Somalia-based insurgents, Al-Shabaab, were the deadliest terrorist group last year beating Nigeria’s Boko Haram. The Nigerian insurgents had been holding the title for the period 2012 – 2015.
New figures from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies indicate that Al-Shabaab was responsible for 4,281 deaths as against Boko Haram’s 3,499.
The third insurgent group that made the list was the Islamic State Militant Group (ISIS), they were responsible for 2,350 deaths in 2016.
Al-Shabaab are affiliated to al-Qaeda group and they are largely operational in Somalia with incursions into neighbouring Kenya. They were responsible for the West Gate Mall and Garissa University attacks on Kenyan soil.
The anti-terrorism combat against them is led by the Somali National Army with support from the African Union Mission in Somalia, (AMISOM). Ethiopian troops and Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) also play a role in the combat.
The group has also launched deadly attacks on Kenyan troops in parts of Somalia. The new Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has invited them to come to the negotiation table or risk being wiped out in two years.
Boko Haram on the other hand started in northeastern Nigeria with the aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, but today their effect stings the entire Lake Chad region – Cameroon’s far north, Chad, Niger and northeastern Nigeria.
Their rampant raids of few years back have largely been contained by the Nigerian army since 2015 when President Buhari took over the reigns. They have been restricted to the use of suicide bombers to hit soft targets in Borno State and sparse attacks on the army.
Unlike Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram has a split leadership with long serving Abubakar Shekau leading one part and the other part led by Abu Musah Al Barnawi. Boko Haram reportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS years back.
Al-Shabaab on the other hand are led by the elusive Abu Ubaidah – who has a $6 million US bounty on his head. The group controls portions of Somalia. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in a report last year, officially labeled al-Shabaab militants as a transnational security threat in the East Africa region.