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Overview: Africa experienced significant levels of terrorist activity in 2016. In East Africa, the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab remained the most potent threat to regional stability, having regained territory in parts of southern and central Somalia. As the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) limited offensive operation to proactively counter al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, the terrorist group gained the time and space needed to regroup and recruit new fighters. Similar to 2015, however, there were no successful attacks attributed to al-Shabaab outside of Somalia and northeastern Kenya. The organization maintained its allegiance to al-Qa’ida and continued its campaign to isolate and defeat the growing faction of ISIS supporters in Somalia. Although ISIS claimed responsibility for small-scale attacks in Somalia and Kenya, the group failed to launch a major attack in East Africa.
Al-Shabaab used safe havens and towns it reclaimed in 2016 to refine its asymmetric tactics. The group continued to focus on targeting AMISOM forces by launching large-scale raids against its forward operating bases. In January, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a raid against Kenyan forces in El Adde, Somalia that was reported to have killed more than 140 soldiers. In its attempt to disrupt the Federal Government of Somalia’s national electoral process, al-Shabaab increased the use of suicide bombings and ambush attacks against Somali government facilities and select hotels popular with government officials and business people. Al-Shabaab also launched vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) against the Mogadishu International Airport that killed UN, AMISOM, and Somali officials.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the targeted assassination of several Somali parliamentarians, security officials, and other government personnel in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia, including Puntland.
The United States continued to support counterterrorism capacity building for its East African partners, including advisory assistance for AMISOM, training and mentoring the staff of Somalia’s security sector, and improving regional law enforcement agencies’ crisis response capabilities. In response to al-Shabaab’s mass-casualty attacks in Kenya’s Northeast that claimed hundreds of lives over the last few years, Kenya increased its law enforcement and military presence along the border to detect, deter, and disrupt terrorist travel and cross-border activity. East African governments leveraged U.S. assistance to improve counterterrorism-focused investigations and prosecutions, particularly in Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.
In the Lake Chad Basin, the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), comprising Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria, successfully coordinated defeat-ISIS-West Africa and counter-Boko Haram efforts that increased pressure on the groups. Although degraded, Boko Haram continued an asymmetric campaign of kidnappings, killings, bombings, suicide bombers, and attacks on civilian and military targets throughout northeast Nigeria, resulting in a significant number of deaths, injuries, and destruction of property. ISIS-West Africa consolidated its presence in the Lake Chad area following its August split from Boko Haram and targeted primarily vulnerable regional military and government targets.
France’s Operation Barkhane, a counterterrorism operation focused on countering terrorists operating in the Sahel, continued and was supported by the important contributions of the UN Multinational Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.
- Burkina Faso
- South Africa