Abstract: Beginning in 2018, the Islamic State in Somalia, which is believed to only number in the low hundreds of fighters, appears to have significantly expanded its operations across Somalia, albeit from a relatively low base. The group was even, for the first time, recently linked to terrorist activity in the United States and Europe. The Islamic State’s growing assertiveness reignited tensions with its much larger and stronger rival, al Qa`ida’s branch al-Shabaab, with violence again breaking out between the groups. The pushback from al-Shabaab means it is far from clear whether the Islamic State in Somalia will be able to sustain its operational expansion.

Since becoming the dominant jihadi actor in Somalia in 2007, al-Shabaab has effectively maintained its supremacy over jihadi violence across the Horn of Africa. However, beginning in 2015, al-Shabaab, the avowed al-Qa`ida branch in East Africa, has attempted to stave off an aspirational challenger in the form of the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS). Beginning as a disparate clump of pro-Islamic State cells,1 ISS eventually coalesced into an organized group in October 2015, led by former al-Shabaab commander Abdulqadir Mumin,a in Somalia’s northern Puntland region. Despite a tumultuous start, ISS eventually grabbed international headlines when it seized the port city of Qandala a year later.2 Since then, ISS activity has increased not only in Puntland, but across Somalia as a whole. As this article will outline, ISS, despite its small stature with a few hundred members,3 has been able to grow and expand its operations in southern Somalia, specifically Mogadishu, and form operational cells in central Somalia.

This expansion has not gone unnoticed by al-Shabaab, as the group has been keen to maintain its monopoly on jihadi violence in the country. The rivalry between al-Shabaab and ISS began as a war of words before devolving into a cavalcade of arrests, executions, assassinations, and clashes between the groups in 2015 at the height of the infighting.4 These clashes were not openly publicized to jihadis outside Somalia by the groups, with both sides officially keeping tight-lipped about the conflict. But as ISS continues to grow more active inside Somalia, the competition between al-Shabaab and ISS has again reached a boiling point with both sides openly declaring war on each other for the first time in late 2018.5

This article draws on metrics based on ISS attack datab and independent reporting. It also examines the propaganda released by both ISS and al-Shabaab to examine the evolving rivalry between the groups. This article first provides a brief timeline and synopsis of the infighting between the jihadi groups before 2018. It then examines how the Islamic State has expanded its operations inside Somalia and the group’s emergent links to international terrorism, before examining how the ISS’ growing assertiveness set the stage for a renewal of conflict with al-Shabaab in late 2018. The final section of the article assesses the sustainability of the Islamic State expansion inside Somalia.

The Rivalry Before 2018
To better understand the renewed fighting between ISS and al-Shabaab, it is important to first look at the history of the rivalry between the two. Starting in 2015, propaganda released by the Islamic State began to focus on encouraging members of al-Shabaab to defect and join its cause. In a piece published in this publication in November 2017,6 this author and researcher Jason Warner identified the earliest known call to al-Shabaab to join the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate as occurring in February 2015, when Islamic State propagandist Hamil al-Bushra penned an article for the Global Front to Support the Islamic State media.7 c

Following the first article, more pieces were released through various outletsd before the Islamic State’s media office for its Iraqi “province” of al-Furat released the first video addressed to Somalia in May 2015.8 Over the course of four days in October 2015, six videos were then released from Syria,9 Iraq,10 Yemen,11 and the Sinai12 attempting to persuade al-Shabaab to join its cause. Two weeks later, a video was then released from Nigeria,13 while in January 2016, another was released from Libya.14

While al-Shabaab as a whole did not succumb to the Islamic State’s calculated pressure, the jihadi group was able to attract several prominent commanders and disgruntled foot-soldiers within al-Shabaab. As researcher Christopher Anzalone succinctly noted, “Though the Islamic State’s ideology, or aspects of it, are attractive to some members of al-Shabaab, the emergence of such a competitor [in the Islamic State] … provides those disgruntled members [of al-Shabaab] a way to challenge the status quo” of al-Shabaab’s operational culture.15

This was not lost on al-Shabaab’s leadership, however, as it began to quickly release internal memos and addresses about the situation via its local radio stations. This includes statements reaffirming its loyalty to al-Qa`ida,16 as well as calling for the death of anyone who “promoted disunity.”17 A speech by al-Shabaab’s spokesman Ali Mahmud Rage was also broadcast via al-Shabaab’s Radio al Andalus around this time, which carried the simple point that those who supported the Islamic State will be “burnt in hell.”18

While the propaganda war was occurring, al-Shabaab’s internal security service, the Amniyat, was busy arresting, skirmishing with, and sometimes executing known or suspected Islamic State-loyal members in southern Somalia. Dozens of al-Shabaab members were killed or arrested by the Amniyat during this period.19 e Additionally, as Abdulqadir Mumin’s group in Puntland solidified, at least one known clash occurred between it and al-Shabaab’s forces in December 2015.20

Following the height of violence in 2015, the tensions between the two groups largely died down with only sporadic incidents occurring in 2016 and 2017. For instance, in November 2016, the Amniyat arrested more pro-Islamic State members in southern Somalia.21 In March 2017, five Kenyan foreign fighters within al-Shabaab were executed for having switched their allegiances.22 A month later, two more prominent al-Shabaab commanders were also killed for siding with the Islamic State.23 The relative calm between the two sides would then last until late 2018 when clashes again flared up. However, the renewed tensions did not occur in a vacuum.

In the aforementioned November 2017 article in this publication by the author and Jason Warner, it was assessed that despite the efforts up until that point by ISS, al-Shabaab maintained its dominance over the jihadi landscape in Somalia and did not face a significant challenge from ISS.24 While al-Shabaab has since maintained its dominant position, increased ISS activity in the country has caused al-Shabaab to change its calculus to a more aggressive stance against the rival jihadi organization.

Causes of ISS Expansion
Starting in 2018, the Islamic State in Somalia appears to have greatly increased its operational tempo. According to a database kept by this author for the Foundation of Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, ISS claimed 66 total operations during 2018.25 While this number is relatively low compared to other theaters in which the Islamic State operates, this was more than the number of claims made by the group in Somalia in 2016 and 2017 combined. To caveat, not all ISS claims can be independently verified, and the Islamic State only rarely produces photographic evidence for its attacks in Somalia. However, independent reporting has also confirmed the expansion in operational tempo of ISS in 2018.26

In August 2018, Somali news outlet Garowe Online reported that ISS began collecting taxes on several businesses in Bosaso, utilizing methods of extortion to procure funds.27 While ISS had already been collecting taxes from locals, this had previously been confined to the rural areas of the Puntland region.28 Garowe cited Puntland security officials as saying that ISS is able to make $72,000 a month from these taxes. But this was not the first time that ISS’ extortion tactics have been reported in Puntland, as an ISS defector told local intelligence officials this was occurring in the Puntland countryside in 2017.29 The fact that ISS has been able to run extortion rackets in Bosaso, the commercial hub of Puntland, shows that the jihadi group has become confident enough to operate in urban areas and not just rural ones.

Clan Support
Moreover, clan support has also been beneficial to ISS’ operations and survival in Puntland. According to the Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute, the Ali Salebaan sub-clan—to which Abdulqadir Mumin (ISS’ emir) belongs—maintains strong support for Mumin’s enterprise.30 For its part, ISS claims to have members from the various clans and sub-clans of Somalia, thereby giving it the illusion of a wide recruiting base that transcends Somalia’s complex clan dynamics.f

Geography of ISS Expansion
But ISS expansion is not restricted to Somalia’s north.g Indeed, ISS was able to make significant inroads in southern Somalia, including Mogadishu, in 2018. Prior to late 2017, ISS claims were primarily confined to Puntland.31 Starting in earnest in 2018, its violence shifted further south with the majority of its attacks taking place in southern Somalia.32 Based on data collected by the author, ISS claimed 39 attacks (58 percent of overall claims) in Mogadishu in 2018;33 this represents a significant increase in activity as the prior two years combined only saw 14 ISS claims in the Somali capital.34

This increase was also present in the Mogadishu suburb of Afgoye. In 2018, ISS claimed 12 operations in Afgoye, compared to just eight in the combined previous two years.35 This increase in attacks in southern Somalia was also noted by the United Nations in a November 2018 report by its Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.36 The report noted that between October 2017 and November 2018, ISS had claimed 50 assassinations in Mogadishu.37 This tracks with the expansion of ISS activity in the area noted above.

The northern Puntland region also witnessed an increase in ISS claims in 2018.38 ISS claimed 13 operations in Puntland last year, while in the previous two years combined, it only made 12 claims for the region.39

ISS has also been able to make some headway in expanding into central Somalia as well. For example, since December 29, 2018, it has claimed eight attacks in the central town of Beledweyne, an area that is a traditional al-Shabaab stronghold.40 Prior to December, ISS had not claimed any operation within central Somalia, indicating the clear presence of an operational cell in central Somalia. So far in 2019, Beledweyne is actually outpacing more traditional areas of operations for ISS such as the Mogadishu suburb of Afgoye. Since January 1, 2019, ISS has only claimed three operations in Afgoye, while Beledweyne has been the focus in seven claims.41

It is unclear at this stage if the creation of an ISS cell in Beledweyne is the result of the shifting of resources from other areas in the face of increased operations against the group,h persecution from al-Shabaab or other groups,i or if ISS has been successful in persuading al-Shabaab members to defect in the area. The existence of an active ISS cell in Beledweyne is all but confirmed, however, as it produced the only claim for the December 28, 2018, bombing of a former Somali official in the town.42

Much like the expansion in northern Somalia, ISS’ southern expansion has been independently reported. Somali intelligence personnel have arrested several ISS members in Mogadishu.43 The U.N. Monitoring Group for Somalia has also confirmed the existence of ISS units based in southern Somalia and Mogadishu.44 For his part, Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf also noted in December 2018 that ISS has increased its activities in southern Somalia.45

Expansion Claims in Propaganda
Interestingly, the spread of ISS into southern Somalia has also been claimed in both Islamic State and al-Shabaab propaganda. In the Islamic State’s weekly Al Naba newsletter released on November 15, 2018,46 the group relayed a series of then-recent events in which several members of its group were killed or arrested by al-Shabaab in southern Somalia.47 Indeed, these events likely ring true as al-Shabaab itself advertised the execution of an alleged ISS member in southern Somalia just a month prior.48 Just days before the Al Naba article, it also executed an Egyptian fighter it claimed had defected to ISS.49 And while not officially claimed by al-Shabaab, the group is widely suspected of being behind the October 2018 execution of Mahad Maalin in Mogadishu, who was then the deputy leader of ISS.50 j

Emergent International Terror Links
Not only did ISS’ operational tempo grow within Somalia in 2018, but it was also linked for the first time to terrorist activity in the West. In December 2018, Italian authorities arrested a Somali citizen in the southern city of Bari on terrorism-related charges after a month-long investigation.51 According to Italian police, the man was in contact with ISS and discussed potential bomb plots with an ISS individual,52 but it is unclear if he was acting on any direct orders from any external operations planners from the group. However, this marked the first European terrorism case with any reported links to the Islamic State’s Somali wing.53

A month later, three U.S. citizens were arrested in Lansing, Michigan.54 According to the FBI, all three had professed allegiance to the Islamic State, while one individual was arrested just prior to embarking on a convoluted journey to join the Islamic State in Somalia.55 While Americans, especially of Somali descent, attempting to join jihadis in Somalia is not new,k and indeed Somali-Americans joining the Islamic State elsewhere has been observed,56 this case shows that ISS now has some international appeal. With the Islamic State losing its last vestiges of territory in Iraq and Syria, it is possible that other individuals looking to join the Islamic State may look to Somalia as a destination to wage jihad.

It is clear that as ISS expanded its operations last year, it grew more confident in its ability to challenge al-Shabaab and spread to new territory. Several of its actions in late 2018 clearly demonstrated this newfound tenacity.

Renewed Conflict
ISS Asserts Itself
ISS’ aspirations to challenge al-Shabaab were made clear in the aforementioned November 15, 2018 Al Naba newsletter. In relaying cases of its members being killed or imprisoned by al-Shabaab, it explicitly warned its rival. “As we record these crimes, we do not do so as a complaint or out of weakness, but to teach people,” the article states, “especially our people in Somalia, what the al Qaeda branch in Somalia has done, because the response from the Islamic State is coming.”

Al-Shabaab did not have to wait long to find out what the response would be. Almost exactly a month later on December 16, the Islamic State claimed its men ambushed a grouping of al-Shabaab’s members near B’ir Mirali, to the southwest of Qandala in the northern Puntland region.57 It further claimed it killed 14 al-Shabaab fighters, a claim that may have been inflated because the subsequent video released by the Islamic State did not show that many bodies.58 The warning and subsequent ambush were an indication that as ISS expanded its activities and operations across Somalia, it grew more assured in its ability to openly chastise and target the al-Qa`ida branch.

During the height of the tensions between the two in 2015, neither the Islamic State nor al-Shabaab publicly highlighted the infighting to jihadis outside Somalia.59 However, ISS’ ambush of al-Shabaab fighters in December 2018 forced al-Shabaab to respond officially, suggesting a shift in how seriously it is taking the Islamic State’s threat.

Members of Islamic State in Somalia clash with al-Shabaab fighters in the northern Puntland region in December 2018. (Amaq video, released in December 2018).

Al-Shabaab Responds
On December 20, 2018, al-Shabaab released a statement from Ali Mahmud Rage in which he authorized al-Shabaab members to target Islamic State-loyal individuals in Somalia. “The leadership of the Harakat al Mujahideen [al-Shabaab’s full name] orders all the Mujahideen in all the Islamic states [referring to all areas in Somalia] to strongly oppose the prevalence of the disease in the Jihad,” Rage says in his diatribe.60

In addition to Rage’s speech, an 18-page treatise was released by al-Shabaab’s general command,61 which offered the group’s sharpest rebuke of the Islamic State to date. “They violated the Book [meaning the Qur’an] and the Sunnah [customs of Islam] and sought to corrupt the Mujahideen, their religion and their world, and brought them fitna [sedition], they corrupted the religion and the mind of those who followed them, and became a reason for their disobedience,” al-Shabaab’s leadership says of the Islamic State.

Al-Shabaab’s leadership went even further in the treatise by outlining specific crimes committed by the Islamic State, including “spilling the blood of Muslims,” “looting the Muslims’ money,” “spreading lies and rumors,” and “establishing suspicious relationships with infidel regimes.” Under each accusation, al-Shabaab lists several Qur’anic verses or quotes from Islamic authorities that prohibit these things, thus appearing as having the religious and moral high-ground.62

In turning to the Islamic State branch in Somalia specifically, al-Shabaab stated “we have examined the situation of their followers in Somalia and we probed their orders and we searched for their doctrine and examined their news and what we found was but lying in the speech and immorality in the rivalry and treachery in covenants and charters.” The leaders also said they tried to be patient with ISS and its members, but the clash in December had changed their calculus. Instead, al-Shabaab’s leaders effectively declared war on ISS by urging “all loyal and honest soldiers [of al-Shabaab] to cure this disease with effective medicine,” as well as “to confront it with force and wisdom.”63

A New Phase of the War Begins
Since al-Shabaab’s declaration of war on December 20, 2018, there has been a renewed flurry of clashes and assassinations between the two. On December 23, 2018, Mareeg, a local Somali publication, reported that al-Shabaab members clashed with Islamic State-loyal militants near the town of El Adde in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border.64 In mid-January 2019, al-Shabaab militants gunned down Yahya Haji Fiile, a pro-Islamic State figure who was once a prominent commander within al-Shabaab.65

On January 28, 2019, al-Shabaab targeted ISS members near Mirali,66 while three days later ISS members struck al-Shabaab members as they were lecturing locals on al-Shabaab in Puntland.67 In retaliation, al-Shabaab then clashed with ISS fighters in the village of Dhadaar.68 On February 22, 2019, the clashes continued with the two sides fighting near Af-Garar, also in Puntland.69 On March 2, 2019, Puntland intelligence officials reportedly claimed that al-Shabaab militants attacked and subsequently took over a major ISS base in the Dasaan area of Puntland.70

So far, the open conflict has not had a discernible impact on the Islamic State’s claims inside Somalia.l While it is hard to independently verify, since December 20, 2018, ISS has claimed 30 operations ranging in locations from Bosaso to Beledweyne to Afgooye and Mogadishu.m During this time, the Islamic State’s central media also released a propaganda video from Puntland.71 On a similar but unsurprising note, the renewed war with ISS has also not affected al-Shabaab’s operations elsewhere in the country.72

The Islamic State’s expansion inside Somalia carries significant implications for the overall security of the country. Civilians, especially private enterprises, will likely continue to be extorted if ISS continues to grow its operations. Additionally, Somali personnel will most likely continue to be assassinated by both ISS and al-Shabaab in various population centers across the country.

The renewed infighting between the two also does not bode well for civilian security if these clashes move closer to urban centers. So far, the majority of the clashes have been confined to the Puntland countryside, but this could change if ISS continues to make inroads in southern Somalia. For its part, Puntland security forces have worked to exploit the infighting by targeting jihadi fighters in the mountains near Bosaso.73

As with the fighting that occurred in 2015, it is not likely that the Islamic State in Somalia will be able to make any significant gains against al-Shabaab militarily. Moreover, al-Shabaab’s Amniyat has a proven track record of effectively targeting any anti-al-Shabaab dissent within the group. That said, ISS was able to weather al-Shabaab’s targeted campaign back in 2015. It is possible that calculated withdrawals may help ISS survive the renewed onslaught from al-Shabaab. But given al-Shabaab’s harsh ideological critique of the Islamic State and its branch in Somalia, it is unlikely that any grand-scale negotiated settlements will occur between the jihadi groups in the foreseeable future.

There have, however, been a number of small-scale settlements between the two groups. In a December 2018 report to the U.N. Security Council on al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State, U.N. monitors found, via member state information, that ISS and al-Shabaab cooperated on the ground to some degree in Puntland between 2017 and mid-2018.74 The United Nations noted that the Amniyat wings of both groups had cooperated, while in mid-2018, al-Shabaab released foreign ISS members it had detained in the region.75 It is likely, however, that the renewal of the conflict between the two groups in late 2018 interrupted such cooperation.

In the November 2017 article by Jason Warner and this author, it was assessed that future clashes could lead to splintering within al-Shabaab between those resistant to the Islamic State and those quietly sympathetic to it.76 So far, the renewed fighting has not resulted in any clear or public indications of splintering within the al-Qa`ida branch. Additionally, the article noted that increased funding from the Islamic State and recruiting within ISS would make it more competitive to al-Shabaab. While it is currently unknown if more money has flowed into ISS coffers from Islamic State financiers, it is clear that ISS has recruited locally and has even attracted regional and global foreign fighters.77

If al-Shabaab is able to strike a major blow at ISS leadership, it is possible the latter group will become more decentralized across the country. While the aforementioned U.N. report notes that Abdulqadir Mumin directed other ISS operatives to establish cells in southern Somalia,78 the exact nature of the relationship between the core ISS group in Puntland and the cells elsewhere is opaque. It is possible that a disruption between the core group and the other cells could cause a rupture in what unity ISS has across Somalia. In addition, barring missteps from al-Shabaab, such as moves that would harm its standing among the local clans or severe military blunders, the al-Qa`ida branch will likely continue to have the upper hand in its war with ISS.

Since the Islamic State lost its last major Syrian holdout of Baghuz in March 2019, it is important to remember that its branches elsewhere in the world are continuing its fight. Indeed, the loss of physical territory in Iraq and Syria, the longtime center of the Islamic State’s operations, has so far not impacted ISS activities in Somalia. As claims relating to Somalia are still being released by Amaq79 and the Islamic State’s central media apparatus, communication with its Somali wing appears intact.

The Islamic State’s expansion inside Somalia in 2018 presents some important implications for overall Somali security, especially as the dominant jihadi actor in Somalia, al-Shabaab, has renewed its conflict with ISS by declaring war on it late last year. But given ISS’ small stature in the country and al-Shabaab’s track record of dealing with any potential challenger, the Islamic State’s growing operations inside Somalia may soon stall.     CTC

Caleb Weiss is a research analyst and contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal, where he focuses on violent non-state actors in the Middle East and Africa, and an incoming MALD candidate at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. Follow @Weissenberg7

Substantive Notes
[a] Mumin was a well-known ideologue who appeared in several of al-Shabaab’s videos including some that outlined the group’s operations in the Golis Mountains of the northern Sanaag Region, as well as in the Lower Shabelle and Bay regions. He was also involved in the recruitment of fighters in Puntland.

[b] An interactive database of Islamic State-claimed attacks in Somalia maintained by the author and the Long War Journal is available at https://public.tableau.com/profile/fddmaps#!/vizhome/SomaliaClaims/Dashboard1

[c] The Global Front to Support the Islamic State Media was an unofficial outlet that produced pro-Islamic State propaganda.

[d] The Islamic State’s unofficial media outlets of Al Battar and Al Wafa both released a series of articles in September 2015 imploring al-Shabaab to switch sides and join the Islamic State’s cause.

[e] This includes prominent commanders such as Bashir Abu Numan, Hussein Abdi Gedi, and Muhammad Makkawi.

[f] In a January 2019 video, the Islamic State eulogized several members of its Somalia branch, claiming membership from the Majeerteen, Lailkase, Sheekhaal, Rahanweyn, Marehan, Gaalje’el, Abgaal, Hawadle, and Mahamuud Saleban clans and subclans. Foreign fighters from Canada, Ethiopia, and Djibouti were also eulogized in the same video. For more, see Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State Somalia eulogizes foreign fighters,” FDD’s Long War Journal, January 23, 2019.

[g] Northern Somalia in this context refers to the semi-autonomous Puntland region, which incorporates much of Somalia’s northeastern coast and ends with the north-central region of Mudug. Central Somalia refers to the regions north of Mogadishu, such as Galgaduud, Hiraan, and the Middle Shabelle regions. Southern Somalia refers to Mogadishu, its surrounding environs, and those regions south of the city, such as Banadiir, Lower Shabelle, Bay, Bakool, Gedo, and Lower and Middle Juba regions.

[h] Both Somali and Puntland intelligence and security personnel have mounted several operations against Islamic State members in both Mogadishu and in the mountains near Bosaso in Puntland. See Caleb Weiss, “Somali intelligence agency arrests two Islamic State members in Mogadishu,” FDD’s Long War Journal, May 24, 2018, and Puntland Security, “Ciidanka Amniga Puntland (PSF) waxay maanta 11 February 2019, hawlgal ka sameeyeen Buuraleyda iyo Toggaga #Gaaca,#Guban iyo #Moqor ee Koonfurta Bari ee magaalada Bosaso,” Twitter, February 11, 2019.

[i] For instance, the Ahlu Sunnah wal Jamaa (ASWJ) coalition of anti-al-Shabaab clans have also claimed to have targeted pro-Islamic State militants in central Somalia in the past.

[j] Maalin had reportedly been in Mogadishu in an effort to organize ISS activity in the city, which further shows the group’s increased activity in the area. However, the reported nature of his trip to Mogadishu has not been confirmed. Abdi Guled, “Deputy chief of IS-linked group in Somalia killed: Officials,” Associated Press, October 23, 2018.

[k] Americans in al-Shabaab have included several prominent figures such as Alabama native Omar Hammami, Wisconsin native Jehad Serwan Mostafa, and several suicide bombers such as Shirwa Ahmed, Farah Mohamad Beledi, and Abdisalan Hussein Ali. Also see Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan, “Congressional Report: 40 Americans Training in Somalia Are ‘Direct Threat’ to U.S.,” ABC News, July 27, 2011.

[l] This is based on propaganda output as well as local reporting about its activities. It is possible that financial or manpower losses have occurred within the organization since al-Shabaab’s declaration of war against it.

[m] This includes six claimed attacks in Bosaso, eight in Beledweyne, four in Afgoye, and 12 in Mogadishu.

[1] Jason Warner and Caleb Weiss, “A Legitimate Challenger? Assessing the Rivalry between al-Shabaab and the Islamic State in Somalia,” CTC Sentinel 10:10 (2017).

[2] Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State in Somalia claims capture of port town,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 26, 2016.

[3] “United Nations Security Council Report on al Qaeda and the Islamic State,” United Nations Security Council, January 15, 2019.

[4] Warner and Weiss.

[5] Caleb Weiss, “Analysis: Islamic State expanded operations in Somalia in 2018,” FDD’s Long War Journal, January 4, 2019.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Hamil al-Bushra, “Somalia of the Caliphate and Combat: A Message to Our People in Somalia,” “Somal al-Khilafah wal-Nizal: Risalah ila Ahlina fi al-Somal,” “Al-Jabha al-I`lamiyyah li-Nusrat al-Dawla al-Islamiyyah,” February 24, 2015, which can be viewed in English at https://somalianews.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/bushra.pdf

[8] “Message to the Muslims in Somalia” (“Risalah ila al-Muslimeen fil-Somal”), Wilayat al-Furat Media Office, May 21, 2015.

[9] In Syria, Wilayat Raqqah, Khayr, Homs, and Barakah all released videos addressed to al-Shabaab. In order, see “Join the Ranks” (“Ilhaq bil-Qafilah”), Wilayat al-Raqqah Media Office, October 2, 2015; “From the Land of al-Sham to the Mujahideen of Somalia” (“Min Ard al Sham ila al-Mujahideen fil-Somal”), Wilayat al-Khayr Media Office, October 3, 2015; “Message to the Mujahideen in the Land of Somalia” (“Risalah li-Mujahideen fi Ard al Somal”), Wilayat Homs Media Office, October 1, 2015; and “From the Land of the Levant to the Mujahidin in Somalia” (“Min Ard al-Sham ila al-Mujahidin fi al-Somal”), Wilayat al-Baraka Media Office, October 4, 2015.

[10] In Iraq, see “Hear From Us O Mujahid in Somalia” (“Isma’a minna ‘ayuha al-Mujahid fil-Somal”), Wilayat Ninewa Media Office, October 1, 2015.

[11] See “O Mujahid in Somalia, You Must Be with the Group” (“Ayuha al Mujahid fil Somal ‘alayk bil-Jama’a”), Wilayat Hadramawt, October 2, 2015.

[12] See “From Sinai to Somalia” (“Min Sayna’ ila al-Somal”), Wilayat Sayna’ Media Office, October 1, 2015.

[13] “Message from the Mujahideen in West Africa to the Mujahideen in Somalia” (“Risalah min mujahidi Gharb Ifriqiyyah ila mujahidi fil-Somal”), Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiyyah Media Office, October 14, 2015.

[14] See “Message to our brothers in Somalia” (“Risalah ila ikhwanna fil-Somal”), Wilayat Tarabulus Media Office, January 12, 2016.

[15] Christopher Anzalone, “The Resilience of al-Shabaab,” CTC Sentinel 9:4 (2016).

[16] Harun Maruf, “Al-Qaida or Islamic State? Issue Simmers Within Al-Shabab,” VOA News, September 30, 2015.

[17] “Somalia’s Al Qaeda Branch Warns Members from Joining Islamic State,” Wacaal, November 2015.

[18] Thomas Joscelyn, “American jihadist reportedly flees al Qaeda’s crackdown in Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 8, 2015.

[19] Warner and Weiss.

[20] Tres Thomas, “Al-Shabaab Fighters Clash Over ISIS Allegiance in Puntland,” Somalia Newsroom, December 25, 2015.

[21] Harun Maruf, “Al-Shabab make new arrests in towns of Jillib Saakow,Jamame, Hagar, Kunyo Barrow of members suspected of having links with ISIS: reports,” Twitter, November 18, 2016.

[22] Fred Mukinda, “Al-Qaeda or ISIS? Shabaab militants fight,” Daily Nation, April 23, 2017.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Warner and Weiss.

[25] Weiss, “Analysis: Islamic State expanded operations in Somalia in 2018.”

[26] “The Islamic State expands attacks in southern Somalia,” Jane’s IHS Markit, July 2, 2018; Katharine Houreld, “Islamic State’s footprint spreading in northern Somalia: U.N.,” Reuters, November 8, 2017; Reem Abdelaziz, “Analysis: Somalia sees increase in Islamic State activity,” BBC Monitoring, August 9, 2018.

[27] “Somalia: ISIL-linked faction imposes tax on businesses in Bosaso,” Garowe Online, August 15, 2018.

[28] “Somalia: ISIS fighter surrenders to Puntland authorities,” Garowe Online, June 6, 2017.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “The Islamic State in East Africa,” Hiraal Institute, July 31, 2018.

[31] Weiss, “Analysis: Islamic State expanded operations in Somalia in 2018.”

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Based on a database of ISS attacks maintained by the author.

[35] Weiss, “Analysis: Islamic State expanded operations in Somalia in 2018.”

[36] “Somalia report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea submitted in accordance with resolution 2385,” Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, November 9, 2018.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] James Barnett, “Al Shabaab Area of Operations: October 2018,” Critical Threats, October 5, 2018.

[41] Based on a database of ISS attacks maintained by the author.

[42] “Qarax ka dhacay Beledweyne iyo wararkii ugu dambeeyay [Sawirro],” Garowe Online, December 28, 2018.

[43] See “Somalia: Islamic State member arrested in Mogadishu,” Mareeg, April 24, 2018, and Caleb Weiss, “Somali intelligence agency arrests two Islamic State members in Mogadishu,” FDD’s Long War Journal, May 24, 2018.

[44] “Letter dated 7 November 2018 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somalia and Eritrea addressed to the President of the Security Council,” U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, November 9, 2018.

[45] Harun Maruf, “In Somalia, Businesses Face ‘Taxation’ by Militants,” Voice of America, December 3, 2018.

[46] “Al Naba Newsletter #156.” This issue can be viewed via Jihadology at https://azelin.files.wordpress.com/2018/11/the-islamic-state-al-nabacc84_-newsletter-156.pdf

[47] Thomas Joscelyn and Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State warns Shabaab of impending battle in Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, November 16, 2018.

[48] Thomas Joscelyn, “Shabaab executes alleged spies in southern Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, October 11, 2018.

[49] Abdullahi Osman, “Somalia’s Al-Shabab Kills Foreign Fighter over Isis Links,” 7D News, November 13, 2018.

[50] “Deputy chief of ISIS-linked group in Somalia killed: Officials,” Associated Press, October 23, 2018.

[51] “‘Let’s bomb churches’ – arrested Somali,” ANSA, December 17, 2018.

[52] “Somali man arrested in Italy after comments about attacking Vatican: police,” Reuters, December 17, 2018.

[53] Based on a database of ISS attacks kept by the author.

[54] Ken Palmer and Megan Banta, “3 Lansing residents accused of providing ‘material support’ to ISIS,” Lansing State Journal, January 22, 2019.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Scott Shane, “6 Somali-Americans arrested in Islamic State recruiting case,” New York Times, April 21, 2015.

[57] Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State claims clashes with Shabaab in Somalia,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 16, 2018.

[58] Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State video purportedly shows fight with Shabaab,” FDD’s Long War Journal, December 18, 2018.

[59] Warner and Weiss.

[60] This speech was originally posted to the website for al-Shabaab’s Radio al Furqan. “Al-Shabaab Oo Ka Hadashay Dhibaatooyinka Ay Daacish Ku Soo Kordhisay Jihaadka Soomaaliya, Go’aana Kasoo Saartay,” Radio al Furqan, December 20, 2018.

[61] “And God Knows The Corrupter From The Amender,” Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen, December 20, 2018.

[62] Ibid.

[63] Ibid.

[64] John Snow, “Islamic State fights with Al Shabaab near Kenyan border town,” Mareeg, December 23, 2018.

[65] Caleb Weiss, “Shabaab kills pro-Islamic State commander,” FDD’s Long War Journal, January 14, 2019.

[66] “Dagaal ka dhex billowday Shabaab iyo Daacish,” Voice of America Somali, January 28, 2019.

[67] Harun Maruf, “Al-Shabaab vs pro-IS clashes. There has been two confrontations between the two sides in Dhadaar and Sheebaab villages within the last 24 hours. In Sheebaab, IS attacked as Al-Shabaab were lecturing villagers, at least one IS member killed, fighting moved to nearby highlands,” Twitter, January 31, 2019.

[68] “Al-Shabaab Iyo Daacish Oo Ku Dagaalamay G/Bari,” Radio Shabelle, February 1, 2019.

[69] “Daacish iyo Al-Shabaab oo dagaal qaraar ku dhexmaray gobolka Bari,” Garowe Online, February 22, 2019.

[70] “Somalia: Al Shabaab seizes major Islamic State base after fighting,” Mareeg, March 2, 2019.

[71] Caleb Weiss, “Islamic State Somalia eulogizes foreign fighters,” FDD’s Long War Journal, January 23, 2019.

[72] Based on a database of al-Shabaab attacks kept by the author.

[73] See Puntland Security, “Ciidanka Amniga Puntland (PSF) waxay maanta 11 February 2019, hawlgal ka sameeyeen Buuraleyda iyo Toggaga #Gaaca,#Guban iyo #Moqor ee Koonfurta Bari ee magaalada Bosaso,” Twitter, February 11, 2019 and Puntland Security, “Ciidamada #PSF ayaa fuliyey hawlgallo ay kaga hortagayaan argagixisada ku dhuumaalaysta Buuraha Cal Madow, gaar ahaan #Warbad iyo #Gebidheer,kuwaas oo damacsanaa in ay soo weeraraan goobaha ay ciidamada Puntland kaga sugan yihiin Buuraha Cal Madow,” Twitter, February 16, 2019.

[74] “United Nations Security Council Report on al Qaeda and the Islamic State.”

[75] Ibid.

[76] Warner and Weiss.

[77] See “The Islamic State in East Africa” and Weiss, “Islamic State Somalia eulogizes foreign fighters.”

[78] Ibid.

[79] Caleb Weiss, “The Islamic State has claimed three attacks in #Somalia in the last two days. This includes a purported IED on NISA officers in Mogadishu and assassinations of police officers in Mogadishu and Bosaso, #Puntland,” Twitter, April 9, 2019.

Stay Informed

Sign up to receive updates from CTC.

Sign up