Addressing the threat posed by IEDsExplosive violence in Somalia

National C-IED initiatives: Somalia


The IED threat in Somalia is caused primarily by al-Shabaab. Between 2011 and 2015, at least 138 IED attacks that caused deaths and injuries were recorded from English-language news sources. These caused over 2,000 deaths and injuries, of which 78% were civilians. Between January and September 2016, there were already 29 attacks recorded, causing 665 deaths and injuries – the most ever recorded in a single year in Somalia despite only counting the nine first months of this year. Of the casualties, 74% (489) were civilians, and security forces are increasingly becoming targets of attacks. Most still occurred in Mogadishu, which has remained the prime target for IED throughout the last five years.


The Somali security forces and law enforcement have been a significant part of the efforts to counter IEDs and to combat terrorism. Security operations have managed to expose weapons caches and terrorist activities, but do however lack the means to prosecute them effectively, due to outdated laws. They also lack the capacity to conduct thorough investigations into suspicious persons and activity. However, the Somali Police Force (SPF) Joint Investigative Team (JIT) – funded and trained by the US – has made significant headway in improving this. They could respond to terrorist incidents and carry out post-incident investigations; allowing the investigations division of the police to carry out further investigation.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) is responsible for national security in Somalia, and is such as highly involved in counterterrorism. NISA is comprised of intelligence officers from Somalia’s armed forces. Most of their counterterrorism efforts involve collecting intelligence, identifying threats and launching covert counterterrorism operations. They also have a rapid response team to respond to IED or other terrorist attacks. NISA has increased its cooperation with the police investigations department regarding counterterrorism issues.

The Ministry of Internal Security in Somalia has been cooperating with international partners, Somali clan elders, and the media to raise awareness on al-Shabaab radicalisation and extremism in general. They drew awareness to its negative community impacts and the destruction it can have.  The Ministry of Interior and Federal Affairs implemented a programme to improve stabilisation of recovered areas through the empowerment of local communities by providing them with control in the regeneration processes. TV and radio stations have also broadcast counter violent extremism messages to impacted areas.

However, despite improvements in other areas, Somalia’s border security is very weak. Not only are most borders insecure, but where there are border security personnel they have very little chance of preventing terrorist entry due to Somalia’s lack of coordinated terrorist screening across the country. They are without any biometric or biographic screening capabilities at ports of entry. Cooperation and coordination between security forces and border security is also relatively absent.

Somali Explosive Management Authority

Although SEMA was created in 2013 to replace the Somalia National Mine Action Authority in south-central Somalia, it has still not assumed all responsibilities under its mandate. Soon after its creation, there were hopes that SEMA would coordinate the work of international and local actors within the region. SEMA has received support, such as funding and training, from other nations, and UNMAS has also assisted SEMA. To strengthen SEMA capacity, the NPA and the GICHD has also tried to step in.

In 2014, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) deployed 12 EOD teams to each sector and 30 explosive dog detection (EDD) teams. Nine government police EOD teams were deployed in south-central Somalia.

2015 saw the creation of the “Badbaado Plan”. This outlined the government’s approach to explosive hazard management, highlighting the financial support required. SEMA will be implementing this plan throughout 2016. Explosive management focuses predominantly on EOD, clearance and survey, as well as IED defeat and risk education.

Puntland Mine Action Centre

Established in 1999, the Puntland Mine Action Centre (PMAC) has collaborated with both national and international partners to combat mines, such as HALO, DDG and MAG. Due to the increasing threat of IEDs in Somalia due to al-Shabaab prolific use of the devices, combatting IED has become a significant part of PMAC’s work.

PMAC runs the only police EOD team in Puntland, which is responsible for collecting and destroying explosive ordnance. In June 2015, Puntland requested assistance to increase its capacity and deploy three EOD teams in Bosaso, Galkayo, and Garowe. In 2016, the “Badbaado Plan” will be implemented in Puntland. PMAC will work with SEMA and other partners within the region to work of the long-term capacities of the region to manage explosive hazards.

Somaliland Mine Action Centre

The Somaliland Mine Action Centre (SMAC) was established in 1997 with the assistance of the UNDP. SMAC is responsible for all demining activities in Somaliland. Action on demining has seen SMAC collaborate with HALO, police EOD teams, and DDG. They participate in raising awareness as well as clearance alongside the above organisations.

In 2014, five police EOD teams were operational in Somaliland. UNMAS continued to support the teams with funding, equipment, and training, which was scheduled to continue through to October 2015. Much of the activities in regard to mine action now focus on IEDs as they have become far greater risks to police and security in Somalia, as well as civilians who are also significantly impacted by al-Shabaab IED use.

Bilateral initiatives

The US assisted in counterterrorism investigations and provided training to the relevant personnel, allowing the number of prosecutors to be increase. They also trained and funded the Somali Police Force Joint Investigative Team.

Regional initiatives

African Union Mission in Somalia

AMISOM is an active regional peace support mission set up by the Peace and Security Council of the African Union with the full support of the United Nation.

Alongside other training and missions, much of AMISOM’s work deals with the threat of IED and hence C-IED responses. For example, AMISOM trains Somali Army Officers in C-IED awareness. They often take part in joint operations with the Somali army and police forces to find recover materials used in the making of an IED and recovering IEDs themselves.

Alongside their work with the national army, AMISOM helps training local forces to protect communities from IED threats. This may be needed particularly at events and gatherings, such as at Ramadan, when the IED threat is thought to be heightened. Not only will AMISOM train police for such events but they will work in collaboration at the gatherings with them.

AMISOM also helps setting up local community initiatives to respond to the threat that the IED poses to civilians. This work is specifically carried out in areas that experience a high-level of IED violence. As part of this work they provide advice and an emergency number so they may respond to threats quickly and give further assistance.


Somalia has observer status within MENAFATF, but until 2016 the country had no laws criminalising money-laundering or terrorism financing. The Central Bank of Somalia, with the assistance of the World Bank and the UNODC, drafted a bill on money laundering and terrorism financing that was signed into law in February 2016. The law complies with requirements and recommendations from the FATF, and would enable Somalia to better investigate and monitor suspicious transactions if those responsible for such investigations saw increased funding, staffing and technical expertise.

International initiatives and support


UNMAS aids national and local governments as well as other actors in Somalia, such as NGOs, to conduct strategic policies and coordination to better explosive hazard management and weapons and ammunition management. Given the high threat of IEDs in Somalia due to their use by groups such as al-Shabaab, UNMAS has a high degree of experience in tackling IEDs. Although UNMAS Somalia claims that they cannot end the threat of IEDs, it appears they have definitely succeeded in some efforts to lessen the threat they pose.

UNMAS achieves this through a variety of strategies, including IED information capture, providing technical IED training and assistance to the state and AMISOM so they may detect and dispose of them, and clearance of UXO and unused ammunition that could be made to manufacture IEDs. The remainder of their work focuses on providing policy advice and coordination to the FGS on explosive hazards and supported the FGS to develop a national police plan, the “Heegan Plan”, to development EOD and IED defeat capabilities as part of a growing force.

UNMAS has worked in cooperation with other states and NGOs. Funding from countries such as Canada, Italy, Japan and the UK allowed UNMAS to provide police with IEDD training and equipment. UNMAS partnered with HALO to survey contaminated areas and have also helped SEMA develop a way to monitor and manage weapons in Somalia.

Global Coalition to Counter ISIL

Somalia participates in the Foreign Terrorist Fighter Working Group and the Stabilization Support Working Group, as part of its participation in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL.

Somalia is also a partner in PREACT and a member of the OIC and Arab League. As part of the GCTF, Somalia is part of the Horn of Africa Capability Building Initiative.

NGO, international organisation and private company support


TDI conducted a 16-month demining and MRE project in Somalia between 2013 and 2014 as part of the efforts by the UN Mission in Somalia. They assisted in the stabilisation of recovered areas through EOD and mine clearance, and through capacity building with the local mine action authorities. MRE was delivered to more than 170,000 people.

Furthermore, TDI trained and employed local people to support in their work and women comprise about 25% of the local staff. The relationships developed with the local populations also made their work more fruitful by directing TDI’s work to the most impacted areas. Information sharing between other international organisations assisted these efforts, as their dialogue with local populations aided their work.

HALO Trust

HALO has operated in Somaliland since 1999, conducting MRE, land clearance, focusing on demining and EOD, and increasing stockpile management and physical security. By 2016 they had cleared almost 20 square kilometres of hazardous area, disposed of over 4,500 landmines, over 33,000 items of UXO, and 215,000 of small arms ammunition. By 2018, HALO hopes to have cleared all known hazardous areas.

HALO began work in other regions of Somalia in 2015, and is conducting non-technical survey operations in south-central Somalia, particularly near the Somali-Ethiopian border where a significant amount of mines are present. Clearance operations started in 2016.

HALO was contracted by UNMAS to survey contaminated areas.


The DDG has been operating in Somalia on mine clearance and MRE since 1999, when it began work in Somaliland. Mine clearance in Somaliland continued until 2006. After this, work focused on clearing UXOs village-by-village and successfully encouraged locals to hand over UXOs through education and advocacy initiatives. DDG’s work is focused around Mogadishu and Galkayo. They have worked on setting up a humanitarian mine action programme in Mogadishu since October 2007, with MRE provided to locals and IDPs. Their work in Galkayo began in 2010, but their mine action in the Galkayo did not begin until September 2011.

Demining projects run by the DDG have also operated in rural Puntland districts, including demining Galgodob, and MRE and community safety elsewhere. The clearance of ERW from areas across Somalia has the express aim of not only preventing civilian accidents but also preventing “the use of these items as tools of violence”.

DDG also provides training and support to AMISOM and the UN on IED and UXO, as well as IED and UXO awareness training to Somali actors. They have 266 local staff and 12 expatriate staff operating from 14 offices throughout the country.


MAG began work in Somalia in 2001. In 2008, MAG set a consistent effort to assist Puntland Police EOD teams. This saw MAG help with safely removing and destroying UXO in the area. In 2010, Community Liason teams provided MRE in South Central to increase awareness. Their more recent work has focused on SALW, such as providing low-cost security for armouries and arms management.

MAG’s work in Somalia is funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the German Federal Foreign Office, the UK Government, and the US State Department Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement.


GICHD has been involved in a variety of projects in Somalia. They were responsible for the evaluation of DDG’s work, as well as provided MRE on behalf of UNICEF, UNDP and Puntland and Somaliland Mine Action Centers. This work has also seen GICHD provide technical assistance on land rights to mine action organisations and assist all mine actors in the region with the transition in IMSMA.


Mechem has provided modified versions of the CASSPIR, a four-wheel drive mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, and other demining equipment to AMISOM and the UN as part of the support services they offer to both actors in the country. However, it should be noted that despite Mechem’s experience in bomb-disposal and demining, these are not the type of services they operate in Somalia.

Bancroft Global in Somalia

Bancroft has picked up contracts with AMISOM and the US to provide field training and IED and UXO expertise to AMISOM and the Somali government. This training has focused on detection and defusing IEDs as well as intelligence gathering. Their efforts have focused on building partner capacity in the regards C-IED and EOD. Bancroft is said to have significantly improved the counterterrorism and counterinsurgency skills of the Somali Army

Bancroft has also engaged in health and veterinarian services, as well as investments in real estate. There has been some criticism that the Bancroft ‘mentors’ in fact act as mercenaries, though this allegation is denied by the employees and Bancroft’s president.

To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.