The last quarter of 2018 saw an increase in Al-Shabab assassinations by pistol and sticky IEDs, and a reduction in direct attacks on government and allied bases. This trend started earlier in the year, with each quarter seeing a reduction in direct attacks and an increase in assassinations and bombings. The group seems to be completing a transition to focus more on urban guerrilla operations in order to render the increased air attacks less effective in weakening its ability to hurt the government and its allies.

The assassinations campaign

Assassinations by pistol continue to be focused in Mogadishu and the surrounding areas to the northwest of the city. The last three months of 2018 maintained the same level of intensity as was established in the months preceding this period.

The Islamic State Somalia (ISS) expanded into Mogadishu from its hideouts in the mountains to the east of Bosaso, sending its deputy Emir into the capital to oversee the group’s expansion. The deputy IS chief was killed in mysterious circumstances in Mogadishu; however, ISS made its presence felt in the capital, killing businessmen who refused to pay its taxes.

Threatened with the loss of Mogadishu to ISS, Al-Shabab responded by deploying its Amniyaat and also some of its regular forces into Mogadishu, mostly in Bakara Market. It threatened to send SVBIEDs to any businesses that yielded to ISS demands. In return, it promised to protect businesses, and gave businesses phone numbers to call if they felt threatened. This and AS’s own investigations helped identify the bulk of the ISS machinery in and around Mogadishu; AS virtually decimated ISS in two weeks in Mogadishu.

Because of the ISS-AS assassinations war in Mogadishu, AS did not focus on FGS targets as much as it would have done had it not been distracted by ISS. However, the extra resources it poured into the capital means assassinations will continue to increase in this area.

An interactive map of the incidents recorded are available here:

This report was authored by Mohamed Mubarak. You can follow Mohamed on Twitter @somalianalyst and subscribe to his substack at

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