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Islamic State describes intense campaign against Shabaab in northern Somalia


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FDD's Long War Journal

Caleb Weiss

February 2, 2024


One of the Islamic State’s men during a purported clash with Shabaab’s in the mountains of northern Somalia last year.

In the latest issue of the Islamic State’s weekly Al-Naba newsletter, the global jihadist organization describes in detail a fierce campaign its so-called Somali Province waged against Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s East African branch. The reported campaign lasted for a little under a year and allegedly resulted in the Islamic State’s men gaining more territory in northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland. 

The two sides have violently clashed at least 51 times, largely in northern Somalia, since the emergence of the Somali Islamic State faction in late 2015 according to data kept by the author for FDD’s Long War Journal

Around 36 of these incidents were between March and December 2023, assuming the Islamic State’s record keeping is truthful and accurate. During this period, the Islamic State also claims its men killed or wounded at least 238 members of Shabaab, though this number cannot be independently verified and is likely an exaggeration. 

According to the Islamic State, the sustained campaign against Shabaab began in earnest in March 2023, after previously preventing the al-Qaeda branch from advancing on its positions over the prior two months.


Financing, directives, and other support flow from Al-Karrar to various groups, like the Central Africa Province or Mozambique Province, or cells, such as in South Africa, from the so-called office in Puntland. Though the latest UN report notes that Al-Karrar might have been weakened following the death of one of its directors, Bilal al-Sudani, last year. 

Nevertheless, the most recent Al-Naba issue provides an interesting look into the activities of one of its most silent, albeit financially significant, affiliates of the Islamic State. 

At best, it presents a semi-fictionalized version of events of the ongoing war between its men and al-Qaeda’s men in Somalia. At worst, it documents a rebirth of sorts of a group attempting to bounce back following the detrimental loss of one of its key leaders.

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