Washington D.C., United States –
Amidst escalating violence, Somalia is grappling with an alarming surge in fatalities linked to al-Shabaab-related violence. According to a recently published mid-year review of violent events across Africa, al-Shabaab-linked fatalities are at an all-time high over its 17-year existence, far surpassing the previous high point of deaths in 2018.
The report, compiled by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, documented violent events related to Islamic extremism across Africa for a year ending on June 30. One of its conclusions is that 80 per cent of fatalities linked to militant Islamist groups and events in the past year occurred in the Sahel and Somalia.
Record fatalities linked to al-Shabaab
Over the past year, Somalia has witnessed an alarming 157-per cent increase in fatalities related to al-Shabaab operations. The death toll has reached a record high of 7,937, highlighting the gravity of the situation and raising significant concerns for the safety and well-being of civilians caught in the crossfire.
Battles have emerged as a primary cause of these fatalities. Over the past year, there was a staggering 235-per cent rise in battle-related fatalities. The intensity of clashes has increased following Somalia’s President’s declaration of all-out war against al-Shabaab last August. The spike in battle-related fatalities, which has sparkingly exceeded the last decade’s average, is a result of this offensive.
While the Somali government often displays that al-Shabaab is on the back foot, having lost substantial territory during the offensive, experts suggest otherwise. According to a research paper recently published by the Centre on Armed Groups and the Hiraal Institute, al-Shabaab is playing the long game. The militants are “strategically retreating ahead of the clan militias and government forces, taking some civilians with them and keeping tabs on those left behind.”
Civilians continue to suffer in Somalia
Disturbingly, violence against civilians has also significantly increased, the Africa Center’s report further explains. Al-Shabaab-linked fatalities against civilians surged by 71 per cent over the past year, resulting in massive loss of innocent lives. Such attacks underline the devastating impact on Somalia’s civilian population that al-Shabaab has.
The surge in fatalities reflects a concerning trend in the region’s security landscape. Somali authorities and international partners should prioritise comprehensive counterterrorism measures and ensure civilians’ safety. A deeper understanding of the factors driving the increase in fatalities is needed. Such knowledge could help inform strategies to tackle the root causes, engage communities in preventing violent extremism, and thereby promote lasting peace and stability in Somalia.