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Somalia 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Africa > Kenya > Nairobi; Africa > Somalia; Africa > Somalia > Mogadishu

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Mission to Somalia does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MOGADISHU AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Somalia-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Pervasive and violent crime is an extension of the general state of insecurity in Somalia. Serious, brutal, and often fatal crimes are common. Kidnapping and robbery are particular problems in Mogadishu, other areas in the south, and in Galmuduug and Puntland.

Other Areas of Concern

U.S. citizens are urged to avoid sailing near the Somalia coast line, as attacks have occurred as far as 1,000 nautical miles off the coast. Merchant vessels, fishing boats, and recreational crafts all risk seizure by pirates and having their crews held for ransom in the waters off the Horn of Africa, especially in international waters near Somalia. The return of illegal foreign trawlers may force Somalia fishermen to take up piracy again. If transit around the Horn of Africa is necessary, it is strongly recommended that vessels travel in convoys, maintain good communications, and follow the guidance provided by the Maritime Security Center – Horn of Africa (MSC-HOA). Consult the Maritime Administration’s Horn of Africa Piracy page for information on maritime advisories, self-protection measures, and naval forces in the region.

While Somaliland has experienced a level of stability not present in other parts of Somalia, the Department of State’s Travel Warning continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Somalia, including the self-proclaimed “Independent Republic of Somaliland.” Travelers insisting on visiting Somaliland despite this warning should check current conditions in Somaliland before embarking on their journey. Terrorist attacks occurred against international relief workers, including Westerners, throughout Somalia and including Puntland and Somaliland. No area in Somalia should be considered immune from violence, and the potential exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against foreign nationals.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions and road safety standards do not meet Western standards. Traffic lights/signs are a rarity, and roads are not well-maintained. Additionally, little street lighting exists; therefore, driving at night can be especially dangerous. Vehicle accidents are common, as well as accidents involving pedestrians. Traffic enforcement is minimal.

There are few, if any, formal travel services or organizations that provide travel throughout the country. Kidnapping, bombings, murder, illegal roadblocks, banditry, use of indirect fire, and other violent incidents/threats to foreign nationals can occur in any region of Somalia.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The U.S. continues to be concerned about the risks to U.S. civil aviation operating in the territory and airspace of Somalia due to the hazards associated with terrorist and militant activity. There is no direct commercial air service to the U.S. by carriers registered in Somalia. U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of Somalia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has prohibited U.S. civil aviation from flying below flight level (FL) 260 in the territory and airspace of Somalia. For information regarding FAA flight prohibitions and advisories for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult the Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

  • On February 2, 2016, an airplane departing the Mogadishu International Airport (MIA) was targeted by an al-Shabaab operative using an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The mid-air detonation damaged the airplane and resulted in one fatality (the bomber) and two other injuries. The airplane landed safely at MIA. 

  • Terrorism Threat

    THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MOGADISHU AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

    Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

    Terrorist operatives and armed groups continue to attack Somali authorities, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and non-military targets. Foreigners should avoid places where large crowds gather and government officials frequent, including hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, and public buildings.

    Most of the country is under the Federal Government of Somalia, with the military support of AMISOM. However, al-Shabaab, an al-Qa’ida affiliate, has demonstrated the capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory with particular emphasis on targeting hotels frequented by government/local officials, government facilities, foreign delegations’ facilities and movements, and restaurants, coffee shops, and other commercial establishments frequented by government officials, foreign nationals, merchants, and the Somali diaspora. In addition, various Federal Government of Somalia facilities in Mogadishu and MIA, which house a majority of international aid workers and diplomatic facilities, are frequently targeted.

    Assassinations, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate armed attacks carried out by al-Shabaab in civilian populated areas are frequent in Somalia.

  • On July 26, 2016, and January 02, 2017, al-Shabaab conducted twin suicide car bombings against Hallam Base (MIA is within Hallam Base) at the Medina Gate. The attacks were unsuccessful in penetrating the security perimeter, but 30 civilians and soldiers were killed.

    Al-Shabaab remains intent on conducting attacks at popular restaurants, hotels, and foreign convoys. There have been at least eight recent prominent hotel and restaurant attacks located in the heart of Mogadishu.

  • On January 2, 2017, the Dayah hotel was attacked by al-Shabaab, using two car bombs and followed by six attackers, killing 20 civilians.
  • On February 16, 2016, an al-Shabaab suicide bomber breached the entrance of the SYL hotel in Mogadishu allowing gunmen to storm the hotel and clash with the hotel guards. Government forces arrived and ended the attack. Five militants, including the suicide bomber, and at least nine civilians were killed.
  • On January 21, 2016, al-Shabaab militants used a car bomb to attack a seafood restaurant overlooking Lido Beach.

Beyond the high-profile attacks noted above, al-Shabaab has also claimed responsibility for other regional terrorist attacks.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

Locally established courts operating under a combination of Somali customary and Islamic Sharia law may be hostile toward foreigners.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MOGADISHU AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Violent demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience are common. In addition, there is a particular threat to foreigners in places where large crowds gather, including hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, airports, and government buildings. Inter-clan and inter-factional fighting can flare up with little or no warning.

Post-specific Concerns

Drug-related Crimes

Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking illegal drugs in Somalia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Kidnapping Threat

Terrorist and criminal elements continue to target foreigners in Somalia. In recent cases of kidnappings of foreigners, the victims took precautionary measures by hiring local security personnel, but those hired to protect them may have played a role in the abductions. A strong familiarity with Somalia and/or extensive prior travel to the region does not reduce travel risk.

Police Response

Somali police are wholly understaffed, ill-equipped, do not receive training commensurate with U.S. or EU standards, and struggle to provide basic law enforcement services. Enforcement of criminal law is, therefore, haphazard to nonexistent.

Persons violating Somalia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. In some places, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport, if you take pictures of restricted locations, or if you drive under the influence of alcohol. The consistency of enforcement and subsequent criminal penalties vary dramatically. For more information, please review OSAC’s Reports, Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography and Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

If you are detained, immediately request a consular notification to the U.S. Mission to Somalia’s American Citizen Services, based out of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi:

American Citizen Services: +254 (20) 363-6000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + 254 (20) 363-6170

Police/Security Agencies

The Somalia National Police (SNP) is responsible for crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government of Somalia, including any activities in violation of the draft Constitution that may endanger the Constitutional order, public order, hooliganism, terrorism, trafficking in persons, and transferring of drugs.

Medical Emergencies

Medical facilities are extremely limited and nonexistent in the rural areas. Travelers should carry personal supplies of medications with them, as many of the health clinics lack doctors/nurses, carry sub-standard supplies, and many pharmacies stock ineffective/counterfeit medications. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.” Credit cards are not accepted for medical care, only cash (US dollar).

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

There is no contact information for recommended hospitals/clinics, air ambulance services, or international medevac companies based in Somalia.

Available Air Ambulance Services

The closest medevac company is based in Nairobi, Kenya with an average flight time of 2-4 hours from Mogadishu.

AMREF “Flying Doctors”

Wilson Airport

Langatta Road, P.O. 18617-00500, Nairobi, Kenya

Tel: +254 (20) 699-2000; 699 2299; +254 733639088; +254 722314239

Insurance Guidance

Serious illnesses/injuries require travelers to be medically evacuated where adequate medical attention is available. Such “medevac” services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. The average cost for medical evacuation ranges between $40,000 to $200,000 USD.

U.S. citizens considering travel to Somalia, including Somaliland and Puntland, are advised to obtain kidnap/recovery insurance and medical evacuation insurance prior to travel.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Travelers should use insect repellents containing either 20% DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535. Treating clothing and tents with permethrin and sleeping in screened or air conditioned rooms under insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets will help diminish bites from mosquitoes as well as ticks, fleas, chiggers, etc., some of which may also carry infections.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Somalia.

OSAC Country Council Information

There is currently an active Country Council in Mogadishu. Please contact the Regional Security Office via email if you are interested in private-sector engagement in Mogadishu or have questions about OSAC’s Country Council programs. Please contact OSAC’s Africa team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

U.S. Mission Somalia is based out of U.S. Embassy, Nairobi, Kenya

United Nations Avenue Nairobi

P. O. Box 606 Village Market

00621 Nairobi, Kenya

Business Hours: Mon-Thurs: 0730-1700; Fri: 0730-1230

Kenya is GMT +3

Embassy Contact Numbers

Telephone: +254 (20) 363-6000

Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + 254 (20) 363-6170

Fax: +254 (20) 363-6410

Email: NairobiPAS@state.gov

American Citizen Services: Kenya_ACS@state.gov

Telephone: +254 (20) 363-6000

Website: https://ke.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

There is no U.S. Embassy or diplomatic presence in Somalia, including Somaliland, so the U.S. government is limited in its ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in Somalia. Regular services are available at U.S. Embassies Nairobi, Addis Ababa, or Djibouti.

U.S. citizens living or traveling in Sudan should register their presence in the country through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). By registering, U. S. citizens will be included in the Embassy’s warden e-mail message distribution list.

Both Somaliland and Puntland require a visa and issue their own at their respective ports of entry. For travel to other parts of Somalia, including Mogadishu, a passport and visa are required. Visas are issued at certain Somali embassies, including in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Nairobi, Kenya, and single-entry seven-day validity visas are available for U.S. citizens on arrival at Mogadishu for US$50. Air and seaports are under the control of local authorities that make varying determinations of what is required of travelers who attempt to use these ports of entry.

Travelers may obtain the latest information on visas as well as any additional details regarding entry requirements from the Permanent Representative of the Somali Republic to the United Nations, tel: 1-212- 688-9410/5046; fax 1-212-759-0651; email Somalia@un.int, located at 425 East 61st Street, Suite 702, New York, NY 10021. Persons outside the U.S. may attempt to contact the nearest Somali Embassy or consulate. All such establishments, are affiliated with the central government, whose authority is not established throughout all of Somalia.

Additional Resources

Somalia Country Information Sheet