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Terror Attacks Surge as Elections Drag in Somalia

FILE - Somali security forces secure the road leading to the scene of an explosion at a checkpoint near the Presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 10, 2022.

A senior African Union official said Tuesday that while al-Shabab continues to be the main security threat in Somalia, the AU is also monitoring a possible resurgence of Islamic State.

Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, special representative of the African Union Commission for Somalia and head of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said there has been an upsurge in terrorism-related violence in Somalia, where the electoral process has been dragging out.

"The violence has mainly been perpetrated by al-Shabab, through the use of IEDs, mortar attacks, ambushes, and targeted assassinations of senior government officials, Somali security forces and civilians," Madeira told the U.N. Security Council. "We have also been monitoring with concern what could be a resurgent Islamic State, as credible reports indicate that the group carried out two improvised explosive device attacks and detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in November 2021 and January 2022, respectively."

Madeira said as they monitor the activities of both terror groups, a clear picture is emerging.

"Al-Shabab appears emboldened by its determination to disrupt the ongoing electoral process," he said.

He pointed to an attack last Thursday in Mogadishu in which a convoy of Somaliland election delegates was targeted, as an example of this trend.

"With regards to a possible resurgence of the Islamic State, this must be judged within the context of Daesh's emerging regional presence in East Africa," he said, referring to IS by its Arabic acronym. "One that is characterized by a proliferation of funds, equipment, and transfer of terrorist tactics."

FILE - The vehicle wreckage of Somalia's government spokesperson Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu is seen at the scene of an explosion Mogadishu, Somalia, Jan. 16, 2022.
FILE - The vehicle wreckage of Somalia's government spokesperson Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu is seen at the scene of an explosion Mogadishu, Somalia, Jan. 16, 2022.

The latest report of the U.N. secretary-general on Somalia, which came out last week, also details attacks by pro-Islamic State groups, including attacks on the Somali military and at a market. Several al-Shabab attacks are also detailed.

U.N. chief Antonio Guterres' special representative in Somalia, James Swan, also addressed council members.

He said al-Shabab continues to pose the major security threat in the country, through the widespread use of improvised explosive devices.

"Political divisions and prolonged delays in the elections have allowed insurgent forces to make some recent gains," he said. "The group's modus operandi remains unchanged, with Banadir region and South West State the center of its attacks."

He said in recent months, operations have also intensified in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states as the group has tried to exploit local political and security tensions.

Swan said Somalia's national elections are now more than one year behind the constitutionally stipulated schedule. Upper House elections have concluded but just 130 of 275 seats in the House of the People have been filled.

Swan, as well as most Security Council members, called on the electoral bodies and political leaders to speed up and complete the elections.