AOAV’s monitoring project, launched in October 2010, uses English-language media reports to capture information on who has been killed and injured by incidents of explosive violence.  We have over 10 years of explosive violence data recorded and analysed. The data below focuses on Somalia.

Explosive Violence in Somalia in 2022

In 2022, Somalia experienced the most injurious year since 2017, when AOAV recorded 1,584 civilian casualties of explosive violence. Last year, 1,224 civilians were recorded killed and injured across 95 incidents, marking a 128% increase from the 537 civilians harmed the year before (and a small increase from 89 incidents). At least 25 of the recorded civilian casualties were children, nine were men, and three were women. Overall, civilians represented 75% of all 1,634 recorded casualties, compared to 59% in 2021. 

Incidents of IED attacks fell by 17% last year, dropping from 66 in 2021 to 55 in 2022. Civilian casualties of such attacks, however, increased from 452 to 1,091, a 141% increase. This means the number of civilians harmed per IED attacks rose from 6.4 to 19.8. Civilians represented 86% of all 1,274 recorded casualties of IED attacks in Somalia last year, and IEDs accounted for 89% of all civilian casualties of explosive violence in the country, compared to 79% in 2021. Civilian casualties of ground-launched weapons and mines also increased, from 71 to 81, and 14 to 52 respectively. 

In 2021, non-specific IEDs caused 44% (187) of civilian IED harm in Somalia, across 32 incidents, and car bombs caused 176 civilian casualties across 10 incidents. However, in 2022 car bombs caused 75% (821) of civilian casualties of IEDs, across 13 incidents. The average rate of civilian harm per car bomb attack consequently grew from 17.6 to 63.2. Non-specific IEDs caused 184 civilian casualties in 2022 across 25 incidents, so the rate of civilian harm from such attacks also rose, from 5.8 to 7.4. 

AOAV recorded 18 incidents that were reported as suicide attacks in Somalia in 2022, compared to 20 the year before. However, civilian casualties of such attacks increased by 68%, from 278 to 468. Last year, therefore, an average of 26 civilians were harmed per suicide attack in Somalia, compared to 13.9 in 2021. 

In 2022, non-state actors were the reported perpetrators of 77% (73) of incidents, and 95% (1,160) of reported civilian casualties from explosive violence in Somalia, with the remaining 5% attributed to actors of unknown name and status. This is similar to 2021, when non-state actors caused 82% (73) of incidents and 92% (492) of civilian casualties. While state actors were the reported perpetrators of 12 civilian casualties in 2021, there were no reported civilian casualties of state-perpetrated explosive violence in Somalia in 2022. 

Al Shabaab continued to be the predominant perpetrator of civilian harm in Somalia, having caused 60% (324) of civilian casualties in 2021 and 86% (1,055) last year. 35% (17) of all 48 recorded incidents of Al Shabaab explosive violence were reported as suicide attacks, and such attacks resulted in 465 reported civilian casualties.

Banaadir was the most affected region last year, and in particular, the city of Mogadishu accounted for 27% (26) of incidents, and 54% (655) of civilian casualties throughout Somalia. Consequently, last year an average of 25.2 civilians were harmed per explosive attack in the city. 

The intensification of attacks directed at civilian and military targets is linked to what is being referred to as “the most significant military offensive” against Al Shabaab in more than a decade, as the president announced a ‘total war’ against the group in August 2022, and encouraged the mobilisation of clan militias and local vigilantes.

A Decade of Data in Review: Somalia, 2011-2020

  • Somalia has been the seventh worst-affected state by explosive violence over the past decade
  • From 2011-2020, AOAV recorded 11,791 deaths and injuries from explosive violence in Somalia – of these, 7,740 (67%) were civilians
  • 96% of all civilian deaths and injuries occurred when explosive violence was used in a populated area
  • IEDs caused, by far, the most harm in this period, with 74% of all civilian casualties resulting from this type of explosive
  • Ground-launched weapons were responsible for 20% of civilian casualties, whilst airstrikes accounted for 4%
  • 2017 was the worst year in this period for civilian casualties in Somalia, with AOAV recording 1,584 deaths and injuries from explosive violence

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 citing it as the country fifth worst-affected by explosive violence. Furthermore, the most damaging incident 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 ten-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 14 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 and was greater than the combined deaths and injuries from explosive violence in the country over the entirety of the previous year. The 2017 Mogadishu attack also represented the single worst incident of explosive violence recorded by AOAV in the past decade.

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.

In 2020, civilian casualties in Somalia fell by more than a half from the previous year, despite the fact AOAV recorded a similar number of incidences of explosive violence. The 471 civilian casualties recorded by AOAV over the year represented the lowest level of civilian harm in five years and suggested an encouraging trend for the country and its citizens. However, the fluctuating nature of explosive violence in Somalia over the past decade means civilian harm must continue to be monitored carefully.

From 2011 to 2020 Somalia has witnessed extreme levels of explosive violence, with AOAV recording a total of 7,740 civilian deaths and injuries 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. The process of 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.