MOGADISHU, Somalia – Civilians have borne the brunt of Al-Shabaab attacks in Somalia, the United Nations has confirmed, with the death toll hitting a record 613 in 2022, the highest figure in five years, in what could now be a turning point for the country. strategy in the infinity war.
Statistics released by the United Nations show that 2022 was the worst year for Somalis since 2017, with deaths exceeding 2021’s record by almost a third. During this period, the UN notes, over 948 people have been fatally injured in attacks created by the militants.
United Nations records showed the number of people killed by improvised explosive devices [IEDs] 315 in 2022, and the injured were 686 in attacks mainly launched by Al-Shabaab. Some casualties have been attributed to state security forces, “clan militias and other unidentified actors,” according to the UN rights office, OHCHR.
The rights body’s High Commissioner Volker Türk said 2022 has “brought an abrupt end to a general reduction in deaths and injuries documented since 2017,” adding that he is “deeply concerned that more Somalis continue to lose their lives on a daily basis.” ”
“All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians are protected. This also includes armed elements engaged alongside the government in the conflict against al-Shabaab, as well as international forces.”
He called on the government to “take all necessary measures” together with those invested in stability throughout Somalia in the international community, to strengthen the protection of all civilians, “in line with international human rights norms and standards and international humanitarian law”.
In addition to IEDs, he noted, al-Shabaab militants have returned to suicide bombings. The latest was on October 29 when the militants targeted the Ministry of Education building in Mogadishu, killing over 123 people while injuring over 350, according to government records.
Similarly, the militants targeted the Hayat Hotel in Kismayo in an attack that left 21 civilians dead. While the attacks have killed security officials and senior government officials, most of the affected teams are usually helpless civilians struggling for survival.
While instilling their authority, the militants have poisoned and destroyed wells and bridges besides bringing down telecommunication masts across the country. Telecom giant Hormuud also confirmed a fortnight ago that it had lost a mast to Al-Shabaab.
“Such wanton destruction is reprehensible, especially given the dire humanitarian situation, with the successive failures of five rainy seasons and large-scale displacement in the country,” Türk said.
“Deliberately targeting civilians and destroying, as such, objects indispensable to the civilian population constitute war crimes under international law. They must stop.”
The rights chief also stressed the critical need for accountability for serious violations of international law, saying it was key to any serious effort to end the decades-long vicious cycle of violence in Somalia.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had persistently warned that the militants were likely to target civilians, noting that they are keen on revenge after being ousted from strategic towns by the army. “There is no doubt that Al-Shabaab will target civilians because Somalia is at war with the terrorist group,” he said.
The Somali National Army has raided Al-Shabaab villages with the help of the US Africa Command, the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia [ATMIS]and the local militia.
The US has also pledged to help the country and has since increased the reward scheme to $10 million for people who volunteer information about the Al-Shabaab war.