Suicide and VBIED Bombings in Somalia, Iraq, and Libya
The information, data and findings from the below brief was collected by and sourced from TRAC: Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium, in partnership with the Mackenzie Institute. Please click here to visit TRAC.
Al-Shabaab VBIED Suicide Attack in Afgoye, Northwest of Mogadishu, Somalia (05/22/18)
On 22 May 2018, a suicide bomber drove his vehicle filled with explosives into a military convoy at the Bar Ismail checkpoint in Afgoye, a small-town located thirty kilometers northwest of Mogadishu. “The guards at the base prevented him from entering inside and he blew himself up at the gate, killing one soldier,” said Abdifitah Haji Abdulle, deputy governor for the Lower Shabelle region. It was the second suicide strike against Somali security forces in a twenty-four-hour span.
Al-Shabaab has since claimed credit for the attack, and according to the claim, twelve Somali soldiers were killed. It also states they targeted a convoy traveling from Ballidogle to Mogadishu; Ballidogle is an airbase where US advisers train Somali soldiers.
However, official responses from local Somali police state that only five soldiers were killed, including four civilians that were injured during the attack. There is also reference to a child that was killed after being run-over by a vehicle rushing to get away from the scene of the attack.
Islamic State Suicide Bombing in Predominantly Shia Neighbourhood of Shula, Baghdad, Iraq (05/24/18)
On 24 May 2018, at least four people were killed and fifteen wounded in a suicide attack in the predominantly Shia district of Shula, northwest Baghdad. “A suicide bomber blew up his explosive belt while he was surrounded by police near a public garden in Al-Shula district,” a security forces statement said. The attack occurred at night, which is significant since local cafes and restaurants are busy and see high foot traffic during the holy month of Ramadan. People will gather to eat during the night before fasting continues when the sun rises.
Islamic State’s propaganda channel on Telegram, Nashir News, was quick to issue a statement claiming IS responsibility for the attack, though it falsely inflated the death toll to be upwards of thirty-three people.
VBIED Bombing Near Tibesti Hotel in Benghazi, Libya (05/24/18)
On 24 May 2018, at least seven people were killed and around twenty others were injured in a car bombing close to the Tibesti hotel on a busy road inside Benghazi, Jamal Abdel Nasser Street. In July 2018, Khalifa Haftar announced the total liberation of Benghazi from extremist groups; the attack however indicates the sustained presence of organized cells. This is the second VBIED explosion on the same street in under eighteen months and the fourth in Benghazi for 2018.
In Libya, the battle between the Haftar led Libyan National Army (LNA) and fighters of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council (BRSC) has been ongoing irrespective of Haftar’s announcement that Operation Dignity has resulted in liberating Benghazi from extremist and militia groups. Another group in Benghazi is the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB), who although does not have links with the Islamic State in Libya, are most likely aligned with BRSC and Ansar al-Sharia. In July 2016, the BDB reportedly claimed credit for the downing of a French helicopter that crashed near Benghazi. A similar situation is present in Sirte and Derna, where Islamic State in Libya sleeping cells continue to execute attacks against LNA fighters. In Sirte, Misrata is the most active militia group, comprised of coalition forces called Bunyan al-Marsous.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused LNA fighters of atrocities in Benghazi during the execution of Operation Dignity, showing a complex landscape of revenge against those perceived as opposing Haftar. Hanan Salah, a senior Libya researcher at the HRW, said the scale of property seizures “appeared to be substantial.” “Families or individuals perceived to oppose the LNA paid dearly and were hunted; scores remain detained, were disappeared, tortured or even killed and their properties confiscated,” she said. Ahmed Mismari, a spokesperson for Haftar’s LNA, denied that any houses were seized. Rather, residents loyal to Haftar said some houses that were abandoned by people they described as terrorists were now being inhabited by families whose own homes had been destroyed. “Families who run away from Benghazi, their sons were from terrorist groups,” said Mismari. “Their sons carried out acts of kidnapping, killing, assassination, explosions, and destroyed families.” He added that displaced families could come back as part of national reconciliation provided their cases were settled from a legal standpoint involving community elders.
As but one example of earlier violence in Libya, on 10 February 2018, a twin bombing at a mosque in Benghazi killed one person and wounded 129. The blasts came after a previous twin car bombing outside a mosque in Benghazi following prayers on 24 January 2018 that left nearly forty people dead. The first vehicle blew up in front of a mosque in the central al-Sleimani neighbourhood, as worshippers were leaving the building after evening prayers. A second car exploded soon afterwards on the other side of the street.
This most recent attack in Benghazi, including the earlier four in 2018, demonstrates that announcing the liberation of Benghazi as a military victory does not imply a peaceful and violent-free environment. Rival jihadist groups like Ansar al-Sharia, family and tribal feuds, and a disregard for the credibility of Haftar will continue to result in violence, as the bombing on 24 May 2018 shows. The LNA is not always a welcomed force irrespective of claims that they want to eradicate Libya from “terrorists.” On 25 May 2018, the Derna Shura Council, now rebranded as the Derna Protection Force, released photos of a demonstration against the LNA in Derna:
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The above has been compiled by Ryan J. Anderson, an MA student at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, specializing in Intelligence and International Affairs. He is a Junior Research Affiliate with the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security, and Society (TSAS), a research analyst at the International Counter-Terrorism Youth Network (ICTYN), and was previously a Research Fellow at the Centre for International and Defence Policy (CIDP), Queen’s University. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanandrson.