The ISIS faction in Somalia continue to establish foothold in Somalia, extending its areas of its operation from northern Somalia to central and south Somalia.
The Islamic State Somalia sprouted in the northern part of Somalia after splintering from al-Qaeda branch Al-Shabaab in October 2015. Founded by Sheikh Abdul Qadir Mumin a former Al-Shabaab commander, ISS broke from Al-Shabaab, the group has benefitted from the parent group’s defections.
The group that started with about 20 fighters now is estimated to have between 300-400 fighters with active cell spread across areas/regions of Somalia.
ISIS in Somalia is fast appealing to both local fighters allied to Al-Shabaab and even to foreign fighters. ISS certainly looks to bag more foreign fighters as thousands of ISIS returning foreign fighters left Mosul and Raqqa towards the East, North, Central and West Africa.
Islamic State in Somalia has claimed 106 attacks in Somalia since April 2016. In 2018 alone, ISS claimed over 70 operations from across Somalia with its small foot soldiers as compared to Al-Shabaab that has an estimated 7000-9000 fighters according to 2017 statistics.
Threatened Al-Shabaab is unable to much as these defections to the rival faction are gradually disabling the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabaab’s capability.
ISS homegrown threat steadily burgeoning, significantly expanding its operations from northern; Puntland regions such as Bosaso, Bari and Qandala. ISIS Somalia has sympathizers, active cells in areas/regions such as Mogadishu, Afgoye, Gedo, El-Adde, El-Wak, Buale, Gododwe, Jiliib, Salagle, Saakow, Afgoye and Mogadishu. These areas/regions had been majorly, Al-Shabaab areas of operations for over a decade.
ISIS faction in Somalia is maintaining small cells with about 5-10 fighters. The cells are tasked with recruitment campaigns, assassinations, sporadic attacks, kidnapping and tax collections to finance the groups agendas.
ISS and Al-Shabaab rivalry has seen each group target and kill the other group’s members. Security experts points out that the prospect of ISS continuous encroachment on Shabab territory will continue to ignite more internal conflicts and bloodshed.
It is paramount to note that fundamentally, ISIS is more appealing ideologically and attracts more defections than Al-Shabaab. The global, terror ensemble of ISIS where it gives equal precedence to all fighters is what is making it stronger than Al-Qaeda’s Al-Shabaab which has actively looked down upon its foreign fighters now finding refuge in ISIS faction.