Tag Archive: al-Shabab of Somalia

January 15, 2019

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Extremists launched a deadly attack on a luxury hotel in Kenya’s capital Tuesday, sending people fleeing in panic as explosions and heavy gunfire reverberated through the complex. A witness said he saw five bodies at the hotel entrance alone.

Al-Shabab — the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group that carried out the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead — claimed responsibility. “It is terrible. What I have seen is terrible,” said Charles Njenga, who ran from the bloody, glass-strewn scene.

The coordinated assault began with an explosion that targeted three vehicles outside a bank, and a suicide bombing in the hotel lobby that severely wounded a number of guests, said Kenya’s national police chief, Joseph Boinnet.

Authorities sent special forces into the hotel to flush out the gunmen believed holed up inside. Well after nightfall, more than five hours after the attack began, Boinnet said the counter-operation was still going on.

It was not clear how many attackers laid siege to the complex, which includes the DusitD2 hotel, along with bars, restaurants, banks and offices and is in a well-to-do neighborhood with large numbers of American, European and Indian expatriates.

Boinnet did not disclose the number of dead. However, a Kenyan police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media said that bodies were seen in restaurants downstairs and in offices upstairs, but “there was no time to count the dead.”

Also, a witness who gave his name only as Ken said he saw five bodies at the entrance. He said that other people were shouting for help and “when we rushed back to try to rescue them, gunshots started coming from upstairs, and we had to duck because they were targeting us and we could see two guys shooting.”

Kenyan hospitals appealed for blood donations even as the number of wounded remained unclear. Associated Press video from inside the hotel showed Kenyan security officers anxiously searching the building and scared workers emerging from hiding while gunfire could still be heard. Some women climbed out of windows. One man got up from the floor where he appeared to be trying to hide under a piece of wood paneling, then showed his ID badge.

As officers searched luxury fashion displays, wounded people were carried away on stretchers. Like al-Shabab’s Westgate Mall attack, this one appeared aimed at wealthy Kenyans and foreigners living in the country. It came a day after a magistrate ruled that three men must stand trial in connection with the Westgate Mall siege. A fourth suspect was freed for lack of evidence.

Al-Shabab has vowed retribution against Kenya for sending troops to Somalia since 2011. The al-Qaida-linked group has killed hundreds of people in Kenya, which has been targeted more than any other of the six countries providing troops to an African Union force in Somalia.

In the Westgate Mall massacre, al-Shabab extremists burst into the luxury shopping center, hurling grenades and starting a dayslong siege. In 2015, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on Kenya’s Garissa University that killed 147 people, mostly students. Tuesday’s violence also came three years to the day after al-Shabab extremists attacked a Kenyan military base in Somalia, killing scores of people.

Gunfire could be heard for hours after Tuesday’s attack began. Several vehicles burned, sending black smoke rising over the complex. Some people ducked behind cars, screaming, while others took cover behind fountains and other features at the lush complex.

Ambulances, security forces and firefighters converged along with a bomb disposal unit, and vehicles were cordoned off for fear they contained explosives. Police said they blew up a car that had explosives inside. An unexploded grenade was also seen in a hallway at the complex.

Security forces hurried out a large group of women, one of them still in curlers. Dozens of others were rushed to safety as plainclothes officers went shop to shop in the complex. Some people held up their hands to show they were unarmed.

A Kenyan intelligence official said the country had been on high alert since November, with information about potential attacks on high-profile targets in Nairobi. The official was not authorized to talk to the media and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A Somali diplomat who likewise spoke on condition of anonymity said Somali officials were in the hotel for meetings at the time of the attack and several were feared to still be inside. Despite the years of bloodshed, the Kenya-Somalia border remains porous, with al-Shabab extremists able to easily bribe their way across, according to a U.N. panel of experts.

The hotel complex in Nairobi’s Westlands neighborhood is about a mile (2 kilometers) from Westgate Mall on a relatively quiet, tree-lined road in what is considered one of the most secure parts of the city. The hotel’s website says it is “cocooned away from the hustle and bustle in a secure and peaceful haven.”

On Monday, the hotel promoted its spa by tweeting: “Is your new year off to a rough start?”

Associated Press writer Abdi Guled in Nairobi contributed.

Thu Dec 25, 2014

At least five al-Shabab militants have reportedly been killed after attacking a military base belonging to the African Union (AU) mission in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Colonel Ali Aden Houmed, spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said on Thursday that the militants launched an attack on the Halane military base, Somalia’s largest base for AU troops, in Mogadishu.

The AU official said at least eight militants stormed the base, adding that three of them were shot dead, while two others detonated their explosives and died near a fuel depot.

Three others were also believed to have fled the scene of the attack.

The al-Shabab militant group has claimed responsibility for the assault, saying it was targeting a Christmas party at the base near the capital’s airport, which also houses UN offices.

Witnesses said the attack prompted a heavy exchange of fire between the AU forces and the militants.

The Somali government and the African Union forces have stepped up safety measures in an effort to prevent assaults by al-Shabab, which was pushed out of Mogadishu by the African Union troops in 2011.

However, the group still holds several smaller towns and areas in the center and south of the country.

Somalia has been the scene of clashes between government forces and al-Shabab since 1991.

The country did not have an effective central government until September 2012, when lawmakers elected Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new president.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://edition.presstv.ir/detail/391808.html.

8 October 2014

By Berouk Mesfin

Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of Somali militant Islamist group Harakat Al Shabab Al Mujahidin – commonly known as al-Shabaab – was killed by an American airstrike on 1 September. Godane took over leadership of the group in 2008 after his predecessor, Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed by a similar airstrike.

Godane tightened his grip by effectively eliminating his rivals in June 2013. These rivals had alleged that Godane had favored members of his own Isaaq clan, and that al-Shabaab was undermined by his one-man rule.

A harsh and uncompromising figure, Godane had rejected any negotiations with the Somali government and forced the allegiance of al-Shabaab to al-Qaeda in September 2009.

Godane had also overseen a number of attacks outside Somalia’s borders, including a bombing in the Djiboutian capital in 2014, the attack on Westgate Mall in the Kenyan capital in 2013 and a bombing in the Ugandan capital in 2010.

Under Godane’s leadership, al-Shabaab suffered repeated military setbacks following offensives on its bases and sanctuaries by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). It was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and subsequently also from large parts of south-central Somalia. The loss of the lucrative port of Kisimayo in 2012 was a particularly severe blow, because it had provided al-Shabaab with an income of US$1 million a month.

The group had also become organizationally weakened. Godane’s period of leadership saw a continuous struggle for power between moderate and more militant leaders, who had their own networks of fighters and supporters. Different parts of the group hold different views regarding their relationship with al-Qaeda, the role of foreign fighters, civilian casualties and the group’s ideological and strategic direction.

It is against the backdrop of these internal divisions that Godane was replaced by Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeid, who was born in Ethiopia. Although a junior in terms of the group’s power structure, Abu Ubeid was a protégé of Godane and appears to have shared his aspirations. He may thus have enjoyed Godane’s approval as a possible successor.

Yet, he has neither his predecessor’s jihadist credentials, nor the strong clan support that some of his current rivals enjoy. For this reason, he is said to have convened an urgent meeting and relieved key commanders of their responsibilities, replacing them with more trusted individuals.

Ideologically, Abu Ubeid will probably not effect a major shift in al-Shabaab’s relations with the Somali government and al-Qaeda. But his new role begs some important questions. Does he have the necessary stature and resolve to assert the same tight grip that Godane had maintained over the group? Will he be able to unite divergent loyalties and forge them into a unified group, focusing on common enemies rather than internal divisions?

Beyond these questions, it remains that Godane’s killing had dealt a major blow to the group. It deprived al-Shabaab not only of its most prominent ideological figurehead, but also of an efficient organizer who had a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. It also demonstrated that al-Shabaab was unable to protect its senior leadership.

Ultimately, his death will temporarily undermine the morale of his many fanatical followers who have threatened attacks to avenge his death. Thus, in the short term, there could be retaliatory attacks. In the long term, however, al-Shabaab will remain a major and actual threat in the Horn of Africa, where domestic radicalization has risen. It may eventually overcome its present difficulties, and carry out more frequent and sophisticated attacks both inside and outside Somalia.

Godane’s death will definitely not bring about the end of al-Shabaab. The group will continue to exist, as it is sufficiently entrenched. Godane’s passing will likely also increase his followers’ resolve in fighting to the death. Having embraced a cult of death and martyrdom in line with jihadist ideology, al-Shabaab will survive beyond Ayro and Godane – who are seen to have died a martyr’s death.

The killing of the group’s leader will subsequently cause greater damage psychologically than operationally. Indeed, al-Shabaab’s capacity to plan, finance and carry out attacks will not be completely diminished in the near term. The day-to-day mission on the ground may not be significantly altered, and plans for attacks that have already been set in motion may not be disrupted that easily.

The group will remain a very flexible organisation operating in regional commands and multiple, disparate cells. It will retain its approximately 1 000-strong group of committed core fighters.

However, they will continue to be poorly structured, armed and supplied, while being led by field commanders who have neither extensive military knowledge nor long combat experience. For these reasons, al-Shabaab will likely avoid committing forces to direct combat with the vastly superior AMISOM troops.

Yet, al-Shabaab will still have thousands of active supporters willing to offer safe houses and locations for weapon caches. It will also continue to recruit foreign-born Somali and non-Somali individuals from Yemen, Kenya, the United States and Europe, who will serve as fighters, emissaries, financiers and suppliers of weapons.

Even if it loses control over south-central Somalia, al-Shabaab will launch suicide and roadside bombings on AMISOM and Somali government installations in Mogadishu and other towns. It will also carry out targeted killings of military and police officers, religious leaders, prominent businessmen and journalists.

The group will still tax businesses operating in areas under its control and engage in khat drug smuggling. The Somali diaspora in the United States, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the United Arab Emirates will also continue to collect funds and pass them on to al-Shabaab through money-wiring companies.

Finally and most significantly, al-Shabaab will continue to rely heavily on the Amniyat, its much-feared intelligence-gathering unit, which receives the biggest allocation of its funds.

This secret unit, made up of hardcore Godane loyalists, will continue to receive preferential treatment from Abu Ubeid, who has served as its coordinator. It will also continue to obtain timely intelligence from agents who infiltrate deep into the Somali government.

Source: allAfrica.

Link: http://allafrica.com/stories/201410101157.html?viewall=1.


MOGADISHU – Somali military commanders Monday celebrated the capture of the last major port held by Islamist Shebab insurgents, as the government secured control of the town for the first time in over two decades.

“Al-Shebab are no longer in Barawe,” military commander Abdirisak Khalif Elmi told hundreds of residents Monday, calling on citizens to support the government.

Tanks and armored vehicles patrolled the town Monday, after the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab retreated late last week ahead of the advance.

The capture of Barawe, with troops entering Sunday but with mopping up operations continuing, removes a key source of revenue for the Islamist militia.

The African Union’s AMISOM force, which draws 22,000 soldiers from six nations, said Barawe, 200 kilometers (120 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, fell without “much resistance from the terrorist group.”

“Barawe is now under the control of SNA (Somali National Army) supported by AMISOM forces — the first time in 23 years, Barawe is under Somali government control,” AMISOM said Monday.

The fall of Barawe is a major blow for the insurgents, and came just a month after the death of their leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in a US air and drone strike.

“Somalia is waking to a brighter future,” UN special representative in Somalia Nick Kay said, in a congratulatory message to government and AU forces.

While some troops conducted house-to-house searches for weapons, the main body of soldiers were setting up bases just outside the town, local governor Abdukadir Mohamed Nur said.

“Operations to ensure security are ongoing,” Nur added.

Residents reported the Indian Ocean port was quiet, beyond soldiers firing into the air in celebration.

“Tanks and other armed vehicles entered this morning and houses have been searched, they were targeting some houses where Al-Shebab commanders lived,” said Ali Nurow, a resident.

“The situation is calm and there is no fighting — except heavy fire into the air by Somali and AMISOM troops when they have re-entered the town,” said Isak Mohamed, another resident.

The Shebab exported charcoal through Barawe to Gulf countries, earning at least $25 million (19 million euros) a year from the trade according to UN estimates.

The Shebab have vowed to avenge their leader’s death and to continue their fight to topple the country’s internationally-backed government.

On Saturday, a Shebab commander, Mohamed Abu Abdallah, said the militia would continue to stage attacks.

“The fighting will continue and we will turn the town into graveyards of the enemy,” he said, quoted by a pro-Shebab website.

The strike against Shebab leader Godane — one of the world’s eight top terror fugitives — came days after the AU and Somali troops launched a major offensive, “Operation Indian Ocean”, against the insurgents on several fronts.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=68340.

Wed Sep 14, 2011

Somalia’s anti-government al-Shabab group has denied any involvement in the abduction of a British woman from a luxury beach resort in Kenya, Press TV reports.

A senior al-Shabab official in Kismayo, 200 km (120 miles) north of the Kenyan border, told Press TV on Wednesday that the Briton, 56-year-old Judith Tebbutt, had been brought to the Somali port city. He also dismissed reports that al-Shabab had any links with her kidnapping.

“We have credible information that the (British) woman is held in Kismayo but we are not responsible,” the al-Shabab official said on condition of anonymity.

“Hopefully we will find out who is responsible and issue official statement on the matter,” he added.

Unidentified gunmen raided the remote Kiwayu Safari Village, Kenya, in the early hours of Sunday, shooting dead publishing executive David Tebbutt, 58, and taking hostage his wife Judith before escaping by boat.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament on Wednesday that he had chaired a crisis meeting on the kidnapping.

“We are doing everything we possibly can on this desperately tragic case,” he said on Wednesday.

“The Foreign Secretary (William Hague) has met with the family today. I think on some of these cases it is not right to air all of these issues in public but I can reassure … the Tebbutt family (that) we will do everything possible to help, ” Cameron added.

Concern has been growing for Judith Tebbutt, who is believed to be deaf and wear a double hearing aid.

Police in Kenya say they have arrested a man suspected of aiding the gunmen. He is believed to have information about the person, who organized the kidnapping.

Source: PressTV.
Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/199134.html.