Kenya Launches Search and Rescue Operation in Somalia in Wake of Al-Shabaab Attack on Military BaseJanuary 19, 2016 in Kenya, Somalia
Kenya has said that a search and rescue operation is underway in neighbouring Somalia as al-Shabaab militants claimed to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers in Friday’s attack on an African Union (AU) base.
The base in southwestern Somalia was attacked by al-Shabaab fighters early Friday morning. On Sunday, military chief Samson Mwathethe told reporters in the capital Nairobi that “we embarked on a search, rescue and recovery operation as a priority,” adding, “our troops are engaging the terrorists.” While Kenyan officials have so far declined to say how many of its soldiers were killed, injured or missing in the attack, on Sunday, al-Shabaab indicated in a statement that more than 100 Kenyan soldiers were killed and others captured. In the statement, it said, “Mujahideen fighters…stormed the Kenyan base in the early hours of Friday morning, killing more than 100 Kenyan invaders, seizing their weapons and military vehicles and even capturing Kenyan soldiers alive.” Jihadist websites in Somalia are claiming that 12 Kenyan soldiers were captured. At the time of the attack, a company of around 150 Kenyan soldiers was stationed at the El-Adde base. On Sunday, four injured soldiers were returned to Nairobi.
The pre-dawn attack on the Kenyan base in Somalia’s Gedo region was at least the third major assault on isolated AU bases in the last year. In September, al-Shabaab fighters stormed a Ugandan AMISOM base in Janale district, which is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region. In June, al-Shabaab militants killed dozens of Burundian soldiers when they overran an AMISOM outpost northwest of Mogadishu.
Two American Jihadists Arrested in SomaliaDecember 9, 2015 in Somalia
The US State Department has revealed that an American resident, a Minnesota man named Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia more than seven years ago, surrendered to Somalia’s federal government on 6 November. This report comes just a day after an African Union official confirmed that another American was arrested in Somalia.
It is not immediately clear why Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan’s arrest was not announced earlier. Hassan was a lawful permanent resident of the US but not an American citizen. He had been fighting with al-Shabaab however recently went online to urge others to carry out violence on behalf of IS. A State Department spokeswoman has disclosed that Hassan is in the custody of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency in Mogadishu, adding that the US is discussing the case with the Somali Federal Government. The spokeswoman noted that Washington does not have an extradition agreement with Somalia.
On Monday 7 December, Somali security forces arrested an American who was fighting with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab. According to African Union (AU) spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna, Abdimalik Jones, who has said that he is from San Diego, was arrested in the southern port of Barawe, which is located southwest of Mogadishu. An official with Somali security forces has reported that Jones claimed that he fled al-Shabaab because of rifts within the rebel group, adding that he fled following his decision to pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda’s main rival, the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. An official has disclosed that Jones is missing the index finger of his right hand and that he does not speak any Somali, adding that he had been fighting with the al-Qaeda-linked group for several years in Somalia. Reports have indicated that he admitted to taking part in the attack at Garissa university in neighboring Kenya earlier this year, which left nearly 150 people dead. The arrest of an American comes amidst signs of increasing tensions within al-Shabaab between Somali and foreign fighters over whether the insurgents should remain aligned with al-Qaeda or should switch allegiance to IS.
The defections of two fighters, an American who was arrested earlier this week and the US resident, highlight tensions within al-Shabaab, with analysts indicating that the tensions are over whether the militant group should remain affiliated to al-Qaeda or whether it should switch allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. According to sources, foreign fighters are being alienated and feel trapped in Somalia over suspicions that they are plotting to switch allegiance to IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq. Sources have further reported that the “ambitions” by some foreign fighters within al-Shabaab to join IS have led to them being isolated within the group, with some even facing death at the hands of their comrades-in-arms. Late last month, al-Shabaab’s leadership declared that fighters acting in contravention with the mainstream stand to be aligned with al-Qaeda would represent “Bid’ah,” or misguidance, which would lead to them being killed.
The arrests of the two Americans comes as the Pentagon confirmed that a top al-Shabaab military commander was killed in a US airstrike on 2 December.
According to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, Abdirhaman Sandhere, also known as ‘Ukash,” was heavily involved in operations in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region and was killed in the village of Kunyo Barrow, which is located near the capital Mogadishu. Davis has disclosed that “’Ukash’s removal from the battlefield is a significant blow to al-Shabaab and reflects the painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals,” adding, “this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabaab, and the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military – to dismantle al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups who threaten United States interests and persons.”
Al-Shabaab Warns Against Shifting Allegiance to ISNovember 26, 2015 in Somalia
Al-Shabaab insurgents have warned that they will “cut the throat” of members who shift allegiance from al-Qaeda to the so-called Islamic State (IS). The news emerges amidst reports that some factions have already been punished for doing so.
On Monday, in a radio broadcast, top al-Shabaab official Abu Abdalla stated that, “if anyone says he belongs to another Islamic movement, kill him on the spot,” adding, “we will cut the throat of any one…if they undermine unity.” Al-Shabaab, which has been a long-time branch of al-Qaeda in East Africa, is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu. While the insurgents have lost much ground in recent years, they continue to be a threat in both Somalia and neighboring Kenya, where they have carried out a series of deadly attacks.
Reports of divisions within al-Shabaab come at a time when IS in Iraq and Syria has become what many see as being the jihadist franchise of choice. It has attracted fighters from abroad as well as the allegiance of other militant groups, such as Boko Haram, which operates in northeastern Nigeria. However recently, al-Qaeda expanded its territory in Yemen, which is located just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, and has proven that the group continues to have the capabilities to carry out deadly attacks despite, to a certain degree, being overshadowed by IS. Sources have reported that while a handful of al-Shabaab factions have switched allegiance from al-Qaeda to IS, the shift has failed to gain momentum. Furthermore, pro-IS groups have been attacked and their leaders assassinated as al-Shabaab emir and al-Qaeda loyalist Ahmed Diriye seeks to shore up his control. Last month, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud disclosed that “the now-public dispute” within al-Shabaab demonstrated that the group had “lost its way.” On Monday however, top al-Shabaab official Abdalla maintained that the insurgent group remained united, stating, “the world wanted us to be divided…This is a collective decision and anybody who wants to join another Islamic group must leave the country to meet them where they are,” adding, “I swear by the name of God we will not tolerate the acts of saboteurs.”
Somali Pirates Hijack Iranian VesselNovember 24, 2015 in Piracy, Somalia
According to a Somali official and a maritime expert, Somali pirates have hijacked an Iranian fishing vessel with fifteen crew members on board. The hijacking comes midst warnings that piracy in the Indian Ocean region may be making a comeback.
Abdirizak Mohamed Dirir, director of the anti-piracy and seaport ministry in Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in Somalia, has disclosed that “pirates hijacked an Iranian-flagged fishing vessel with its 15 crew from near Eyl,” a city located in northern Somalia. John Steed, East African region manager for Oceans Beyond Piracy, has also confirmed the hijacking, adding that the vessel is called Muhammidi.
While there are still occasional cases of sea attacks, piracy near Somalia’s coast has largely subsided in the past three years. This is mainly due to shipping firms hiring private security details coupled with the presence of international warships.
Al-Shabaab Targets Soldiers in Southern SomaliaNovember 3, 2015 in Somalia
Al-Shabaab militants have reported that they ambushed a group of military trainees on Monday in a region located southwest of the capital of Mogadishu.
According to the militants, they killed thirty of the military trainees, however the claim has not been independently confirmed. While a Somali military officer did confirm that the ambush occurred, he disclosed that fighting was still on going and that no death toll was immediately available. Ahmed Ibrahim has indicated that “we understand al-Shabaab ambushed the Somali military commando trainees and captured two military pickup trucks,” adding, “it is too early to k now what the casualties are because fighting is still going on in the jungle.” Meanwhile al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, has reported that his group killed thirty commando trainees and seized four military trucks.
The ambush comes just a day after at least thirteen people were killed after al-Shabaab insurgents stormed a hotel in the capital city, where government officials and lawmakers stay.