Shabaab becoming deadlier, UN boss says

Residents walk through rubble following an attack outside a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on January 25, 2017. AFP PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB
Residents walk through rubble following an attack outside a hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, on January 25, 2017. AFP PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB 

Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab has stepped up attacks in recent months, demonstrating its "resilience and adaptability" despite internal squabbles and fracturing, the United Nations chief says in a new report.

A total of 134 civilian deaths and 200 injuries were attributed to the terrorists or "unidentified persons" in the first four months of this year, a 47 per cent increase from the same period last year, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council on Friday.

Somali security forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) accounted for a combined total of 74 civilian deaths during the past four months, the UN leader added.

Al-Shabaab is also reported to have killed more than 30 Kenyan troops in a January 27 complex attack on a military base near Kulbiyow in Somalia's Lower Juba region.

"The exact figure remains unknown," Mr Guterres states without offering a reason for the uncertainty.

Attack against KDF "most serious" so far

That incident is described in the report as the most serious in a series of frequent Shabaab attacks on Amisom and Somali troops in rural sections of central and southern Somalia.

"Al-Shabaab remains a potent threat," the secretary-general observes.

"The group’s tactical evolution and growing level of sophistication in its execution of complex terrorist operations in urban and rural settings are a testament to that."

Mr Guterres also cited the need to provide Amisom with predictable support in order to increase its effectiveness and facilitate its joint operations.

He points out that 95 per cent of Amisom's estimated 21,000 troops have not been vaccinated against cholera, even though an outbreak of the potentially fatal disease is underway in some of the areas its personnel are stationed.

The UN boss's report includes an optimistic assessment of political developments in Somalia.

The peaceful election of a new president is viewed as the high point in "a sequence of remarkable events which gives the people of Somalia and the international community considerable hope for the future of the country."

"Somalia now has a new federal government that has been welcomed across clan lines," the report states.

The report adds that "the humanitarian situation remains deeply worrying and could become worse still. It has the potential to derail political developments and the legitimacy, in the eyes of the public, of federal and state institutions and office holders."

More than six million Somalis -- half the population -- remain in urgent need of food aid, the report notes.

The threat of famine continues despite large infusions of aid by donor nations and charitable groups, Mr Guterres warns.