Al-Shahbab militants have stepped up anti-aircraft attacks in the Bay area of Somalia close to the Ethiopian and Kenyan borders. The latest attack on a transport aircraft on approach to Diinsoor Airport was reported on Saturday.
The aircraft was not damaged and there were no casualties. This is the second such attack in that region in the past three days. The first was on New Year’s Day, and again there was no damage and the aircraft was able to make an emergency diversion to Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu.
The step-up in attacks follow the early December announcement of the US military withdrawal of combat forces in Somalia due to take placein the coming months.
Poor provisions of security through porous borders and an influx of weapons has facilitated a resurgence in Al-Shahbab activity in recent years. EASA along with the US, UK, French and German civil aviation authorities have each issued stringent guidance to operators regarding the persistent threat to flight operations within Somalia below FL260 due to the enduring conflict zone environment.
According to aviation security analysts Osprey, it is now understood that militants in Somalia possess MANPADS capable below FL260 in limited numbers. International media reporting from March 2020 indicates that al-Shabab had attempted to acquire Chinese-made MANPADS of unspecified variant. Russian-made 9K38 Igla (SA-18 GROUSE) MANPADS were recovered in a weapons cache in Somaliland on 9 November 2010. Al-Shabab employed an SA-18 MANPADS to shoot down a Belorussian cargo aircraft on departure from Mogadishu Airport in March 2007.
Osprey reported that aerial operations by US as well as AMISOM forces in Somalia increase the likelihood of attempted surface-to-air fire engagements targeting military-grade air assets below FL260, as well as armed attacks against fortified installations with aviation infrastructure, as a means of retaliation against the Somali and/or foreign governments.