Islamic State claims suicide bombing in Somalia

Photo of the claimed suicide bomber released by the Islamic State

The Islamic State has claimed a suicide bombing on a security checkpoint in the Somalian city of Bosaso, which is located in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. The attack marks one of, if not the first time the Islamic State has claimed a suicide attack in Somalia.

According to local media, the bomber was stopped at a military checkpoint near the Juba hotel in the city. The attacker detonated his explosives as security personnel approached him. It is likely that the intended target was the hotel itself. At least five people were killed and 12 others were wounded in the explosion.

This is the first attack claimed by the Islamic State in Somalia since a February suicide assault, also in Bosaso. In that assault, militants stormed the Village Hotel in Bosaso. This prompted a fierce shootout between the militants and the hotel’s security guards, with four guards and at least two gunmen dying. The number of attackers has varied in press reports, as Reuters reported that only three jihadists stormed the hotel, while Somali media has said seven. [See Threat Matrix report, Islamic State claims hotel attack in northern Somalia.]

That siege the first major attack in Puntland since the fledgling Islamic State branch captured the town of Qandala last October. At the time, a claim by Amaq News stated fighters loyal to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi captured the town after a brief firefight with Puntland security forces. A subsequent video released by Amaq showed a handful of Islamic State fighters parading through the streets and hoisting their black flag on several rooftops of the town.

A day later, Puntland officials claimed that the militants withdrew from town. However, Somali journalists refuted this claim saying that residents are reporting the jihadists still remain in control. It was not until Dec. 7 that Puntland officially took back control of the town and offered photo evidence.

Islamic State-loyal militants still operate near Qandala, as it briefly captured a small village before being routed out in April. In January, Puntland soldiers were taken captive by Islamic State militants  south of Qandala before being beheaded.

A separate Islamic State faction operating in southern Somalia had earlier captured a town in Dec. 2015, the first for Islamic State-loyal militants in the country, but their reign did not last long.

The Islamic State in Somalia was officially formed in Oct. 2015 and is led by Abdulqadr Mumin, a former Shabaab commander. Compared to Shabaab, Islamic State in Somalia is known to be relatively small. It also remains largely concentrated in the northern Puntland Region, but has claimed sporadic attacks in Mogadishu. Pro-Islamic State factions in southern Somalia have had trouble operating due to a large-scale crackdown by Shabaab and its Amniyat, or security service, on any dissenters within the group.

Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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