Since early 2017, when Africom (U.S. Africa Command) increased its use of armed UAVs over Somalia, there have been nearly 120 UAV airstrikes that have killed over 800 al Shabaab and ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) members. In the last six months, there have been 42 of these UAV attack missions and 235 total in Somalia in the last decade. Striking back at those air operations has long been an al Shabaab goal but the Islamic terrorists have had little success at that. So far this year there have been about 40 UAV attacks. Most of those attacks were against al Shabaab targets with a few directed at ISIL forces in the north. In 2019 there were 63 UAV attacks in Somalia for the entire year. The 2020 attacks have killed several senior leaders although most of the UAV attack missions are in support of Somali Army operations, especially in southern Somalia where the remaining al Shabaab strongholds are.
Al Shabaab has been trying to solve its lack of access to technical experts, especially medical ones, by kidnapping and enslaving Kenyans who have the needed skills. In the last year at least eleven such kidnappings have occurred in Kenya, mostly in Mandera Country just across the border. The tech experts are taken to al Shabaab controlled areas of Somalia and provided good treatment as long as they cooperate. This sort of thing is nothing new as Somalis have been raiding areas to the south for centuries. The objective has usually been loot of any sort and for a long time slaves were a valuable commodity as they could be sold to traders in Somali coastal towns who would take the slaves to Arabia or Iran where there was always a market for these captives. Western nations outlawed slavery during the 19th century and that included parts of Africa controlled by European countries. The Middle East resisted this ban into the late 20th century. Some nations in Africa and Arabia still tolerate slavery.
Slavery survives in Somalia not just because of corruption or local custom but also because it is an important aspect of the financial support system al Shabaab has always maintained to finance its terrorist operations. For many al Shabaab members, what they do is their profession and it pays for their living expenses. This is particularly important for older members who have wives and children. For a fifteen year old organization like al Shabaab the financial overhead is quite large. Most fundraising efforts are illegal which means that al Shabaab members spend much of their time operating like gangsters. This is one reason why radical groups like al Shabaab often evolve into criminal gang operations that have abandoned the Islamic terrorist, nationalist or whatever angle got them started. That process may be underway with al Shabaab as there is currently a feud within the organization over financial strategy and accusations of corruption.
April 12, 2020: In Mogadishu, the Minister of Justice died of covid19 (Coronavirus). He was brought to the capital a week ago and taken to the only hospital in the country that can treat covid19. Tests showed that he was infected and he was isolated.
A month ago the government announced that one of four Somalis who had just returned from China had covid19. This was the first such case known to be in Somalia and the man is being treated. If covid19 gets loose in Somalia the local health system won’t be of much help because the local health system is largely non-existent. So far 21 Somali covid19 cases have been reported. One has died, two have recovered and the rest are still quarantined or being treated.
April 9, 2020: In the south, outside the port of Kismayo and American UAV supporting army forces and local militias killed ten al Shabaab gunmen from a larger force that was operating in the area. The fighting continued into the next day when another UAV attack killed at least one al Shabaab gunman. So far in April American UAVs have carried out ten attacks.
April 8, 2020: The government announced the first covid19 death in Somalia. The victim was a 58 year old man who had not been outside the country. There are currently twelve confirmed covid19 patients in Somalia. There may be more but most of the country has little or no access to modern medical care and people regularly die of undiagnosed afflictions. Since most of these involve a fever, caused by the immune system trying to fight off some kind of infection, people call many fatal conditions an unspecified fever, and such fatal fevers are common.
April 5, 2020: In the southeast (Lower Shabelle region), American UAVs carried out three separate attacks against al Shabaab, killing eight of the Islamic terrorists.
April 2, 2020: In the south (Jilib), an American UAV used a missile to kill Yusuf Jiis, a much wanted al Shabaab attack planner along with two of his followers. Jilib is the scene of much UAV activity. Most of the time it is surveillance, looking for people like Jiis who frequently visit this area and the many al Shabaab factions that maintain bases near Jilib.
March 31, 2020: In the south (Jubaland), al Shabaab murdered six civilians they accused of being government informers.
March 30, 2020: In the north (Nugal region), an al Shabaab suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest near the vehicle carrying the regional governor and several associates. The governor was killed and two others were wounded.
March 25, 2020: The World Bank is restoring its relationship with Somalis, for the first time since 1990. While still the most corrupt nation in the world, Somalia has organized its finances to the point where it can negotiate to obtain loans from the World Bank. Somalia already has a national debt of $5.2 billion and a number of satisfied lenders.
March 20, 2020: In Baidoa (250 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu), 400 Somali Army soldiers completed a 12 month training course operated by the British army. This was the first use of this British training method in Somalia and it created a 400 man infantry battalion in which all the personnel had been taught combat skills and spent a lot of time practicing with each other. The key element of this approach is that the troops got to know each other and what everyone was capable of. This method has often worked in the past and the British believe it will work in Somalia, at least with this one battalion. Officers and NCOs were shown how to select and train new recruits or officers and NCOs transferred to the battalion. In theory, this establishes a self-perpetuating military tradition that British trainers have implemented in many foreign countries, including India, Pakistan, and Jordan and several other Middle Eastern and African countries.