Days after a drone strike, carried out by US forces, targeted al-Shabaab militants in the southern Somali town of Jilib, government officials have confirmed that three senior al-shabaab commanders, including an explosives expert, have been killed.
On Tuesday, one day after the attack, residents near the site of the strike reported three people dead in a vehicle, which had burst into flames shortly after the sound of an aircraft was heard overhead. The drone strike had targeted a Suzuki four-wheel-drive as it made its way along a road leading rom Barawe, the site of failed night-time assault that was mounted by US special forces earlier this month, to Jilib in southern Somalia.
Amongst those killed in Monday’s drone strike was Ibrahim Ali Abdi, also known as Anta-Anta. According to Somalia Interior Minister Abdikarin Hussein Guled, Somalia’s intelligence services had been tracking him for some time before the drone strike was carried out. During a government radio interview, the minister stated that “the operation in which this many had been killed was very important for the government. This man had a major role in the death of many innocent civilians and his death will help in brining back peace.” The two other men who were killed in the strike were Abdikarim Kibi-Kibi and Warsame Baale, deputy commanders of two al-Shabaab units that control large areas of southern Somalia.
Somalia’s government officials have described Abdi as being the head of al-Shabaab’s bomb-making division. He was well-known for making suicide bomber vests and preparing car bombs that had been used regularly by militants in order to attack government officials and African Union peacekeepers. According to the Prime Minister’s spokesman, who noted that the Somali government had welcomed the strike, “he was al-Shabaab’s chief suicide bomb-maker, he was responsible for numerous bomb attacks which claimed the lives of many Somalis,” adding that “it is a victory for the Somali people that such dangerous individuals should be taken out.” So far, there have been no comments released by al-Shabaab, however the death of a top bomb-maker will likely force the group to reconfigure its operations as they train new militants to take over the role.
While Somali’s Interior Minister did not specify who was behind the drone attack, on official in Washington confirmed that the US army was responsible. While the official did not indicate where the drone was launched from, the US army operates these devices from its bases located in neighboring Djibouti and Arba Minch, in southern Ethiopia. Furthermore, the fact that such an operation was authorized by US President Barack Obama, signifies that officials in Washington will likely now go after operatives even if they have not directly targeted American interests.
The latest strike to target Somalia comes weeks after an audacious attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, which was claimed by al-Shabaab and which killed sixty-seven people. The missile strike also follows a raid that was carried out by US Navy SEALs on the southern port city of Barawe in early October. That mission however failed to hit the alleged target, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a senior al-Shabaab militant leader who remains on the run.
The strike comes weeks after an audacious attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, which was claimed by al-Shabaab. It is also the missile strike also follows a raid that was carried out by US Navy SEALS on the southern port city of Barawe in early October. That mission failed to hit the alleged target, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a senior al-Shabaab militant leader.
According to residents, an air strike in southern Somalia has killed two senior al-Shabaab commanders. Meanwhile in Niger, a number of travellers are feared to have died of thirst while attempting to cross the Sahara on their way to Europe.
According to local residents, an air strike destroyed the vehicle of al-Shabaab militants who were travelling in between the towns of Jilib and Barawe, which is seen as a major base of al-Shabaab. A Kenyan military source has indicated that their troops raided Jilib however it is unlikely that they carried out the airstrike. Reports have indicated that the strike was probably a drone attack. Jilib is located some 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the port city of Kismayo. The air strike comes weeks after the US launched a failed raid in Barawe earlier this month. The US was believed o have sought to capture al-Shabaab commander Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir, also known as Ikrima, whoever US commands were forced to retreat after meeting heavy resistance. Ikrima is an al-Shabaab leader who is responsible for logistics. According to residents of Barawe, he is known to be usually accompanied by about twenty well-armed guards.
The US has previously carried out a number of air strikes in Somalia. In 2008, a US strike killed al-Shabaab commander Aden Hashi Ayro. One year later, another strike killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. He was accused of being involved in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi along with the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombasa.
Meanwhile in Niger, officials have stated that dozens of people traversing the Sahara desert, on their way to Europe, are feared to have died of thirst. According to the governor of Agadez, five bodies have been found while a further thirty-five are missing after a vehicle carrying the passengers broke down, forcing them to set off in order to seek help. The bodies found are of two women and three girls aged 9 – 11. The rest of the travellers consisted of “entire families, including very many children and women.”
Reports have indicated that after one vehicle broke down, passengers went to look for spare parts in order to bring them back for repairs. It is believed that the migrants broke up into small groups. Days later, the survivors, who reached Arlit, a town known for its uranium mining, alerted the army however the troops arrived too late at the scene. The authorities have called off the search for the missing. According to the mayor of Agadex, Rhissa Feltou, two vehicles had left the town of Arlit, which is located north of Agadez, earlier this month. They were carrying “at least” sixty migrants. The city of Agadez lies on one of the main migrant routes from West Africa to Europe.
Over the past month, hundreds of migrants have died after their boats sans as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
On Friday, officials in Kenya indicating that Somali refugee camps were being used as a safe haven for Islamist militants, adding that the time had come for hundreds of thousands of refugees to go home. According to the country’s Interior Minister, Joseph Ole Lenku, “for many years, Kenya has been host to the largest refugee community in the world, we are host to almost 600,000 refugees. We have welcomed, with open arms, refugees fleeing from insecurity in neighboring countries,” adding that “some of these refugees have abused our hospitality and kindness to plan and launch terror attacks from the safety of the refugee camps. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue.” In the wake of last months attack on the Westgate shopping centre, a number of Kenyan officials have pointed the finger at Dadaab, a Somali refugee camp located in the northeastern region of the country which is home to over 4000,000 people who have fled instability in neighboring Somalia. According to these officials, the refugee camp has turned into a “training ground” for Somali extremists. While the Interior Minister did not indicate that the camp should be immediately lose, he did state that Somalia was “now experiencing relative peace” and that Kenya was now “working closely with the government of Somalia and UNCHR to ensure that the repatriation process is as smooth and humane as possible.” Meanwhile the Interior Minister has also confirmed that fifteen immigration officers had been fired in connection with an ongoing tightening of national security after last month’s attack in Nairobi. According to the minister, fifteen officers were fired for issuing “Kenyan identity documents to illegal immigrants thereby endangering national security.” The minister also vowed a complete audit of all identity cards and passports issues in the last years in order to “flush out those who have been issued with illegal passports and other identification documents.”
Meanwhile on Thursday, authorities in Kenya pledged to boost security for the Nairobi marathon, which is due to take place this Sunday. According to Nairobi deputy police chief Moses Ombati, “we have taken this function very seriously, putting into consideration all the threats we have in the country right now,” adding that “we don’t want a repeat of what happened at Westgate, which took all of us by surprise.” According to the police chief, “we have enhanced security right along the 42 kilometer (26 mile) route, both from the air and on the ground, with restrictions at all the key points. There will also be screening of all the participants.” Over 20,000 local and international athletes are expected to take part in the annual marathon race through the streets of the capital. With security forces on high alert, Nairobi is still reeling from the four-day siege on the upmarket Westgate shopping mall.
One month after Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants stormed Kenya’s Westgate shopping centre, killing sixty-seven people during a four-day siege, the threat from the militant group, and local sympathizers, remains high as officials in Somalia and in the African Union (AU) look towards increasing troop numbers in a bid to completely destroy a group which has transformed itself into a regional threat.
Posters reading “if you haven’t learnt the lesson Westgate, more is coming,” which were posted up last week during rallies held in the southern Somali port of Barawe, an al-Shabaab stronghold, confirm what is already going on throughout the country. Over the past number of months, al-Shabaab has significantly increased its attacks, both within Somalia and near the border regions with Kenya and Ethiopia, both countries which have deployed troops to Somalia in order to combat the militant group. While these attacks will not stop any time soon, recent remarks made by commanders within the group have indicated that al-Shabaab may increasingly place pressure on those states that have deployed troops in Somalia in a bid to force their withdrawal.
While over the past two years, AMISOM forces throughout Somalia have dislodged al-Shabaab from a number of its strongholds, including from the capital city of Mogadishu and the surrounding regions, as well as from the southern port city of Kismayo, the militant group has continued to carry out assassinations of politicians and journalists along with a number of suicide bombings that have targeted troops and security officials. While most of the groups‘ previous attacks have typically been small in scale, al-Shabaab has carried out large scale attacks in Somalia and in the region, such as the June 2013 attack on a UN compound in Mogadishu or the 2010 bombings in Kampala which killed seventy-six people. However this more recent attack on the Nairobi mall has demonstrated a significant and worrying step up in al-Shabaab’s operations, with the group now seemingly increasingly concentrating on attacks that require longer periods of planning and surveillance. Uganda’s announcement last week that it had increased its security level in the capital city of Kampala, after officials from the US Embassy indicated that they had credible information of a possible terror attack linked to al-Shabaab, also signified that the terrorist group may now increasingly focus on targeting regional interests, especially in those countries which have deployed troops to battle the militant group in Somalia. This recent move may also signify that al-Shabaab is turning its focus from Somalia’s internal politics to a more global agenda, similar to al-Qaeda, which the group is aligned with.
The battle to defeat al-Shabaab will now likely have to concentrate not only within Somalia, but also throughout the wider region, including in the countries that have deployed their armies in Somalia, such as Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. While the AU force in Somalia has requested that its size be increased by a quarter, which will amount to 23,000 troops, preventing al-Shabaab from attaining territorial gains within Somalia will not eliminate the group entirely. A UN report recently indicated that “al-Shabaab continues to pose a regional and international threat through its affiliates,” noting that as AU troops have seized more territory throughout Somalia, there has been an “increasing exodus” of foreign fighters, some of whom left “with the intention of supporting jihad in the region.” Last week’s announcement that a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, 23-year-old Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, was suspected of being one of the attackers in the Westgate incident confirmed what United Nations experts have already noted. That dozens, if not hundreds, of young men from countries across the Horn of Africa travel to Somalia in order to train with al-Shabaab militants. In turn, it remains unknown whether the Westgate attackers were sent specifically from Somalia, or whether they were a “homegrown” team recruited within Kenya. Consequently increasingly focusing on fighters coming from Western or Arab nations, along with local sympathizers and groups aligned with al-Shabaab across eastern Africa, will be a necessary step in fighting the militant group.
Libyan Man Accused of Links to al-Qaeda Appears in Public for First Time Since Being Captured Ten Days AgoOctober 18, 2013 in Uncategorized
Ten days after being seized during a US raid in Tripoli, Abu Anas al-Libi, the alleged architect of al-Qaeda’s bombing of two US embassies in 1998, plead not guilty in a New York courtroom. If convicted, he faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
Appearing in public for the first time since being captured by US forces in Libya earlier this month, Abu Anas al-Libi, whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, appeared in a federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday. After spending a week aboard a US Navy ship in the Mediterranean, Mr. Al-Libi, 49, appeared exhausted and frail. Speaking Arabic through a translator, he asked to be addressed by his real name and confirmed that he understood that he had been accused of planning the August 1998 attacks. After denying a series of terrorism charges, that date back twenty years, Mr. Al-Libi entered a not guilty plea through his lawyer. Presiding Judge Lewis Kaplan has adjourned the hearing until 22 October, noting that the suspect must be kept in detention as a flight risk.
In the weeks since the 5 October mission, which simultaneously saw US Commandos attempt to track down a top al-Shabaab commander in Somalia, anger has been rising in Libya over the raid, with many viewing it as a breach of Libyan sovereignty. Although US Secretary of State John Kerry has defended the capture of Mr. Al-Libi, calling him a “legal and appropriate target,” the Libyan government has demanded a full explanation of the raid from the officials in the US. This resulted in Libya’s justice minister summoning the US ambassador to the country for questioning last week. In turn, Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has also voiced his concerns, noting that his country was “keen on prosecuting any Libyan citizen inside Libya.” Shortly after being captured, Mr. Al-Libi was taken to a US navy vessel in the Mediterranean. According to reports, Mr. Al-Libi was interrogated by intelligence officials on board the USS San Antonio for a period of a week after his capture. Court details have also indicated that Mr. Al-Libi was not formally arrested until a week after being seized. This has prompted critics in the US to accuse President Barack Obama of continuing controversial detention policies that had been introduced by former President George W. Bush.
Mr. Al-Libi was wanted in connection to the 7 August 1998 bombing of a US embassy in Nairobi and of America’s diplomatic mission in Dar es Salaam. The attacks were carried out when trucks laden with explosives detonated almost simultaneously. More than 200 people died in the Kenyan capital, with at least 11 dead in Dar es Salaam. Thousands others were injured in the bombings. The majority of the victims were civilians.
For the past decade, Mr. al-Libi has been on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a US $5 million (£3.1 million) bounty on his head. He was formally charged with conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim Americans, to damage and destroy US buildings and property, and to attack US national defence facilities. The charges against him also include discussing a possible al-Qaeda attack against the US embassy in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in retaliation for the American military intervention in Somalia. In a 157-page indictment, prosecutors allege that from 1993, he carried out surveillance on the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, where he took photographs that were later inspected by Osama bin Laden. The former computer programmer is also alleged to have “reviewed files” concerning possible attacks on Western interests in East Africa.
The second US command raid on 5 October was carried out in southern Somalia however that mission failed to capture its target – Abdukadir Mohamed Abudkadir, a Kenyan al-Shabaab commander who is also known as Ikrima. That raid came in the wake of the attack on the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, which left at least 67 people dead, and which was claimed by al-Shabaab militants.