October 13, 2016
A platoon of African Union soldiers patrol a village outside Mogadishu.
They walk on foot ahead of three armored vehicles in order to sweep for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by al-Shabab insurgents.
The goal is to find and defuse any bombs before they go off.
Over the last five years, the African Union (AU) troops, called AMISOM, forced al-Shabab from most major towns, but the rebels have regrouped with IEDs as their weapon of choice.
The insurgents have developed a sophisticated IED building network, regularly targeting both soldiers and civilians in ever larger attacks which have managed to slow AMISOM’s advance.
The IEDs have been very effective
“IEDs are the biggest threat in this counter-insurgency, counter-terrorism operation,” says AMISOM Deputy Force Commander Major General Nakibus Lakara. “Al-Shabab has been able to leverage its expertise on IEDs to very, very devastating effect.”
2016 is set to be the worst year yet for IED attacks in Somalia, with more than 225 attacks so far, according to the Sahan Research Group.
In late August, blasts at two hotels in Mogadishu killed 22 people. Shortly after, a car bomb killed a senior Somali general and his bodyguards.
Though there are no exact numbers, hundreds are believed to have been killed form IED attacks in the last 12 months.
The bombs are getting bigger too, up to 80 kilograms compared to five or 10 kilograms just a few years ago, according to Major General Lakara.