Somalia

Explosive violence trends and patterns in Somalia (2011-2019)

  • Between 2011-2019 Somalia has seen 10,938 deaths and injuries from explosive violence
  • Of these, 66% (7,269) were civilians
  • 96% of the civilian deaths and injuries occurred when explosive violence was used in a populated area
  • IEDs caused the most harm in this period, and were responsible for 73% of civilian deaths and injuries
  • 2017 was the worst year in this period for civilian deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Somalia

Review
Over the past three decades, Somalia has been locked into a series of overlapping conflicts, resulting in high levels of explosive violence and civilian harm. By the time AOAV released its first Explosive Violence Monitor in 2011, these conflicts had largely solidified into a struggle between the central government and the militant al-Shabaab group.

2011 was a particularly harmful year for Somalia, with AOAV recording 1,326 civilian casualties and ranking the country as the fifth worst-affected by explosive violence globally. Furthermore, the most damaging incidence of explosive violence recorded by AOAV in 2011 took place in Somalia. This occurred when a truck loaded with explosives was driven into a government compound in Mogadishu, killing and injuring a reported 267 people, many of whom were students.

Despite high levels of violence in 2011, The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was able to re-establish control over Mogadishu and other key areas in the country over the course of the year. This was a key turning point in bringing al-Shabaab’s ascendency under control and brought about lower levels of explosive violence over the following four years. Between 2012 and 2015, Somalia saw a yearly average of 438 civilian casualties, representing less than a third of those recorded in 2011. What is more, in 2014 and 2015 Somalia dropped out of AOAV’s list of the ten worst-affected countries by explosive violence, ranking 12th and 13th respectively.

Although levels of violence showed a downward trend over the first five years of the AOAV Explosive Violence Monitor, Somalia was still the fifth worst-affected country by explosive violence between 2011 and 2015, with AOAV recording a total of 3,077 civilian deaths and injuries in the time frame. In this period, al-Shabaab were the worst single perpetrator of civilian harm in the country, having been responsible for at least 42% of all recorded civilian casualties.

After having witnessed lower levels of violence for several years, Somalia saw a sharp 83% rise in civilian casualties in 2016, when compared with the year before. Having recorded 826 deaths and injuries from explosive violence, the 2016 Monitor ranked Somalia as the seventh worst-affected country that year. Again, al-Shabaab were responsible for the majority of casualties, with at least 71% of all civilian deaths and injuries attributed to this one group.

The following year Somalia’s security situation deteriorated further. AOAV recorded 1,582 civilian deaths and injuries caused by explosive violence in 2017 – close to double the figure recorded in 2016. As a result, 2017 was the worst year for explosive violence in Somalia over the nine-year course of AOAV’s Monitor. Al-Shabaab continued to carry out indiscriminate attacks increasing in number and severity. This was seen in the rise in civilian casualties from both improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide attacks, leading AOAV to rank Somalia as the fourth worst-affected country by IEDs, and the country third worst-affected by suicide attacks in 2017.  

As was the case in 2011, the worst incidence of explosive violence recorded by the 2017 Monitor took place in Somalia. This was the particularly horrific and destructive detonation of a truck bomb in Mogadishu on 14th October 2017, which resulted in 828 civilian casualties. The scale and impact of this explosion was stark. It accounted for more than half of the total casualties from explosive violence recorded in Somalia in 2017; the figure was also greater than the combined deaths and injuries from explosive violence in the country over the entirety of the previous year.  

In recent years al-Shabaab have continued to bring about high levels of civilian harm and insecurity in Somalia. Although civilian casualties recorded by AOAV in 2018 (832) had fallen from the previous year, the 2018 Explosive Violence Monitor still ranked Somalia as the sixth worst-affected country by explosive violence, the fifth worst for IED damage, and the fourth worst for suicide attacks. The situation worsened in 2019, when recorded civilian deaths and injuries in Somalia rose to 950 in a year where AOAV had recorded a falling global trend in the levels of explosive violence. As a result, the 2019 Explosive Violence Monitor ranked Somalia as the fourth worst-affected state by explosive violence behind Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.

From 2011 to 2019 Somalia has witnessed extreme levels of explosive violence, with AOAV recording a total of 7,269 civilian deaths and injuries from explosives over this period. Attempts to bring al-Shabaab under control following the high levels of violence recorded in 2011 were short lived, and the group continue to perpetrate serious harm in Somalia. Combatting this group has also created further insecurity for civilians and the country as a whole. This has become increasingly pertinent in recent years, with a growing number of civilian casualties resulting from United States airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab fighters. This being said, al-Shabaab are still responsible, by far, for most of the civilian harm from explosive weapons recorded in Somalia. This is something that AOAV explore in more detail in a recent article on al-Shabaab and increasing civilian harm in Somalia.

AOAV reports on explosive violence in Somalia include:

Al- Shabaab and increasing civilian harm in Somalia