November although the ability of Atom to continue future attacks remained viable and strong.

Somaliland: Attacks and government responses included the following:

  • On June 10, Somaliland police clashed with a heavily armed unidentified group with likely links to terrorists in Burao's eastern neighborhood. A police officer was killed, and Eastern Burao's police commander and Togdheer's regional police commander were reportedly wounded in the clashes. Police arrested five people and impounded three sacks of explosive powder and weapons. On November 15, a Berbera court sentenced one of the arrestees, Ahmed Ibrahim Farah, to death by hanging after he pled guilty to terrorism charges. The court delivered death sentences to three other accomplices, two men and a woman, who were tried in absentia. The court also sentenced three women to serve a one-year jail term each for their role in the terrorist raid while two other women were set free due to lack of evidence.

  • On January 28, a remote control explosion targeting Farah Askar Hussein, Governor of the Sool region, killed one of his staff and wounded Hussein and his driver. The explosion occurred at the front gate of his Las Anod residence during the visit of eight Somaliland ministers. Somaliland police have not made any arrests related to this incident.

Mogadishu/South and Central region: During 2010, al-Shabaab carried out multiple attacks, including a number in Mogadishu against the TFG and African Union Mission in Somalia. Among the most deadly were a series of attacks in March, which killed at least 60 people and wounded 160 more; and a string of attacks in late August, which killed at least 87 people and wounded 148. Also in August, al-Shabaab suicide bombers entered the Muna Hotel in Mogadishu and killed 31 people, including six members of parliament and four other government officials, when they detonated their explosives on the roof of the hotel. Attacks and government responses included the following:

  • On May 1, twin explosions inside a packed mosque in the Bakara market of Mogadishu killed 45 worshippers and left an estimated 100 others injured, including top al-Shabaab militants. A similar mosque attack on May 2 in Kismayu killed two and injured 13 people after congregational prayers.

  • On August 24, two al-Shabaab gunmen disguised in TFG military uniforms made a forced entry into Hotel Muna in Mogadishu's Hamarweyne district and killed 31 of the guests, including members of parliament and other government officials. The two attackers, according to TFG official sources, went on a shooting spree while inside the hotel before one of them blew himself up with a suicide vest.

  • On September 9, AMISOM peacekeepers disrupted an al-Shabaab attack on the Mogadishu airport. After attackers detonated twin suicide truck bombs near the airport, AMISOM reportedly shot five more bomb-strapped al-Shabaab militia members as they tried to sneak into the airport during the resulting mayhem. Four civilians and three peacekeepers were killed in the attack.

  • On November 10, al-Shabaab militia beheaded four people in Galgaduud for their suspected association with Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama'a (ASWJ), a moderate Islamic organization that oftentimes fights against al-Shabaab and has links, albeit weak, with the TFG.

Legislation and Law Enforcement: Somalia's Transitional Federal Government in Mogadishu, under siege by insurgents, called on regional governments to help stem the flow of terrorist financing, requesting local governments trace, freeze, and seize al-Shabaab financing. On May 3, the TFG passed a counterterrorism law, and in July, Puntland followed with similar legislation establishing special courts to try terrorism suspects. Somaliland has not passed any such laws, though its court system has been able to hand out death sentences to al-Shabaab and other extremists for crimes committed.

Countering Terrorist Finance: Somalia was a terrorist financing center. Existing anti-money laundering and counterterrorist finance laws were unenforceable, given the security threat to the government and its lack of capacity. The financial system in Somalia operated almost completely outside of government oversight either on the black market or via international money transfer entities known as hawalas. Financial entities in Somalia self-imposed international standards, to the extent they exist, in order to do business elsewhere in the world.

Al-Shabaab derived most of its funding internally, particularly from control over the key port of Kismaayo and taxation of goods and legitimate commerce. Some of the external financing entered Somalia as cash, but most likely arrived through hawalas. Al-Shabaab also financed its operations through extortion of private citizens and local businesses, revenue from air and seaports under their control, and to an unknown extent by diversion of humanitarian and development assistance. The TFG, Puntland, and Somaliland regional administrations were unable to control transit across their borders, and goods flowed into and out of Somalia without government knowledge. In areas controlled by al-Shabaab, the group "taxed" goods' movements.

The TFG did not have an independent system or mechanism for freezing terrorist assets. No government entities were charged with, or capable of tracking, seizing, or freezing illegal assets. In theory, the Treasury Ministry would be responsible for investigating financial crimes, but it lacked the capacity, including financial, technical, and human resources. U.S. Embassy personnel in Kenya were aware of the interdiction of one suspected terrorist financier carrying cash illegally into Somalia. Interdictions of these sorts by TFG officials result in an arrest, and then indefinite detentions or releases given Somalia's inadequate judicial system.

There was no mechanism for distributing information from the TFG to financial institutions, and the TFG enforced no suspicious transactions or large currency transactions reporting requirements on banks or other financial institutions. However, many institutions operating in Somalia maintained international offices and therefore adhered to minimum international standards, including freezes on terrorist entities' finances.

The government did not distribute to financial institutions the names of suspected terrorists and terrorist organizations listed on the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee's consolidated list associated with Usama bin Ladin, members of AQ, or the Taliban.

Somalia did not have any mechanisms in place to share information related to terrorist financing with the United States.

Regional and International Cooperation: Some Western and regional nations worked to assist the TFG/National Security Forces through training and support.

Countering Radicalization and Violent Extremism: The TFG's Ministry of Information began issuing news releases, which helped make it a credible source of information for both Somali citizens and the Somali media. This in turn has bolstered the credibility of their reports of al-Shabaab atrocities. The Ministry's most effective outreach tool was its multi-media public broadcasting platform, Radio Mogadishu, which broadcast over FM radio, streamed live on the Internet, and maintained a webpage and Facebook presence. The station has made considerable strides in objective reporting about both the extremists and the government and thereby gained audience share.

Radio Mogadishu also launched a religious affairs call-in show that examined, from an Islamic perspective, al-Shabaab's claims to religious legitimacy. The show aired three times a week and received callers and text messages from all over Mogadishu (including al-Shabaab controlled areas) and Facebook messages from around the world. The messaging was overwhelming critical of al-Shabaab.

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