European Institute of Peace

The Islamic State in East Africa


The slogan of the Islamic State is remaining and expanding (baqiya wa tatamadad), and at the end of July 2018, the Islamic State in East Africa could claim to be doing both; not in any dramatic way, but sufficiently to be taken seriously by other violent extremist groups, and by government officials. From an unpromising start in 2015, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) had survived an onslaught by its far more powerful rival, al Shabaab, and had established a secure base in Puntland. Furthermore, towards the end of 2017 and into 2018, it had begun to show operational capacity in Mogadishu, challenging the dominance of al Shabaab in the key battleground against the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS).

However, the future trajectory of ISS remains uncertain, and much depends on when and if it becomes capable of mounting major, attention-grabbing attacks in Mogadishu or outside Somalia, and leveraging them to gain more support.