In September 2014, a US drone strike killed Al-Shabaab’s most influential leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane. The immediate assumption was that Godane’s death would weaken the group and reduce its capacity to carry out further terrorist activities.
Al-Shabaab, which is Arabic for “the youth”, is the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group that seeks to create an Islamic emirate in Somalia. The killing of its longest-ruling leader was thought significant enough to cause disarray and eventual collapse. Indeed, the White House touted it as “a major symbolic and operational loss” for the group.
What followed, however, was confounding. Al-Shabaab quickly replaced its fallen leader, and conducted more suicide-bombings than ever before. From Godane’s death to September 2017, the group carried out 91 suicide bombings. This was an almost doubling of its attacks.