(To see other maps in this series, view all Somalia updates.)
Base map by Koen Adams of onestopmap.com, with territorial control by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic.
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Timeline by Evan Centanni and Djordje Djukic
Somalia Crisis Timeline: Political and Military Disarray in 2021
In the nearly 10 months since PolGeoNow’s previous Somalia control map report, the country’s news cycle has been dominated by a series of interconnected political crises that have led the federal government’s military to the brink of civil war. All the while, the fight against Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab, which operates a parallel government across much of Somalia’s countryside, has continued to see a mix of victories and defeats for each side. And while the standoff between the federal army and Jubaland state forces has ended, new regional conflicts have erupted in Hirshabelle and Galmudug states, including a major resurgence of the controversial ASWJ militia.
Read on for concise summaries of the past 10 months’ political crises and military trends, followed by a detailed timeline of events since February. Sources for our reporting, and for changes to the map since last time, are covered in the detailed timeline and the additional source notes at the bottom of the page.
Consitutional Crisis, Election Disorder, and Executive Face-off
Somalia’s acting federal president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”, already in power past the official end of his term due to election delays, stepped into much deeper political crisis in April by signing a law formally granting himself two more years in power without elections.
With prominent figures refusing to recognize his continued authority, the federal military briefly split into opposing factions days later, battling it out in the streets of national capital city Mogadishu.
Though that climactic phase of the crisis was soon de-escalated, with Farmajo agreeing to repeal the term extension and rival military forces drawing back after suffering limited casualties, tensions have continued up to the present. Ongoing piecemeal legislative elections have made progress, but powerful entrenched stakeholders continue to face off over the elections process, and many opponents of Farmajo accuse his administration of blatantly rigging the results in his favor.
Meanwhile, September and October saw a high-profile power struggle between Farmajo and his second-in-command, acting prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, with the two repeatedly
contradicting each other’s orders in what led to military standoff over control of Somalia’s controversial spy agency. That crisis too has since died down, but whether the government can find a peaceful way forward remains to be seen, with influential opposition figures now calling for a pause on the remaining elections.
The War on Al Shabaab and the So-Called “Islamic State”
Despite the distraction of political infighting, there’s been no shortage of news on the fight against religious hardline group Al Shabaab either. Most prominently, pro-federal forces made major gains against the enemy group in central Somalia’s Mudug region this July and August, bringing them to the doorstep of its major stronghold in Harardhere town. However, in the same story of give and take that’s dominated the war for years, they soon lost it all again.
Elsewhere, both sides have made limited gains in different areas, with the most notable trend being Al Shabaab’s gradual encroachment into formerly protected parts of northwestern Galmudug state (ongoing since last year) and into the previously-peaceful coastal zone northwest of Mogadishu (a more recent development). Some fear the so-far peaceful beach town of Warsheikh could become a war zone soon, while just yesterday, Al Shabaab fighters staged a brief but dramatic takeover of previously-uncontested Mataban town near Galmudug.
In autonomous Puntland state to the north, local forces have reported significant gains against insurgents loyal to the so-called “Islamic State” (IS; formerly ISIL), but what happens next is now up in the air, with the state’s top anti-insurgent force in mutiny over a conflict with the state president’s office.
Regional Conflicts: Jubaland Defiance, Resurgent ASWJ, the “Hiran Salvation Army”, and Puntland’s Mass Mutiny
At the time of our previous report, Somalia’s Jubaland state was locked in a deadly standoff with the federal government, with the state’s fugitive minister of security leading a military challenge to the Somali federal army along the border with Kenya. That standoff ended in March, with the minister defecting to the federal government under a secretive bargain, while state president Ahmed Madobe has gradually warmed up to cooperating with Mogadishu on federal elections. The situation remains tense in Jubaland’s Gedo region, where Farmajo-aligned and Madobe-loyal figures have continued to jockey for control, but so far there’s been little additional violence.
That said, new regional resistance to the Farmajo administration hasn’t wasted time popping up elsewhere. Significantly, the maverick Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia, once the leading military force in the fight against Al Shabaab, has reactivated after its forcible dissolution by the federal government in early 2020. Two months ago, the reconstituted militia – claiming only to oppose Al Shabaab, but taking a combative stance against the Farmajo-loyal state government – came to blows with federal forces and took over several major towns, eventually retreating to a rural base after a bloody showdown. Still by no means a spent force, it seems only a matter of time before ASWJ is back in the news.
And Galmudug isn’t the only place where rogue elements have moved in to assert their own positions on how their states should govern – central Somalia’s Beledweyne city saw its own takeover in August, with a coalition of militias and rogue soldiers seizing government and police facilities there. They sought to prevent a visit by the Jowhar-based Hirshaballe state present, who they say was installed in defiance of unwritten power-sharing agreements between their region of Hiran and the neighboring Middle Shabelle. The renegade coalition, which called itself the “Hiran Salvation Army”, soon reached a deal to relinquish control of the city’s key sites, but remains fiercely opposed to any visits by the state president.
As mentioned above, one of Puntland state’s military forces has also gone rogue, seizing parts of Bosaso city in solidarity with its commander, who the state president tried to fire late last month. So far the standoff hasn’t devolved into violence, but the situation remains tense, with the city now divided between opposing forces and cut off by road from the rest of the state.
• Somalia (English)
• Soomaaliya (Somali)
• aṣ-Ṣūmāl (Arabic)
• Federal Republic of Somalia (English)
• Jamhuuriyadda Federaalka Soomaaliya (Somali)
• Jumhūriyyat aṣ-Ṣūmāl al-Fideraaliya (Arabic)
Timeline of Events
February 24, 2021
Somali news media reported that the US, in coordination with the Somali federal army, had killed 15 Al Shabaab members in an airstrike near Jamame (Jamaame). Four more (less deadly) US airstrikes against Al Shabaab would be reported from Middle Juba and Lower Shabelle regions over the next two months (ACLED).
These claimed strikes were not recorded by airstrike watchdog organization Airwars, and the US military did not disclose any strikes during this period, despite its policy of doing so. If the US military was not responsible, they still could have been conducted by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which operates under a different command structure than the country’s conventional military, or by other conflict actors, such as Kenya, Ethiopia, or AMISOM.
Meanwhile, a boat carrying hundreds of refugees from Yemen arrived in the Puntland-administered port of Bosaso (Boosaaso).
February 26, 2021
AMISOM announced that its Ugandan contingent had raided Al Shabaab positions in several villages between Marka and Qoryoley (Qoryooley) the previous week.
February 28, 2021
Somalia’s efforts to the join the East African Community (EAC), a major international bloc made up of six countries to its southwest, suffered a setback as the group’s leaders chose to save the country’s application for a future summit.
March 1-3, 2021
Amid Somalia’s much-more-severe second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, the mayor of Mogadishu announced that face masks would be required in all public places. The next day, a federal legislator died of the disease. The day after that, the federal government announced wide-ranging measures to curb the spread of the virus, including a nationwide mask mandate; a one-month ban on public gatherings; a two-week closure of all schools, government offices, and sports events; suspension of transit between states; and mandatory testing for travelers arriving in the country.
The first week of March would later turn out to have been the peak of confirmed cases in Somalia’s second wave – the most severe to date, according to official figures. Average confirmed cases reached nearly 200 per day, with average confirmed deaths coming in at around 10 per day. Actual numbers of cases and deaths were assumed to be much higher, since only those tested and confirmed at formal medical facilities could be counted.
Meanwhile, Uganda called over 1,000 members of its reserve military forces back to duty to supplement its efforts against Al Shabaab as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
March 4, 2021
Al Shabaab attacked the central prison of Bosaso city in Puntland, releasing 400 prisoners in a battle that left at least three people dead.
March 5, 2021
At least 20 people were killed and 30 injured in a suicide car bomb attack at a restaurant near Mogadishu’s seaport. Federal authorities accused Al Shabaab of being behind the bombing.
March 8, 2021
Turkey transferred control of a military barracks in Mogadishu – part of its training academy for Somali soldiers – to Somalia’s federal government. The same day, a new unit of the Somali federal army’s Gorgor Commando Brigade arrived home after training in Turkey.
March 12, 2021
The United Nations Security Council renewed AMISOM’s military intervention mandate to the end of the year, keeping its authorized troop numbers at almost 20,000 despite plans for the mission to be phased out starting later in 2021.
|Detailed map of Somalia and Kenya’s maritime dispute as submitted to the UN’s International Court of Justice. Click for article with full-size map.
March 15, 2021
Kenya announced that it was walking out of the UN court case between it and Somalia over control of a large slice of the Indian Ocean off the coast of their shared border.
The Kenyan government threatened to end cooperation with the court permanently going forward if its concerns over alleged unfairness weren’t addressed.
March 16, 2021
As Somalia remained near the peak of its second wave of COVID-19, and its all-time number of confirmed cases edged towards 10,000, the country launched the first stage of its vaccination drive, using 300,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine provided through the international COVAX initiative. The country would soon also receive 200,000 doses of the Sinovac vaccine.
March 18, 2021
As Somalia’s political crisis over repeatedly-delayed federal elections dragged on, the two main camps of opposition to the federal government’s planned election rules – opposition federal politicians and the presidents of Puntland and Jubaland states – united to form what they called the “National Salvation Council”.
March 24, 2021
Jubaland state Minister of Security Abdirashid Janan surrendered to the federal government in Belet Hawo (Belet Xaawo), ending a year-long standoff along the Kenyan border between federal forces and Jubaland state forces loyal to him. After his arrest by the federal government in 2019 on human rights abuse allegations, Janan had escaped from custody in 2020 and fled to Kenya, reappearing in Belet Hawo at the head of a group of Jubaland forces who then repeatedly clashed with federal troops sent to arrest him and occupy the Jubaland region of Gedo.
Jubaland’s President Ahmed Madobe, who had stood by Janan throughout the standoff, formally fired him from the minister’s position after learning of the surrender deal, which was reportedly reached through the mediation of tradition elders belonging to the same kinship group as both Janan and acting federal president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” (Farmaajo).
The same day as Janan’s surrender, Ugandan AMISOM troops handed over control of Afgoye (Afgooye) town’s main military base to the Somali federal army. The base had withstood eight years free of Al Shabaab control.
March 26, 2021
Six people were reported to have died in fighting between two different factions of the so-called “Islamic State” (IS; formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Puntland’s Almiskat Mountains (Cali Miskat/Calmiskaad) (ACLED).
April 3, 2021
Al Shabaab fighters briefly stormed federal military bases in Awdhegle (Awhdeegle) and another town just to the northeast, using suicide bombers to breach the defenses, before being driven out again. The federal military claimed it had killed 76 Al Shabaab fighters in the battles and captured 10, while Al Shabaab claimed to have killed 67 federal troops.
April 4-5, 2021
Puntland security forces said they had destroyed a base used by IS fighters in the state’s mountainous region, killing 24 of the fighters and destroying two loads of explosives. This was likely part of a series of clashes reported between state forces and IS fighters in villages of the Almiskat Mountains (ACLED).
Claimed Country Name:
• Somaliland (English, Somali)
• Ṣūmālīlānd (Arabic)
Full Declared Name:
• Republic of Somaliland (English)
• Jamhuriyadda Somaliland (Somali)
• Jumhūrīyat Arḍ aṣ-Ṣūmāl (Arabic)
Status According to Somali Federal Government: Federal member state of Somalia
Meanwhile, the government administering Somaliland, which claims to be an independent country separate from Somalia, said four commanders from Somalia’s federal army had defected to its side.
Somaliland and the Somali federal government are not at war with each other, but have remained at political loggerheads since Somaliland declared independence in 1991 and the federal government was formed in the early 2000s. Somaliland was recently involved in a small-scale armed territorial conflict with the neighboring state of Puntland, but Puntland’s forces are separate from the federal military.
April 6, 2021
The federal government dropped its charges of human rights violations against former Jubaland minister Abdirashid Janan, for which he had been arrested in 2019 before escaping to lead the standoff with federal troops in Belet Hawo. It appeared likely that the case was dropped as a condition of the backroom deal that led to his surrender.
April 7, 2021
Government forces reportedly captured Lebi Dule (Lebi Duule) village in Galmudug from Al Shabaab (ACLED), though as of two weeks later, Al Shabaab would reportedly have taken it back, along with a neighboring village.
April 11, 2021
Two Galmudug state coast guard personnel were injured after gunfire broke out between their boats and a suspected Yemeni ship they were trying to apprehend “a few miles of the coast of Hobyo town” (ACLED).
April 13, 2021
With no agreement in sight on how to move forward with the country’s repeatedly-delayed federal elections, acting president Farmajo – already two months past the scheduled end of his term – signed a controversial bill, passed by the parliament, to officially extend his time in office for two more years without elections.
The move, which was denounced as unconstitutional by opponents and widely
condemned by allied countries, was seen by many as throwing Somalia into a new, more dangerous level of political crisis, with worries that it could lead to competing governments or even civil war. Cracks in the armed forces became visible immediately, with Mogadishu’s police chief having attempted to block the parliament from meeting to pass the controversial bill.
The same day, the federal military said its Danab special forces unit, backed by the US and trained by private contractor Bancroft Global Development, had recently raided Al Shabaab positions at Gambole (Gamboole) village northwest of Jowhar.
April 14, 2021
Al Shabaab assumed control of Ba’adweyne (Bacaadweyn) town west of Hobyo after federal troops withdrew and a local kinship-based militia surrendered.
Meanwhile, 14 civilians died when their minibus hit a landmine between Mogadishu and Bal’ad (Balcad), suspected to have been planted by Al Shabaab.
April 17, 2021
Reports said the Somali federal army had set up a base in Bajela (Bajeela) village in the central region of Mudug.
April 16-18, 2021
“Up to 17” people died in fighting between two kinship-based militias in Sool region, which is largely under Somaliland’s control but disputed by Puntland.
April 21, 2021
A week after Al Shabaab took over the village of Ba’adweyne in Mudug region, the security ministers of Puntland and Galmudug announced they would extend their cooperation
outside of their shared town of Galkayo (Galkaacyo) to jointly combat Al Shabaab. This came despite the two states’ presidents falling on opposite sides of the country’s federal electoral dispute.
April 21-22, 2021
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council formally condemned Farmajo’s presidential term extension, ordering AMISOM to monitor the actions of Somali federal forces and to suspend its program of handing over facilities and operational programs to Somali control. Meanwhile, the Hawiye clan, one of Somalia’s, and especially Mogadishu’s, most prominent traditional kinship networks, announced that it no longer recognized Farmajo as the legal president of Somalia.
April 25-26, 2021
Armed clashes broke out across multiple districts of Mogadishu between pro-Farmajo and
anti-Farmajo elements of the federal security forces, with opposition-aligned troops also arriving in the city from neighboring Middle Shabelle region. A reporter described the main thrust of the
fighting as “sporadic bursts of heavy gunfire”, with estimates of fatalities ranging from about 10 to 20, including civilians. As many as 200,000 people, or 12% of the city’s population, left their homes to escape the fighting.
By the next night, the fighting had died down, but the opposing sides dug in, setting up barricades dividing territorial control of the city between them. Anti-Farmajo forces held an intersection just 500 meters (1,500 ft) from Villa Somalia, the presidential palace where Farmajo
lives and works, while reports claimed that pro-Farmajo forces had attacked the home of a leading opposition politician.
April 27, 2021
President Farmajo ended the tensest phase of the elections dispute crisis by publicly calling on the federal legislature to revoke his two-year term extension. His move to back down had been preceded earlier in the day by announcements by several of his top allies that they supported going back to the elections model agreed upon the previous year – essentially a denouncement of the controversial presidential term extension. Those allies included the governments of South West, Galmudug, and Hirshabelle states, as well as his top lieutenant, the acting prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
April 29, 2021
Kenya’s government announced, controversially, that it was seeking to shut down the Dadab (Dadaab) “refugee camp” near the Somali border by June 2022. Dadab actually includes three separate refugee “camps”, each of which is essentially a normal town made up of people who fled Somalia over the past three decades.
Many argue that Dadab residents’ occupation of the camps is protected by international refugee law, while Kenya’s government has claimed that the community is a hotbed of recruitment for Al Shabaab. Kenya reportedly planned to offer the refugees a choice between returning to Somalia and accepting a work permit to seek employment elsewhere in Kenya.
Seven months later, Kenya would pass a widely-praised law guaranteeing many rights – including work, education, and public services – to Somali refugees and asylum seekers remaining in the country.
May 1, 2021
The federal legislature granted Farmajo’s request and repealed the extension of his term.
May 6, 2021
Somalia’s federal government announced that it was restoring diplomatic relations with Kenya, cut off the previous year, after mediation by the Gulf country of Qatar.
Al Shabaab-aligned media reported that the group had overrun a federal army base in Tedan village east of Beledweyne (ACLED).
May 7, 2021
Amid ongoing negotiations over election plans, anti-Farmajo elements of the federal security forces reportedly began dismantling barricades and withdrawing from the positions they had occupied in Mogadishu since the fighting of April 25-26.
May 9, 2021
Federal army forces reportedly drove Al Shabaab out of a village just north of Mahaday (Mahadaay) in the Middle Shabelle region, as well as four villages outside Afgoye near Mogadishu (ACLED). The same day, six police officers and a civilian were killed in an Al Shabaab suicide attack at a police station inside Mogadishu.
In Hargeisa, President Muse Bihi of the self-proclaimed independent Somaliland government reached an agreement
with opposition parties to allow long-delayed parliamentary elections to go forward later in the month. The deal apparently included dropping fraud and treason charges, alleged to be political in nature, against several opposition politicians.
May 10, 2021
Kenya’s government announced, without explanation, that it was banning all flights arriving from or departing to Somalia until August 9, with the
exception of military flights, humanitarian deliveries, and medical evacuations. There was speculation that the ban was retaliation for the Somali federal government’s continued refusal to allow imports of the popular khat stimulant, which it had banned amid the coronavirus pandemic.
May 12, 2021
Federal army forces reportedly captured Omad (Coomad) and a neighboring village, east of Beledweyne, from Al Shabaab (ACLED).
an Al Shabaab attack on a cell phone tower in Tarbaj, Kenya left two of the group’s fighters and two Kenyan police dead (ACLED).
May 19, 2021
Fighting broke out in Jowhar between Hirshabelle state forces and the independent Ma’awisley (Macawisley) militia. The Ma’awisley, which is known for its offensives against Al Shabaab, reportedly attacked state forces after four of its members were arrested for “extorting money from vehicles” (illegal road checkpoints are a common source of income for armed groups in Somalia). Ten people were reportedly killed in the clashes.
May 21, 2021
Five Kenyan police officers were killed in an Al Shabaab ambush outside Banisa, Kenya.
May 25, 2021
The UK government announced that it would be sending 250 Army Rangers to Somalia to support Somali troops it had helped train to fight against Al Shabaab. The UK already had 50 personnel in Somalia at this time, and had also been helping construct military infrastructure in the country. It would also soon announce a new training program for Somali soldiers in Baidoa.
May 26, 2021
The federal army reportedly drove Al Shabaab out of War’ise (War-Ciise), a village to its south, another village just northwest of Mahaday, and at least two other villages near Jowhar (ACLED).
May 27, 2021
After four days of negotiations led by Prime Minister Roble, all five federal member state governments (plus the governor of Benadir region, which makes up Mogadishu and its immediate suburbs) agreed on a road map for holding elections starting within 60 days.
May 29, 2021
Puntland state said its security forces had killed 20 of IS’s estimated 300 fighters in Somalia and destroyed more than one base in the mountainous region where the group operates. One of those killed was said to be a high-ranking official of Pakistani origin.
Meanwhile, reports claimed that federal troops killed 37 Al Shabaab fighters in a battle outside Jowhar (ACLED).
May 31, 2021
Self-declared independent Somaliland held long-delayed legislative elections – unrelated to and entirely separate from the Somali federal elections process. The elections, the first held in 16 years, resulted in a majority for an opposition coalition.
Flooding along the Shabelle River forced over 100,000 people out of their homes, the majority in the Jowhar area, with the Beledweyne area also badly affected.
June 3, 2021
In a battle over a military base near War’ise – belonging to the Turkish-trained Gorgor Commando Brigade of the Somali federal army – Al Shabaab claimed to have killed 18 federal-aligned soldiers, while the federal army claimed to have killed 70 Al Shabaab fighters (ACLED).
June 3-4, 2021
Unclaimed airstrikes hit the Al Shabaab stronghold of El Adde (Ceel Cadde) and another village in Gedo region. The Somali federal government said they had been carried out by Kenya, while the Kenyan government denied this. An AMISOM investigation would conclude four months later that the strikes had not been carried out by Kenyan aircraft.
June 5, 2021
Al Shabaab recaptured War’ise and two nearby villages in the Jowhar area (ACLED).
June 7, 2021
Suspected Al Shabaab fighters attacked a police convoy inside Kenya, west of Rhamu town, killing at least four Kenyan police officers (ACLED).
June 8, 2021
A report from the UN Human Rights Council laid its support behind long-standing claims that Somali soldiers under training in the neighboring country of Eritrea had been secretly sent to fight in Ethiopia’s Tigray war.
|Map of control in Ethiopia’s Tigray war in August 2021|
The Somali federal administration and Eritrean government continued to deny the claims, which implied a violation of Somali federal law and raised questions about possible abuse of international support for Somalia’s military against Al Shabaab.
The troops training in Eritrea were thought to be part of a secretive new force called “Dufaan”, built by the Farmajo-loyal National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) outside the framework of the country’s mainstream military.
Meanwhile, reports said that 59 Al Shabaab members and two civilians (ACLED) died in an accidental explosion at an Al Shabaab bomb fabrication site outside Qoryoley.
June 10, 2021
Kenya lifted its ban on flights to and from Somalia two months ahead of schedule, in what it called a “goodwill measure”.
June 12, 2021
The federal army said it had killed 19 Al Shabaab fighters between Baidoa and Burhakaba (Buurhakaba), reportedly part of a pre-elections increase in operations against the group.
Meanwhile, Al Shabaab conducted a “hit and run attack” on an AMISOM base near the airport of Galmudug state capital Dhusamareb (Dhuusamareeb) (ACLED).
June 12-14, 2021
Kenya accepted an invitation by the Somali federal government to reopen the Kenyan embassy in Mogadishu, also extending an invitation to reopen the Somali embassy in
Kenyan capital Nairobi (not pictured on map).
During the same period, the federal military claimed to have killed 50 Al Shabaab fighters and “destroyed many bases” in the Hiran (Hiiraan) and Middle Shabelle regions.
June 15, 2021
A suicide bombing, claimed by Al Shabaab, by some accounts killed over 40 people and injured 35 more (ACLED) at the Turkish-built military base in the Mogadishu area. Meanwhile, Puntland state forces said they had seized an “Al Shabaab” base in the Almiskat mountain area (ACLED). It was unclear whether they might have been referring to former Al Shabaab fighters now loyal to IS – the area is better known for IS activity, though in past years Al Shabaab activity also been reported there.
June 19, 2021
The federal army said it fought off a series of three Al Shabaab attacks on its base in Dinsor (Dinsoor) town of Bay region, killing 15 of the enemy fighters.
Meanwhile, Puntland state’s Maritime Police Force said it had seized a boat fishing illegally off the coast of Qandala town – at least the 11th such seizure by Puntland forces in 2021. Due to Somalia’s general lack of seagoing military or law enforcement, illegal fishing in Somali waters by international fishing boats is believed to be extensive. Opposition to this exploitation even served as a claimed justification for the surge of piracy off the country’s coast a decade ago, which has now long since died down as international military escorts have become routine.
June 20, 2021
Federal government sources said Gorgor commandos had captured a village about 50 km (30 mi) east of Dhusamareb from Al Shabaab.
June 22, 2021
Ugandan AMISOM forces dismantled and exited their base in Marian Guway (Mariin Gubaay), southwest of Marka, as part of a “troop realignment”, formally handing over the land to the Somali federal government. However, Al Shabaab fighters reportedly moved in “moments after” to seize control of the area, with the federal-aligned governor of Lower Shabelle region saying that federal troops had failed to arrive in time for a planned seamless handover.
Meanwhile, the federal army reportedly destroyed 14 Al Shabaab bases in the Middle Shabelle region, including one about halfway between Jowhar and Mahaday, as well as one in the same village south of War’ise that government forces had allegedly captured a month earlier (ACLED).
June 24, 2021
A first phase of a massively expanded container port facility was officially opened in the Somaliland city of Berbera, with high-level Ethiopian officials attending the ceremony. The port expansion, three years in the making and carried out by UAE-based company DP World, went forward without the approval of the federal government of Somalia, whose authority the Somaliland government rejects.
June 27-28, 2021
Up to 34 federal soldiers and an unknown number of civilians were reported killed after an Al Shabaab suicide bombing and armed attack led to heavy fighting for control of an army base in Wisil town, near Hobyo (ACLED), with the battle continuing into the next day before Al Shabaab retreated.
June 29, 2021
A US military official said the country was considering reversing its withdrawal of support troops from Somalia from earlier in the year, which had been ordered and carried out during the administration of previous US president Donald Trump. US military trainers had reportedly been making day trips into Somalia by air for work with Somali troops, despite being stationed at places outside the country (probably including “Camp Simba” in Kenya).
“Weeks of fighting” between pro-federal forces and Al Shabaab occurred in an area of Middle Shabelle region west of Adale (Cadale) and north of Warsheikh (Warshiikh) – until recently a mostly-peaceful pro-federal stronghold.
June 22 – July 2, 2021
Al Shabaab was reported to have captured two villages near Guri El (Guri-Ceel) town in Galmudug, one a week after the other. First village, Dabare (Dabarre), was reported to be 30 km (19 mi) from Guri El town, though maps show a village of that name much closer. The second town was said to be 16 km (10 mi) from Guri El, but was described as lying on the town’s outskirts.
July 2, 2021
Puntland state said its forces had killed several IS members, including a media “cameraman”, between Balidhidin (Bali-Dhiddin) and Timirshe.
The same day, “at least 10 people” were killed in a suicide bombing at a café near a well-known hotel in the government district of Mogadishu. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
July 3, 2021
The federal government said its Gorgor commandos had killed a prominent Al Shabaab commander in a raid near the Middle Shabelle town of Adan Yabal (Adan Yabaal).
Meanwhile, the forces of renegade general Abukar Haji Warsame Hud (Xuud), which oppose the Hirshabelle state government, briefly overran two neighborhoods on the northern outskirts of Beledweyne town after descending on government checkpoints there with “heavy gunfire” (ACLED).
July 4, 2021
Federal forces said they came under attack by Al Shabaab along the main road about halfway between Guri El and Dhusamareb in Galmudug state, killing 15 enemy fighters and taking “heavy casualties”.
July 5, 2021
Somalia re-opened its embassy to Kenya in Nairobi (not pictured on map) the week after Kenya had re-opened its own embassy to Somalia in Mogadishu. The embassies had been closed when the two countries cut ties with each other in late 2020.
July 6-7, 2021
The federal army overran Al Shabaab positions in Ba’adweyne and “surrounding villages”. Some sources said one of the villages was Qey’ad (Qeycad/Caad – formerly labeled “Ad” on our map), some way to the south. Al Shabaab claimed to have retaken Ba’adweyne the next day, though subsequent reporting suggested that federal forces had set up a base there (ACLED).
July 9-10, 2021
Puntland state forces said they had captured the towns of Timirshe and Hul-Anod*, and two other areas in the Almiskat mountains, from fighters aligned with the so-called “Islamic State” (IS). Though Puntland’s takeover of the towns appeared to be received as credible by many observers, PolGeoNow has not been able to confirm whether the state forces have since maintained control of the towns.
*Available reference maps show a village named Hul-Anod (Hul-Canood) just northwest of the coastal town of Bandarbayla, somewhat outside the area of Puntland known for IS activity. PolGeoNow had marked this town as possible IS territory from 2017 to 2019 based on previous reports of IS presence in a town of that name, but then removed it in 2020 due to the lack of any further news of IS activity anywhere near it. We now suspect that the “Hul-Anod” mentioned in reports about IS – at least the most recent ones – may in fact refer to a different location of the same name, since not only is it treated as part of the same battlefield as areas far to the northwest of Bandarbayla, but some reports explicitly locate it within the Almiskat Mountains.
July 10, 2021
A suicide car-bombing targeted a government convoy in Mogadishu, leaving at least nine people dead.
July 14, 2021
Kenyan AMISOM forces reportedly killed 11 Al Shabaab members in an airstrike on their convoy near the town of Koday in Lower Juba (ACLED).
July 15, 2021
A news article summarizing recent gains against Al Shabaab said the federal army had captured several villages between Afgoye and Awdhegle, while Danab special forces raided Al Shabaab positions west of Kismayo.
Meanwhile, two medical workers were sent back to Hargeisa after trying to transit through Mogadishu to Kenya using Somaliland passports. They were reportedly detained for three days and their passports, which Somalia’s federal government considers to be invalid, were destroyed.
July 17, 2021
Puntland state forces raided IS “hideouts” near Balidhidin town (ACLED). Meanwhile, five Somali men were acquitted of piracy charges by a court in the island country of Seychelles after the prosecution failed to provide evidence that they were pirates. They had already served two years in prison after being arrested by a European Union naval patrol in the Indian Ocean in 2019.
Four months later, the Somali ambassador to the UN would publicly call into question the continued need for extensive foreign anti-piracy naval missions in Somali waters, asking for suspects at least to be tried in Somalia rather than in foreign countries. There have been extremely few pirate attacks in Somalia’s vicinity for many years now, and Somalia’s federal government has also accused some foreign navies of pursuing their own countries’ economic interests under the cover of combating piracy.
July 17-19, 2021
Federal army forces once again “captured” Ba’adweyne from Al Shabaab (it was unclear how long Al Shabaab had been in control – towns are sometimes reported recaptured after having been only briefly overrun by the enemy). The next day the federal forces, reportedly with the Galmudug state military, advanced further south to seize the major village of Amara (Camaara), as well as another village near it (ACLED). Reports claimed that 50 Al Shabaab fighters and seven federal soldiers were killed in a battle at Qey’ad village (ACLED).
July 20, 2021
The US military conducted an airstrike in support of the federal-led offensive against Al Shabaab in Mudug region, the first it had disclosed since US president Joe Biden took office in January.
According to ACLED, Somali news media had already reported at least nine US airstrikes during Biden’s term as US president, though the US military explicitly denied responsibility for several of them, and staying silent on the others would violate its stated policy of disclosing all strikes. Airwars has speculated that some of the strikes could have been carried out by Ethiopian forces or AMISOM and misattributed to the US. The United States CIA couldn’t be ruled out as the possible source either, since its policy is to neither confirm nor deny airstrikes it carries out.
July 21, 2021
A UN report noted that Al Shabaab had “significantly increased its use of drones” for reconnaissance missions. The group is known to possess some anti-aircraft weapons, but not any armed aircraft, either crewed or uncrewed.
July 22, 2021
The federal army reportedly captured Qey’ad village in Mudug from Al Shabaab, with some senior members of the group defecting to the federal government side (ACLED).
Meanwhile, according to its own reporting, the US military carried out an airstrike (presumably using a drone) against IS fighters in Timirshe town of Puntland, killing seven of them. The press release also noted that there were “US forces in the area” at the time.
The US government has inconsistently acknowledged that not all of its troops were withdrawn from the country earlier in the year, with the New York Times reporting that there are “fewer than 100” of them still there, down from about 700 before January.
July 24, 2021
Federal government forces drove Al Shabaab out of a village to the west of Ba’adweyne (ACLED).
July 26, 2021
Federal army forces reportedly withdrew from Omad town near Beledweyne after an apparent defeat by Al Shabaab (ACLED). Meanwhile, a new police station built by AMISOM at the Baidoa airport was handed over to Somali federal police.
July 29, 2021
Elections for the Upper House of Somalia’s federal parliament began, with Jubaland state choosing four of its eight senators. Members of the Upper House, known as senators, are elected by their respective state legislatures, and elections are held at different times in each state. Subsequent elections for senators from Somalia’s other federal states would be held over the next several months.
July 30, 2021
Al Shabaab reportedly captured Daynunay (Daynuunay) village, on the road from Baidoa to Mogadishu, from the federal army (ACLED). The group had already overrun a base there on June 9, though only temporarily, and would again five days later (ACLED), but apparently would never hold control of the area more than briefly.
August 2, 2021
The federal army was once again reported to have captured Amara village in Mudug, claiming to have killed 70 Al Shabaab fighters. A US military press release said US forces had carried out an airstrike in support of Danab commandos near Qey’ad the day before – the third announced US strike in the general area in the past two weeks.
August 6, 2021
Government media outlets said federal and Galmudug state forces had captured three villages within Harardhere (Xarardheere) district from Al Shabaab as part of a push towards Harardhere town itself. One of the villages listed was located about 35 km (20mi) northwest of the town, while another, according to some maps, was on the coast to its southeast (an area far disconnected from any previously known government-accessible territory).
August 13, 2021
Federal special forces and Jubaland state troops reportedly, in joint operations, “took over” six villages outside of Kismayo from Al Shabaab (ACLED).
Meanwhile, a British piracy monitoring group reported that a merchant ship had escaped a piracy attempt about 180 km (100 mi) northeast of Mogadishu – the second in Somali waters in 2021, up from zero reported attempts in 2020.
August 15, 2021
Reports said that Abdirashid Janan – the former fugitive Jubaland minister who had defected to the Farmajo administration in February, ending his troops’ year-long standoff against federal forces in Belet Hawo – had fallen out again with Farmajo after alleging that the terms of his defection deal were not being met. He was reportedly seeking to re-enter politics as part of the opposition in Mogadishu.
August 18, 2021
IS forces reportedly seized the town of Balidhidin in Puntland – a relatively large operation for the group, whose open activity in recent times has been mostly limited to very rural areas and a semi-covert presence in larger towns.
August 20, 2021
Federal-aligned forces claimed to have killed 60 Al Shabaab fighters while fighting off attacks on two bases just west of Afgoye.
August 22, 2021
Federal and AMISOM forces reportedly captured a village next to Lebi Dule (Lebi Duulo), outside Dhusamareb, from Al Shabaab (ACLED).
Meanwhile, reports claimed that 60 Al Shabaab fighters were killed in a “hit and run attack” on a Jubaland state security checkpoint near Koday (ACLED).
August 22-23, 2021
In response to a planned visit from the Jowhar-based president of Hirshabelle state, two militias made up largely of rogue federal troops seized much of Beledweyne city from state and federal forces. One militia, led by renegade General Hud, reportedly took over the city’s airport. The other, led by recently-fired Colonel Abdullahi Barre Elmi, was said to have taken control of most major government administrative sites in the city, including police offices.
Elmi’s force was reportedly called the Hiran Salvation Army, while Hud’s organization (active since last year) had previously been referred to as the Hiran Rescue Council – it was not clear to PolGeoNow whether these still remained separate organizations at the time of the takeover. Both groups shared the purpose of asserting greater power for Hiran region after the Hirshabelle state government broke a purported unwritten agreement that the next state president would be from Hiran.
August 24-25, 2021
After an Al Shabaab attack on the federal army in Amara, which by some accounts was repelled with the help of a US airstrike that allegedly killed as many as 90 enemy fighters, the army reportedly withdrew from Amara and Ba’adweyne, leaving Al Shabaab to resume control of the two villages (ACLED). Later reports said the federal troops had also vacated Qey’ad. The Galmudug state government denied that Al Shabaab had taken over any of the villages.
Meanwhile, two acting members of federal parliament representing Hirshabelle state, who had been in Beledweyne trying to negotiate a deal with the renegade military officers who seized the city days before, were forced to flee.
August 25, 2021
The militias occupying Beledweyne agreed to relinquish control of government offices and take their dispute with the Hirshabelle state government to the negotiating table. They apparently would eventually agree to allow elections in Hiran region, while still denying entry to the state president.
August 27, 2021
The pro-Farmajo governor of Gedo province declared that he considered the administration of Jubaland state, led by President Ahmed Madobe, to no longer be legitimate, and that none of its members would be allowed into Gedo. He also called for the federal government in Mogadishu to recognize him, rather than Madobe, as the state’s leader for the purposes of negotiations between the federal government and its member states.
Though part of Jubaland state in principle, non-Shabaab-held areas of Gedo are mostly controlled by the federal army to the exclusion of the Madobe-led Jubaland forces. Of the state’s other two regions, Middle Juba is controlled entirely by Al Shabaab, while Lower Juba is controlled by a combination of AMISOM, Al Shabaab, the Kenyan military, and Madobe-aligned Jubaland forces.
Meanwhile, a Ugandan military commander announced that the country would be sending an additional 1,800 troops to Somalia. With over 6,000 soldiers already in the country, Uganda was already the largest troop contributor to AMISOM.
September 1, 2021
The coastal town of Warsheikh, a popular beach retreat for residents of nearby Mogadishu, was by some accounts left vulnerable to capture by Al Shabaab after its federal-aligned government fled amid fighting in nearby areas. The town and its vicinity had until recently been one of the few areas of southern and central Somalia with essentially no Al Shabaab military activity.
September 3, 2021
The federal government’s National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) announced that one of its agents who had been missing since June, a young woman named Ikran Tahlil, had been killed by Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab issued an unusual denial of responsibility, and acting federal prime minister Mohamed Hussein Roble ordered NISA to reveal the whole story. Many
believed that Tahlil had been murdered by NISA itself to prevent her from whistleblowing on the secret mission to train NISA-loyal Somali “Dufaan” troops in Eritrea.
NISA, whose head Fahad Yasin is known to be a close confidant of Farmajo, has come to be distrusted across wide sections of Somali society. Fahad’s NISA has sometimes even been accused of conspiring with Al Shabaab to bring about an eventual victory for hardline religious elements, which the leader was openly affiliated with in his younger years.
September 4, 2021
Puntland sent troops into Galmudug state to help in the fight against Al Shabaab around Amara.
September 6-7, 2021
After NISA head Fahad Yasin refused to comply with Roble’s order to turn over information on Tahlil’s disappearance, Roble order Fahad fired and appointed a new chief to the agency. However, Farmajo rejected Roble’s authority to fire Fahad, at first ordering the latter to stay in office, then later moving him to a different government position but appointing his own pick to head the agency in direct conflict with Roble’s appointee.
Farmajo’s supporters argued that as commander-in-chief of the federal military, only he had the authority to fire or appoint NISA’s director, while supporters of Roble argued that NISA fell under the prime minister’s portfolio as part of
the Ministry of Internal Security.
Amid the tensions, a report said that troops under Farmajo’s command had seized the Ministry of Information and the national TV and radio station headquarters under unclear circumstances.
September 7, 2021
Kenya’s government announced that, as agreed in 2020, it had opened a “liaison office” – something like an unofficial embassy – to Somaliland in the self-declared republic’s capital city of Hargeisa.
September 8, 2021
Farmajo’s appointee to head NISA seized control of the agency’s Mogadishu headquarters with the help of the Fahad-loyal Dufaan paramilitary unit, seeking to block Roble’s appointee from assuming command. Two US-trained units came to the assistance of Roble’s rival appointee, citing Roble’s prior-agreed authority to oversee security in the lead-up to elections. The result was a tense military standoff that raised fears of renewed infighting among federal forces.
Meanwhile, Roble publicly accused Farmajo of obstructing a new investigation into NISA agent Tahlil’s disappearance, while state-run media outlets reported receiving orders
from Roble not to broadcast any messages from Farmajo (who, his critics pointed out, was past the official end of his term as federal president anyway).
September 12, 2021
The federal military said its Danab special forces had destroyed Al Shabaab government facilities and “completely taken control” of Gambole and Fidow (Fiidow) villages north of Jowhar. The federal army also reportedly “took over” a village between Jowhar and War’ise, and two villages possibly in the area of Bal’ad (ACLED). It was not clear whether any troops remained there to maintain control of any of the areas, with subsequent ACLED data suggesting that Fidow at least was still contested.
September 13, 2021
The federal government announced new COVID-19 mitigation measures amid the country’s third wave of the disease, including bans on certain events, nighttime curfews, and restrictions on arrivals from certain countries.
September 14, 2021
Ethiopian troops were reportedly preparing to hand over their bases in Burdhubo (Buurdhuubo) and Qansah Dhere (Qansax Dheere) to Somali federal forces, while still remaining active in the area to guard roads and launch attacks on Al Shabaab.
The same day, military confrontations were again reported between Farmajo-loyal and Roble-aligned military units at NISA headquarters.
September 16, 2021
Reports said that Sheikh Mohamed Shakir Ali Hassan (“Sheikh Shakir”) and Mohamud Sheikh Hassan Farah, the heads of the anti-Shabaab Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) militia, had returned from exile after their defeat in a power struggle against federal and Galmudug state forces in February 2020. The leaders were seen gathering in Hurshe (Huurshe), a village of religious significance in the history of the Sufi Muslim militia, which would soon be described as ASWJ’s new headquarters.
September 16-17, 2021
Farmajo issued an order suspending acting prime minister Roble’s power to dismiss or appoint government officials. Roble rejected the order, with both men accusing each other of acting unconstitutionally.
September 18, 2021
Kenyan and Somali federal forces reportedly clashed briefly with each other at the Mandera-Belet Hawo border crossing, in what was said to be a dispute over goods being transported from Kenya to Somalia. The report said that one civilian was killed, one injured, and a Kenyan government vehicle “badly damaged” (ACLED).
September 22, 2021
Somalia’s National Theater in Mogadishu screened its first ever Somali film, which was also the first movie shown in a public cinema anywhere in Somalia since 1991.
September 25, 2021
A suicide car-bombing in Mogadishu left seven or eight people dead.
September 26, 2021
A report said that Qoryoley town near Marka, like Hudur in Bakol region, was suffering from what was effectively an Al Shabaab blockade. A report from the UN that came out soon afterwards would list Hudur and the Bay region town of Dinsor, but not Qoryoley, as “de facto enclaves” of pro-federal control, essentially surrounded by Al Shabaab.
September 27, 2021
Reports said a Kenyan troop convoy struck a landmine along a coastal road just on Kenya’s side of the Somali border, with Al Shabaab claiming that it had laid the mine and that 15 Kenyan soldiers were killed. Another story said that Al Shabaab fighters had struck a mine in the same area, with 15 of them being killed in an incident that didn’t involve Kenyan forces. One report placed the deaths of the Kenyan troops on September 25, two days earlier than the reported date of the Al Shabaab deaths.
September 25-29, 2021
Kenya allegedly launched a series of airstrikes hitting “civilian areas” and communications towers in the El Waq area as retaliation for the death of 15 of its soldiers in the previously-reported landmine explosion. At least some of the strikes were reported to have hit villages between El Waq and El Adde (ACLED).
September 29-30, 2021
A group of delegates met in Mogadishu to elect the 11 senators representing the notional “Northern Regions” of federal Somalia – referring to the area actually controlled by the self-declared independent Republic of Somaliland government. That government vehemently opposes the supposed representation of “Somaliland” in the federal government, so both the candidates and the delegates that elect them must be drawn from politicians of northern origin who now live in southern and central Somalia. The Somaliland government, in turn, says it considers these representatives to be criminally guilty of treason, since they directly participate in a system asserting that Somaliland is not an independent country.
September 30, 2021
Media friendly to Al Shabaab reported that the group’s government (which it purports to operate parallel to Somalia’s federal government) had split its “Islamic Province of Bay and Bakol” into two separate provinces, the “Islamic Province of Bay” and the “Islamic Province of Bakol”. The Somali federal government and its South West state, which also claims to govern the entire area, had already considered Bay and Bakol to be two separate province-like “regions”.
Meanwhile, reports said that Hirshabelle state police had arrested a young man in Jowhar for wearing a t-shirt that said “Hiran State”. At present there’s no such federal member state in Somalia, but its creation has been proposed by some who want to see Beledweyne and its surroundings removed from the administration of Jowhar-based Hirshabelle state. Current rules require federal member states to be made up of at least two province-level regions, leaving Hiran region ineligible to form its own state without a change to the rules.
September 29 – October 1, 2021
After being confronted by federal troops in Bohol village ahead of an alleged march on Dhusamareb, fighters of the ASWJ militia seized the town of Guri El, as well as the next major towns to its west and east, Mataban (Matabaan) and Eldhere (Ceel Dheere). Reports said there had been a battle between ASWJ and Galmudug state forces in Guri El, though some sources said the actual takeover of the town occurred peacefully after federal and state forces withdrew.
Though ASWJ’s top leaders had fled after the militia’s 2020 confrontation with the federal military, most of their fighters had remained in Galmudug and ostensibly been integrated into federal-aligned security forces. ASWJ-aligned elements had reportedly seized Mataban town previously in February 2021, though they apparently didn’t hold onto control of it in the intervening time.
After the new fighting, which also took place north of state capital Dhusamareb, deposed ASWJ leader Sheikh Shakir said in a BBC interview that the militia’s main purpose in re-activating was to oppose Al Shabaab. ASWJ had once been the main anti-Shabaab force in central Somalia, and Al Shabaab has increasingly moved in on Dhusamareb and nearby towns since ASWJ was disbanded.
October 2, 2021
The Somaliland government expelled 700 people from Lasanod (Las Canood) town, saying they were “illegal immigrants” from Somalia and Ethiopia (both of which it considers to be a foreign countries). The unusual move was condemned by both the federal government of Somalia and the United Nations, and by the next day the number had grown to over 1,000, with most of the displaced people temporarily relocated to the towns of Garowe (Garoowe) and Galkayo in Puntland. By two weeks later, the UN would report that the number had grown to over 7,000.
Some critics of the “deportation” of non-Somalilanders, most of whom were reportedly from Somalia’s South West state, accused Somaliland of ousting them because of their relative success as businesspeople compared to the locals. The Somaliland government, for its part, said they were being expelled for security reasons.
Meanwhile, the president of Puntland state fired and replaced the governor of the state’s Nugal (Nugaal) region amid a controversy over government killings of two people in Garowe.
October 4, 2021
ASWJ fighters brought their battle to the frontlines with Al Shabaab, seizing the village of Lebi Dule. This village near state capital Dhusamareb, well outside Al Shabaab’s control area during ASWJ’s heyday, had recently become a repeated flashpoint between Al Shabaab and federal forces.
The same day, federal troops reportedly drove Al Shabaab out of three villages near Marka, just southwest of the frontline federal base in Janale (Janaale) (ACLED).
October 7, 2021
Reports said heavy fighting, including US airstrikes, broke out around an Al Shabaab base located just north of Garbaharey (Garbahaarey) town, along the road to Luq (Luuq). Yet again, the US military didn’t disclose involvement in any strikes, and Airwars didn’t report any either.
Meanwhile, a Jubaland-aligned former governor of Gedo region seized the regional government headquarters in Garbaharey after the Farmajo-aligned current governor fled to Ethiopia under unclear circumstances.
October 8, 2021
ASWJ reportedly seized three more villages in the vicinity of Guri El (ACLED).
October 10, 2021
Federal troops reportedly “took control” of several “Al Shabaab strongholds” in the Adale area of Middle Shabelle region, including ones to the west and southwest of Haji Ali (Xaaji-Cali) (ACLED). It was not clear whether they remained in the area to prevent Al Shabaab from returning.
Meanwhile, ASWJ forces withdrew from Mataban, apparently moving to a new checkpoint on the boundary of Hiran and Galgadud regions. Mataban exists in a political gray area, customarily governed by Galmudug state despite lying in what’s officially Hirshabelle state.
In the political arena, Somalia’s federal government missed the deadline set in June for presidential elections, which can’t proceed until after the new Upper and Lower Houses of parliament have been seated.
October 11, 2021
The same day, federal troops said they cleared Al Shabaab forces from an area they had controlled just south of Bardera (Baardheere) town in Gedo region.
October 10-12, 2021
Meanwhile, the African Union (AU), which runs AMISOM with the approval of the UN and funding from foreign donors, endorsed a proposal to replace AMISOM with a new hybrid AU-UN peacekeeping mission from January 2022.
However, Somalia’s federal government, which holds veto power over the arrangement, rejected the proposal two days later, complaining that it had already negotiated a different plan with the AU. That plan called for a new AU-led transitional mission that would include a clear timeline for power to be handed over to Somali forces.
AMISOM’s mandate is set to expire at the end of 2021, with the original intention being for it to withdraw from Somalia and hand over control to federal and state forces by then – a plan now widely considered unfeasible.
October 12, 2021
The same day, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, Netherlands made its long-awaited ruling on the maritime boundary dispute between Kenya and Somalia in the Indian Ocean. It awarded most of the disputed area to Somalia, but did give a smaller portion to Kenya. For illustrative maps and more details, see PolGeoNow’s Somalia v. Kenya map explainer article.
|Boundary drawn by the ICJ to end Somalia and Kenya’s maritime dispute (yellow line). Click for article with full-size map.|
Meanwhile, one day after pulling out of Mataban, ASWJ fighters withdrew from El Dhere as well, with Galmudug state forces assuming control of the town.
On the Gulf of Aden, Somaliland’s coast guard seized two Togo-flagged tanker ships that it said had crossed into its jurisdiction from Djiboutian waters the previous week under suspicious circumstances. The self-proclaimed republic’s coast guard, which receives aid and training from the European Union, brought the ships to a military base in Berbera to be searched.
October 12-14, 2021
A local militia reportedly took over the port of Hobyo, nominally under the governance of Galmudug state, holding all operations hostage after a shipping crew from elsewhere in the state refused to make extortion payments to the militia. PolGeoNow was not able to determine how or when the standoff was resolved, but it lasted for at least two days.
The third wave of Somalia’s COVID-19 epidemic, ongoing since mid-July, appeared to peak in early to mid-October, reaching slightly lower numbers of cases and deaths than the second wave earlier in the year.
October 18, 2021
The president of South West state fired and replaced the governor of federal Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.
October 21, 2021
Acting prime minister Roble signed a surprise reconciliation deal with Farmajo, agreeing to back down on his NISA chief appointment and allow the Ikran Tahlil investigation to be taken out of his hands. There was speculation that the deal, which appeared to be mostly a capitulation by Roble, was made under pressure from foreign governments. Roble’s former appointee to head NISA was instead made Minister of Public Works.
October 22, 2021
AMISOM recommended a court martial for a group of Ugandan member soldiers implicated in the killing of seven civilians during a battle against Al Shabaab fighters on August 10. The battle had also left one AMISOM soldier dead.
October 25, 2021
Puntland state conducted a pilot project in which three districts held direct, one-person-one-vote popular elections for local government officials – the first anywhere in Somalia in over 50 years (excluding Somaliland). In recent decades, all elections in federal-aligned Somalia have been held among selected assemblies of political and traditional delegates, not among the general population directly. The new local direct elections, held only in Eyl, Qardho, and
Ufeyn districts, were praised as a great success by observers both inside and outside Somalia.
Not far to the west, the self-declared independent Somaliland government began a new wave of evictions of “illegal immigrants” from the town of Erigavo. As with the recent expulsions from Lasanod, most of the evicted people were from central or southern Somalia. The “deportations” allegedly have broad support among the establishment within Somaliland, despite being widely condemned outside the self-declared republic.
October 26, 2021
State-run media reported that federal troops, alongside Ugandan and Burundian AMISOM forces, had cleared Al Shabaab from a major stronghold just west of Bal’ad. The weeklong operation was said to have also “intercepted the fleeing Al Shabaab units” at other villages to the south and northeast.
October 23-27, 2021
Fighting erupted in Guri El between federal and Galmudug state forces on one side and ASWJ on the other. The pro-federal forces claimed to have captured the town, but witnesses said they had managed to capture only parts of it, and that neither side had full control. By October 25, at least 120 people had been killed and 600 injured. A federal-aligned official stated that 16 soldiers had died and 45 were injured. The fighting had displaced more than 100,000 people.
On October 27, the district commissioner reported that government forces were in control of Guri El after ASWJ fighters had fled the town overnight. The ASWJ withdrawal came as part of a ceasefire agreement, with their fighters initially pulling back to a village just to the north. They soon reportedly set up a new base farther out, in Bohol town.
The federal forces opposing ASWJ were mostly made up of Turkish-trained, highly Farmajo-loyal units, but a high-level commander of Danab – the US-trained, US-armed, and US-paid anti-Shabaab commando force – was also killed in the fighting. The US, which disapproves of its military aid being used for infighting against other anti-Shabaab forces, then announced that it was “reviewing” its support for Danab.
October 27, 2021
A man purported to be the “Interim President” of self-declared and mostly-defunct “Khatumo” (Khaatumo) state of Somalia, which claims the Sool, Sanaag, and Ayn (“Cayn”) regions in the north, announced that his government was officially pulling out of a four-year-old deal to merge into Somaliland. Much of the Buhodle (Buuhoodle) based militia supporting the original Khatumo state project – envisioned as a way to break free of Somaliland’s separatist program and remain in federal Somalia – had already opposed the merger from the beginning.
October 29, 2021
British tabloid newspaper The Mirror published a story stating that the UK was planning to send “hundreds” more troops to Somalia to help the US train the Danab commandos in 2022, quoting an anonymous source as saying there were already “a few scores” of them there.
October 30, 2021
Federal troops reportedly prevailed in a battle with Al Shabaab for control of a contested coastal village just northeast of Marka (ACLED).
November 1, 2021
Piecemeal elections for the Lower House of Somalia’s federal parliament began – almost three months behind schedule – with a group of delegates in Mogadishu electing the first two of the house’s 275 members. Each member of the Lower House is elected by a 101-delegate assembly, designed in past elections to represent the respective area’s traditional kinship groups.
At this time, elections for the parliament’s Upper House had not yet been completed. A new deadline would later be set for all regions to begin their Lower House elections by November 16 and finish by December 24.
November 6, 2021
Somali news outlet Keydmedia published a story citing unspecified “security experts” and IS propaganda videos to assert that the forces of the so-called “Islamic State” in Somalia – known for being largely confined to the mountains of Puntland – were expanding their covert presence in southern Somalia, and had even supplanted Al Shabaab as the major insurgent group in the Afgoye area near Mogadishu. PolGeoNow has not encountered any other reporting indicating that this is the case.
November 9, 2021
Reports said that federal troops had recaptured Barwaqo (Tuulo Barwaaqo), a village outside of Gedo region’s Garbaharey town, from Al Shabaab after four years of the group’s control there. They reportedly entered the village without a battle after Al Shabaab withdrew (ACLED), and it was unclear whether they took any actions to retain control of the village.
November 10, 2021
Federal forces reportedly “captured” two villages between Afgoye and Awdhegle in battles with Al Shabaab (ACLED).
November 13, 2021
A Ugandan military tribunal sentenced two Ugandan soldiers to death for the killing of seven Somali civilians on August 10. The soldiers were said to have opened fire on the civilians during a patrol west of Marka. Three other soldiers were sentenced to 39 years in prison.
The same day, the last set of elections for the Upper House of the federal parliament was held, with two senators from Galmudug state elected by the state legislature in Dhusamareb.
Elsewhere, federal government-run media said the army had taken control of several areas west of Beledweyne from Al Shabaab.
November 14, 2021
The Galmudug state government said its “naval forces” had seized an unlicensed China-flagged fishing vessel off the coast of Hobyo.
November 16, 2021
Galmudug’s state parliament approved legislation splitting Guri El off as a new administrative district within Galgadud region, separating it from Dhusamareb district. Reports were short on details, but the timing suggested that the move was taken to appease local leaders sympathetic to the ASWJ militia, or perhaps even as a term of ASWJ’s retreat deal the previous month.
The same day, South West state forces clashed with a local militia in an effort to end the militia’s operation of an illegal checkpoint along the road west from Wanla Weyn, north of Mogadishu.
November 17, 2021
A report claimed that “hundreds” of Somaliland soldiers had defected to join the anti-Somaliland SSC militia in Buhodle, which is linked with the the now-mostly-defunct “Khatumo” statehood movement.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s federal news agency said the army had seized several areas just north of Hudur town from Al Shabaab.
November 18, 2021
One of ACLED’s anonymous informants reported that ASWJ fighters had clashed with federal and Galmudug state forces eight kilometers east of Guri El (ACLED).
November 19, 2021
Saudi Arabia announced that it had reopened its embassy to Somalia, located in Mogadishu, after closing it over 30 years ago as Somalia’s previous national government collapsed. Prior to the reopening, the Saudi diplomatic mission to Somalia had been operating
out of Kenya.
November 20, 2021
Acting prime minister Roble unexpectedly fired the acting minister of foreign affairs, Mohamed Abdirizak, who had held the office for only a year. Abdisaid Muse was appointed as his replacement.
November 22, 2021
ASWJ forces reportedly arrived in a village west of Dhusamareb amid talk that they were preparing to march on the state capital. As of three weeks later, no such offensive had yet come to pass.
November 22-23, 2021
Al Shabaab again overran the federal army base in Daynunay, south of Baidoa, with army forces saying they eventually drove the enemy fighters back out.
November 23, 2021
The Somali federal government declared a state of emergency for a severe and worsening drought across large parts of the country, especially in much of Puntland, Galmudug, and Jubaland states (map). Rains that normally begin in September had largely failed to arrive, with wells drying up, water and grain prices spiking, and crops and livestock suffering severely from the shortages.
November 24-25, 2021
The state president of Puntland issued orders firing the head of the Puntland Security Forces (PSF), one of the state’s several state military organizations, but the leader refused to step down. Instead, his forces withdrew from their bases and dug in to new positions in the city of Bosaso.
One of the vacated bases, in Sugure village, had been a hub for operations against Al Shabaab in the nearby mountains, and there were fears that both Al Shabaab and IS would make a resurgence in the absence of the PSF’s deterrence. To fill the gap, many of the bases were initially taken over by Puntland Darawish – another of the state’s security forces – arriving from the Mudug region to the south.
Critics of the PSF chief’s sacking speculated that it was designed to influence the upcoming federal parliamentary elections in the state, while allies of the president said the leader was removed due to conduct issues. There’s a history of tension between the Puntland government and the PSF, which like many of Somalia’s state and federal military units might be described more as a government-allied militia than a proper military.
The PSF has also historically been supplied and paid for by the United States, but by some accounts lost that support earlier this year after Puntland refused to merge it into the federal army as part of the US-backed Danab commando unit. Though Puntland considers itself a state of federal Somalia, it has never permanently hosted military units under the direct command of the federal government in Mogadishu.
November 25, 2021
At least eight people were killed and 23 injured in a “large explosion” targeting an AMISOM convoy within Mogadishu. Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, Farmajo’s appointed head of NISA was controversially elected as a member of the federal parliament by delegates in Galmudug state, even while he continued serving as chief of the federal spy agency. This was only one of several cases of alleged election foul play by the Farmajo administration, though some argued that the opposition was no less guilty. Since Somalia’s president will be chosen by the new legislature, having close allies of Farmajo in the parliament presumably increases his chance of winning another term, and vice versa.
The election of the NISA leader to parliament would later be suspended by an elections oversight body pending a review.
November 28, 2021
A new privately-funded port opened in Puntland’s Gara’ad (Garacad) town, receiving its first ship. The port was the first in decades to be built without the help of state or federal governments or any foreign agencies.
December 1, 2021
Somalia’s top Mogadishu-based opposition organization announced a boycott of the ongoing Lower House parliamentary elections amid accusations that they were essentially being rigged in favor of Farmajo. Puntland’s state president, one of Farmajo’s most powerful opponents, opposed the boycott.
December 2, 2021
Farmajo returned to Somalia after a three-day trip to Qatar for talks with that country’s government. Qatar, alongside Turkey, is seen as a close ally of the Farmajo administration.
December 2, 2021
The UN Security Council unanimously extended its authorization for international military forces to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia, but only for three more months. Although there have been no successful pirate attacks in the region since 2017, the UN argued that a handful of unsuccessful attacks prove the intervention is still needed.
December 4, 2021
AMISOM handed over a police station it had built for the port of Kismayo to Jubaland state authorities.
The same day, the federal army said Danab commandos had “destroyed Al Shabaab hideouts” in a raid near the town of Lego (Leego).
December 4-5, 2021
An apparent series of Al Shabaab attacks between the towns of Mandera and Rhamu in Kenya reportedly led to at least two Kenyan soldiers (or police officers) being killed and 12 injured, with at least one Al Shabaab fighter dead as well.
December 5, 2021
Al Shabaab fighters overran a military base in Godinlabe town of Galmudug for several hours – their most prominent incursion yet into the part of northwestern Galmudug that had been free of Al Shabaab presence until the ASWJ militia was dismantled by the federal government in 2020.
Meanwhile, Puntland closed the main road into Bosaso city amid the continued standoff between the renegade PSF and forces loyal to the state government. In the following days, PSF forces would be reported to be patrolling the streets in parts of Bosaso.
December 9, 2021
The top federal opposition organization called for the “sham” Lower House elections to be paused, and for 135 elders from traditional kinship networks to be reinstated to the electoral position they held in previous elections. Critics of the ongoing election process say that the traditional electors have been replaced haphazardly with opaquely-chosen and sometimes anonymous delegates of the government’s choosing.
December 11, 2021
Reports said the Somali federal government had received a first shipment of Turkish-built combat-capable drones, initially to be used only for reconnaissance. Somalia has had no functioning air force since 1991, with the federal and state militaries relying entirely on allied countries for air support.
Meanwhile, two members of Somalia’s outgoing federal parliament were injured in an Al Shabaab bombing at a restaurant in Jowhar that also killed another civilian and injured one other.
December 13, 2021
In a dramatic move, Al Shabaab fighters briefly overran Mataban town northeast of Beledweyne after Galmudug police vacated their posts. Reports said the fighters raised their group’s black flag over the town’s government and police offices and demolished a police station before withdrawing ahead of a federal assault. Mataban had recently been contested between pro-federal forces and the ASWJ militia, but had not been threatened by Al Shabaab in many years.
Elsewhere, reports said that South West state forces raided Al Shabaab positions north of Baidoa and the federal army destroyed two Al Shabaab bases somewhere in Lower Shabelle region. In Kenya’s Konton village, reports said a group of Al Shabaab fighters fled at the arrival of Kenyan police after allegedly attempting to kidnap 40 worshipers at a mosque. And in Somaliland’s self-proclaimed national capital city of Hargeisa, gunfire was heard as police tried to break up a fistfight between two members of the Somaliland parliament – an unusual report of violence from the largely peaceful region.
December 14, 2021
As of the date of publication of this report, airstrike watchdog Airwars had counted 16 declared or alleged US airstrikes in Somalia in 2021, nine of them since US president Joe Biden took office. The total for 2021 was on track to be the lowest annual count since 2015.
Meanwhile, Somalia’s official total of confirmed COVID-19 cases stood at 23,074 since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,333 confirmed deaths. An academic study estimated that the true number of COVID-19 deaths in Somalia during the early months of the pandemic in mid-2020 had been about 30 to 100 times higher than the official numbers.
Map Revisions and Source Notes
Though lasting changes to the lines of control in Somalia since February have been few (and subtle), we’re always working on further refining the accuracy of our map based on new information, and the past 10 months have been no exception. For example, we’ve changed to the labels for South West state district centers Kurtunwarey (Kurtunwaarey) and Rabdhure (Rab Dhuure) from “mixed/unclear” to Al Shabaab control – which we already suspected to be the case – based on confirmation from experts cited in latest Somalia Security Situation report from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO)
Incidentally, that EASO report includes modified versions of this map produced by PolGeoNow under a special arrangement earlier this year – however, it doesn’t cite our maps as a source for its text, meaning that its information is gathered independently from ours. Importantly, it also means that those maps (essentially earlier versions of the one above) found approval from the academic Somalia expert reviewing the report, as well as the professional conflict-tracking staff who composed it.
Meanwhile, the annual report of the UN Panel of Experts on Somalia to the UN Security Council, published in October, has also provided extensive material for us to compare notes with. In particular, the report features its own map (p. 50) of territorial control in southern and central Somalia which – while not as detailed as ours – provided useful input for some adjustments to our map’s approximate areas of full Al Shabaab control. Another map (p. 54) pointing out which locations host pro-federal military bases was also of interest, along with various tidbits from the text of the report.
It must also be noted that the Somali Wire newsletter has been particularly of help in compiling sources for this edition of both our map and our timeline, with its daily compilation of translated Somali news articles from various source. However, please note that in all cases we have directly consulted the news media sources cited by the newsletter rather than relying on the word of the publication itself.
Last but not least, this edition of the map has passed through an informal community review process, with Somali and Somalia-familiar people invited to comment on a draft of the map via social media. Though the control areas on our map are based on news media reports and other more-accountable sources, feedback from individual readers is often useful for directing our attention to what we may be missing, and also provides additional perspectives to inform our analysis.
Thanks go in particular to Reddit’s Somalia forum, several of whose members dedicated considerable time to providing detailed feedback and numerous source citations regarding the situation in the area disputed between Somaliland and Puntland, resulting in some major adjustments to our map (mostly providing better clarity to areas we had marked as “unclear”). We’re also thankful to the Somali community on Twitter for some useful additional tips.
Following this conflict? Check for updates to our map by viewing all Somalia reports on PolGeoNow.
Graphics of the Somali flag (source), the self-proclaimed Somaliland flag (source), and the flag used by Al Shabaab’s purported Islamic Emirate of Somalia (source) are in the public domain. Timeline compiled with the help of the ACLED database: Raleigh, Clionadh, Andrew Linke, Håvard Hegre and Joakim Karlsen. (2010). “Introducing ACLED – Armed Conflict Location and Event Data.” Journal of Peace Research 47(5) 651-660. https://www.acleddata.com/