September 05, 2017
Map Update #2: Al Shabaab's Humanitarian Response
Al Shabaab restricted humanitarian assistance operations and prevented locals from leaving its strongholds in Somalia to seek aid, backtracking on a more lenient policy adopted earlier this year. Nearly six million Somalis rely on humanitarian aid efforts after a catastrophic drought pushed the country toward famine. Al Shabaab initially responded to the crisis by distributing its own aid and allowing selected aid organizations to access drought-impacted communities in areas under its control. The group reverted to a harsher policy after May 2017 that includes abducting aid workers, burning food, and executing civilians who seek aid outside of the group’s jurisdiction. The posture may be to ensure that al Shabaab continues to be able to extract resources from aid flows into its strongholds.
Al Shabaab’s obstruction of aid and migration advances the group’s campaign to create a shadow government to supplant the Somali Federal Government (SFG) in rural Somalia by degrading public perception of the SFG’s aid delivery efforts. Al Shabaab’s control over humanitarian assistance forces local populations to rely on the group for survival, while blocking migration ensures that the group’s strongholds remain populated. Internal leadership disputes over al Shabaab’s strategy prompted the group to divert its resources away from its humanitarian response. Al Shabaab’s ability to govern terrain and local populations enables the group to pursue a broader insurgent campaign against U.S. allies in the Horn of Africa and present Somalia as a refuge for Salafi-jihadis fleeing Iraq and Syria.
Kendal Barker contributed to this report.
Al Shabaab’s Response
Food and water distribution
- March 6 – Lower Shabelle region: Qunyo Barrow.
- March 11 – Mudug region: Adat, Warshubo, Harardhere, Jowlo, Dhalwo, Ris, Galdhabo; Lower Shabelle region: Wanlaweyn, Qoryoley, Kurtunwarey, Sablale, Barawe.
- March 19 – Galgudud region: Elbur.
- March 21 – Lower Shabelle region: Barawe. 
- March 25 – Lower Shabelle region: Kurtunwarey, Qoryoley, and Torotorow.
- March 28 – Bay and Bakool regions.
- April 12 – Mudug region: Harardhere, Jowlo, Dumaye, Ris, Dhalwo, Dabagale; Galgudud region: Elbur, Galhareri.
- April 15 – Galgudud region: Gheriale.
- April 28 – Galgudud region: Elbur.
- May 11 – Hiraan region: Halgan town.
- May 24 – Bay region: Bulo Fulay, Rama Adey, Yaq Barawe, Adeile; Bakool region.
Attacks against NGO workers
- March 22 – Gedo region: Red Cross worker killed in Bardhere.
- April 3 – Gedo region: World Health Organization workers abducted near Luuq.
- April 16 – Banadir region: UN World Food Programme convoy ambushed near KM13 junction.
- April 19 – Lower Shabelle region: Emirati Red Crescent convoy ambushed in Garasbaley.
- May 28 – Galgudud region: Civilians killed at feeding station in Abduwak town.
- July 15 – Bay region: Seven Somali aid workers abducted in Gasarta village.
- July 20 – Bakool region: Al Shabaab militants burn food in Wajid town.
- July 21 – Hiraan region: Four Somali aid workers abducted in Farlabah
- 24 JUL – Bay region: Al Shabaab released seven aid workers held in Gasarta village after receiving ransom payments.
- 23 AUG – Lower Shabelle region: Al Shabaab ambushed an AMISOM food distribution convoy near Marka.View Citations
 World Bank, “A Visit to Refugee Camps in Somalia,” Relief Web, July 14, 2017, http://reliefweb.int/report/somalia/visit-refugee-camps-somalia.
 “Al Shabaab's Humanitarian Response,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, April 24, 2017, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/al-shabaabs-humanitarian-response.
 Jason Burke, “Al-Shabaab militants ban starving Somalis from accessing aid,” The Guardian, July 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/27/al-shabaab-militants-ban-starving-somalis-from-accessing-aid; Garowe Online, Twitter, July 25, 2017, https://twitter.com/radiogarowe/status/889560840168497152; and Vates Corp, Twitter, July 20, 2017, https://twitter.com/Vatescorp/status/888052269123604480.
 Jason Burke, “Al-Shabaab militants ban starving Somalis from accessing aid,” The Guardian, July 27, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/27/al-shabaab-militants-ban-starving-somalis-from-accessing-aid.
 Katherine Zimmerman, “America’s Real Enemy: The Salafi-Jihadi Movement,” AEI’s Critical Threats Project, July 18, 2017, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/americas-real-enemy-the-salafi-jihadi-movement.
 Al Shabaab distributes food in Qunyo Barrow, Facebook, March 6, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/pg/shahadaagency/photos/?tab=album&album_id=257896484662344.
 Al Shabaab distributes water in Mudug and Lower Shabelle regions, Facebook, March 11, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/shahadaagency/posts/260256441093015.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Elbur town, Galgudud region, Facebook, March 19, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/pg/shahadaagency/photos/?tab=album&album_id=263961617389164.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Barawe town, Lower Shabelle region, Facebook, March 21, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/shahadaagency/posts/264729803979012.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in several towns in Lower Shabelle region, Facebook, March 25, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/112811155924613.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Bay and Bakool regions, Facebook, March 28, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/118676788671383.
 Al Shabaab distributes food and water in several towns in Mudug and Galgudud regions, Facebook, April 12, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/131469824058746; Al Shabaab distributes food and water in several towns in Mudug and Galgudud regions, Facebook, April 12, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/photos/a.112623352610060.1073741828.111106089428453/131472287391833/?type=3.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid in Gheriale village, Galgudud region, Facebook, April 15, 2017, https://www.facebook.com/Shahaadanewsagency/posts/133351710537224.
 Al Shabaab distributes food aid to 300 families in El Bur city, Galgudud region, Telegram, April 28, 2017.
 Harun Maruf, Twitter, May 11, 2017, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/862671913931485190.
 Al Shabaab distributes Ramadan food aid in Bay and Bakool regions, Telegram, May 24, 2017.
 “Humanitarian worker gunned down in Bardhere town,” Garowe Online, March 22, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-humanitarian-worker-gunned-down-in-bardhere-town.
 “Somalia al Shabaab Islamist militants kidnap aid workers,” BBC News, April 4, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-39491027.
 Al Shabaab claims bomb attack on WFP convoy,” Shabelle News, April 16, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/04/al-shabaab-claims-bomb-attack-on-wfp-convoy/.
 “Landmine explosion targets humanitarian, government officials,” Garowe Online, April 19, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-landmine-explosion-targets-humanitarian-government-officials.
 “Gunman kills three civilians in Abudwak town,” Shabelle News, May 28, 2017, http://www.shabellenews.com/2017/05/gunman-kills-three-civilians-in-abudwak-town/.
 “Somalia: Militants abduct seven aid workers in Bay region,” Garowe Online, July 15, 2017, http://www.garoweonline.com/en/news/somalia/somalia-militants-abduct-seven-aid-workers-in-bay-region.
 Vates Corp, Twitter, July 20, 2017, https://twitter.com/Vatescorp/status/888052269123604480.
 Somalia Live Update, Twitter, July 21, 2017, https://twitter.com/HassanIstiila/status/888315175903928320; and Harun Maruf, Twitter July 21, 2017, https://twitter.com/HarunMaruf/status/888385868540596224.
 Garowe Online, Twitter, July 25, 2017, https://twitter.com/radiogarowe/status/889560840168497152.
 Al Shabaab ambushes AMISOM aid convoy near Marka, Telegram, August 23, 2017.