On 8 February, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo was elected Somali’s new president, in the second presidential election to take place in the Horn of Africa nation since 1991. The election was held amidst tight security due to ongoing security threats by al-Shabaab.
Below is a timeline of developments over the past 25 years in the war-torn country:
President Barre deposed, chaos ensues
- In January 1991, President Mohamed Siad Barre, who had been in power since 1969, is deposed by rebels and flees the country. The rebel alliance soon falls apart and clan-based fighting breaks out later that year.
- From December 1992 to 1995, the international community intervenes with 38,000 troops in a bid to end a major famine and restore peace. The United Nations’ mission however ends in failure with the deaths of eighteen American soldiers.
New Government Barred from Mogadishu
- In 2005, a new government formed the previous year after protracted talks in neighbouring Kenya enters the country, however it cannot reach the capital, Mogadishu, which is under the control of warlords. The authorities opt to set up their headquarters in Baidoa, which is located west of the capital.
- In 2006, the Islamic Court movements, which is accused by the United States of harbouring al-Qaeda extremists, captures Mogadishu after heavy fighting.
Al-Shabaab Emerges and Joins al-Qaeda
- In December 2006, Ethiopia, with Washington’s support, invades Somalia. Al-Shabaab, the Islamic Courts’ armed wing, emerges to stage a bloody insurgency in the capital and in the southern region of the country.
- In 2007, an African Union (AU) force is deployed in Mogadishu to back up a transitional federal government, which comes to the capital.
- Ethiopia withdrawals from Somalia in 2009, however just days later, al-Shabaab seizes control of Baidoa while the United Nations holds talks in Djibouti with the entire Somali parliament. Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed becomes president of a transitional administration.
- In 2010, al-Shabaab proclaims its allegiance to al-Qaeda and claims responsibility for a double attack, which kills 76 people in Kampala. The attack is in retaliation for Uganda’s participation in the AU force in Somalia.
- Au troop drive al-Shabaab militants out of the capital city in August 2011 however the militants continue to control rural areas and launched a number of attacks in the capital city.
- In October 2011, an al-Shabaab suicide bombing targeting a ministry in Mogadishu kills 82 people. Later that month, Kenyan troops cross the border into southern Somali, while Ethiopian forces arrive in November.
- Al-Shabaab targets the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya on 21 September 2013, where at lest 67 people are killed and around twenty go missing. The group states that the attack is in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
- In April 2015, another al-Shabaab attack kills 148 people at the university in Garissa, eastern Kenya. Kenya continues to see a number of attacks, particularly in the border regions with Somalia.
Parliamentary and Presidential Elections
- A new Somali parliament is sworn in on 20 August 2012 following the adoption of a provisional constitution.
- The new parliament, which is comprised of deputies nominated by 135 clan elders, elects Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as president on 10 September. It is the first presidential election to take place in Somalia since Barre was deposed in 1991.
- From October to December 2016, around 14,000 clan-based delegate electors – from a total population of 12 million – vote in a second parliamentary election.
- On 27 December 2016, a new batch of 275 Somali deputies take the oat of office.
- On 8 February 2017, former premier Farmajo is elected president after incumbent Mohamud admits defeat in a second round of voting by lawmakers.
On Monday, 15 February, officials reported that Islamist militant group al-Shabaab killed Somalia’s former defense minister with a car bomb in the capital city Mogadishu. The latest death of a Somali official comes just days after the militant group claimed responsibility for the 2 February bombing of a plane that had departed the airport in Mogadishu for neighboring Djibouti. It also comes as insecurity in the capital city and across the country has intensified in recent months, with the militant group launching a number of deadly attacks, particularly targeting troops with the AMISOM contingent.
Hours after Monday’s attack, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, stating that it planted the car bomb that killed Muhayadin Mohamed, who was also an adviser to the speaker of Somalia’s parliament. Pictures taken by a photographer from the scene depicted the passenger seat took the brunt of the damage, with the passenger-side doors blown out. A police official confirmed that Mohamed was killed, adding that a second person in the car survived the blast without any serious injuries.
Mohamed was briefly defense minister in 2008, during Somalia’s transitional federal government, which was backed by the United Nations and had fought alongside African Union (AU) peacekeepers to push al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and other major cities.
Meanwhile on Saturday, al-Shabaab insurgents claimed responsibility for a bomb attack, which ripped a hole in a passenger plane shortly after takeoff from the capital Mogadishu earlier this month. In a statement issued by the group, al-Shabaab stated on 2 February, Shebaab “mujahideen carried out an operation targeted dozens of Western intelligence officials and Turkish NATO forces aboard an airplane bound for Djibouti.” Al-Shabaab added that the bomb attack was “retribution for the crimes committed by the coalition of Western crusaders and their intelligence agencies against Muslims of Somalia.”
The blast left a metre-wide (three-foot)hole in the fuselage of the Daallo Airlines plane shortly after it took off from Somalia’s main airport, killing the suspected bomber and forcing an emergency landing. Two of the 74 passengers aboard were slightly injured. Investigators later reported that a passenger believed to be the bomber, identified as Abdulahi Abdisalam, was killed, probably after being propelled out of the aircraft in the explosion. The man had initially intended to board a Turkish Airlines flight however the Turkish plane did not turn up and Daallo Airlines agreed to fly the passengers onwards to Djibouti. Somali intelligence officials have released surveillance footage appearing to show a passenger being given a laptop in which the bomb was concealed.
According to Somali police, late on Thursday, at least twenty people were killed in the Somali capital Mogadishu when five Islamist gunmen set off bombs and stormed a popular beach-front restaurant.
Police officer Osman Nur disclosed Friday that “the operation ended at 3 AM last night and at least 20 civilians were killed.” Somalia’s security minister, Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, reported that four of the gunmen were killed, adding that one was captured alive. Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that its fighters set off two car bombs at the Beach View Café on Mogadishu’s popular Lido beach, and engaged in a gun battle for hours with government troops trying to flush them out. Police officials have disclosed that al-Shabaab fighters set off the first car bomb at dusk, with witnesses reporting that a huge second blast, which echoed around the city centre, struck about an hour later as government soldiers laid siege to the restaurant. The country’s prime minister urged the public to remain calm and called the attack on a civilian target was a desperate move by a group facing annihilation.
The attack comes a week after al-Shabaab overran an African Union (AU) base near the Kenyan border, saying that they had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers and captured a number of them. Kenya has not commented on the toll.
Kenya has said that a search and rescue operation is underway in neighbouring Somalia as al-Shabaab militants claimed to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in Friday’s attack on an African Union (AU) base.
The base in southwestern Somalia was attacked by al-Shabaab fighters early Friday morning. On Sunday, military chief Samson Mwathethe told reporters in the capital Nairobi that “we embarked on a search, rescue and recovery operation as a priority,” adding, “our troops are engaging the terrorists.” While Kenyan officials have so far declined to say how many of its soldiers were killed, injured or missing in the attack, on Sunday, al-Shabaab indicated in a statement that more than 100 Kenyan soldiers were killed and others captured. In the statement, it said, “Mujahideen fighters…stormed the Kenyan base in the early hours of Friday morning, killing more than 100 Kenyan invaders, seizing their weapons and military vehicles and even capturing Kenyan soldiers alive.” Jihadist websites in Somalia are claiming that 12 Kenyan soldiers were captured. At the time of the attack, a company of around 150 Kenyan soldiers was stationed at the El-Adde base. On Sunday, four injured soldiers were returned to Nairobi.
The pre-dawn attack on the Kenyan base in Somalia’s Gedo region was at least the third major assault on isolated AU bases in the last year. In September, al-Shabaab fighters stormed a Ugandan AMISOM base in Janale district, which is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region. In June, al-Shabaab militants killed dozens of Burundian soldiers when they overran an AMISOM outpost northwest of Mogadishu.
The US State Department has revealed that an American resident, a Minnesota man named Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia more than seven years ago, surrendered to Somalia’s federal government on 6 November. This report comes just a day after an African Union official confirmed that another American was arrested in Somalia.
It is not immediately clear why Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan’s arrest was not announced earlier. Hassan was a lawful permanent resident of the US but not an American citizen. He had been fighting with al-Shabaab however recently went online to urge others to carry out violence on behalf of IS. A State Department spokeswoman has disclosed that Hassan is in the custody of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency in Mogadishu, adding that the US is discussing the case with the Somali Federal Government. The spokeswoman noted that Washington does not have an extradition agreement with Somalia.
On Monday 7 December, Somali security forces arrested an American who was fighting with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab. According to African Union (AU) spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna, Abdimalik Jones, who has said that he is from San Diego, was arrested in the southern port of Barawe, which is located southwest of Mogadishu. An official with Somali security forces has reported that Jones claimed that he fled al-Shabaab because of rifts within the rebel group, adding that he fled following his decision to pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda’s main rival, the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. An official has disclosed that Jones is missing the index finger of his right hand and that he does not speak any Somali, adding that he had been fighting with the al-Qaeda-linked group for several years in Somalia. Reports have indicated that he admitted to taking part in the attack at Garissa university in neighboring Kenya earlier this year, which left nearly 150 people dead. The arrest of an American comes amidst signs of increasing tensions within al-Shabaab between Somali and foreign fighters over whether the insurgents should remain aligned with al-Qaeda or should switch allegiance to IS.
The defections of two fighters, an American who was arrested earlier this week and the US resident, highlight tensions within al-Shabaab, with analysts indicating that the tensions are over whether the militant group should remain affiliated to al-Qaeda or whether it should switch allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. According to sources, foreign fighters are being alienated and feel trapped in Somalia over suspicions that they are plotting to switch allegiance to IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq. Sources have further reported that the “ambitions” by some foreign fighters within al-Shabaab to join IS have led to them being isolated within the group, with some even facing death at the hands of their comrades-in-arms. Late last month, al-Shabaab’s leadership declared that fighters acting in contravention with the mainstream stand to be aligned with al-Qaeda would represent “Bid’ah,” or misguidance, which would lead to them being killed.
The arrests of the two Americans comes as the Pentagon confirmed that a top al-Shabaab military commander was killed in a US airstrike on 2 December.
According to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, Abdirhaman Sandhere, also known as ‘Ukash,” was heavily involved in operations in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region and was killed in the village of Kunyo Barrow, which is located near the capital Mogadishu. Davis has disclosed that “’Ukash’s removal from the battlefield is a significant blow to al-Shabaab and reflects the painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals,” adding, “this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabaab, and the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military – to dismantle al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups who threaten United States interests and persons.”