Somalia-based terrorist group Al-Shabaab has overtaken Nigeria's Boko Haram as Africa's deadliest militant group, according to new figures from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).
The data, compiled by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, showed that Al-Shabaab was responsible for 4,281 casualties in 2016, compared to 3,499 by Boko Haram. The third group on the list was the Islamic State militant group, which was responsible for 2,350 deaths that year, Africa News reported.
Al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, is largely operational in Somalia with some incursions in neighboring Kenya.
The group was responsible for the attack that killed nearly 150 students in Kenya's Garissa University College in April 2015. In 2013, Al-Shabaab militants carried out a three-day siege, killing 67 people, at a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Last year, The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) declared Al-Shabaab as a transnational security threat in the East Africa region.
The Somali National Army is leading the fight against the insurgent group with support from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) and Ethiopian troops.
AMISOM has been able to push Al-Shabaab out of urban areas and into the countryside in recent years, while U.S. drone strikes have managed to kill senior leaders, including the former Al-Shabab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane, who formalized the group's ties with Al-Qaeda.
However, Al-Shabaab has ramped up its attacks across Somalia over the past year, and it has carried out several major raids on AMISOM bases.
In January 2016, the group attacked the El Adde base, where almost 150 Kenyan soldiers were killed. The militants have regularly carried out suicide bombings in and around government buildings and hotels, and a gun attack was recently launched by the terror group on a popular beach, according to Newsweek.
Boko Haram, which has been named as the deadliest group in Africa until 2014, has suffered some defeats from the Nigerian military over the recent months.
The Nigerian-based insurgent group has a split leadership, with long serving Abubakar Shekau leading one part and Abu Musah Al Barnawi leading the other part. In contrast, Al-Shabaab is led by Abu Ubaidah, who has a US$6 million bounty on his head.
Despite the escalation of Al-Shabaab's operations, Boko Haram historically remains the most dangerous group based on the number of casualties between 2010 and 2016. According to the ACLED data, Boko Haram has killed 29,360 people during the period, while Al-Shabaab has killed 18,070 people.