Tag Archives: Somalia

Somalia – Al Shabab retakes Merca port


members of Somalia"s al-Shabab jihadist movement seen during exercises at their military training camp outside Mogadishu in 2008AP Al-Shabab went into the town soon after African Union forces retreated

Islamist militant group al-Shabab has taken control of the port city Merca, residents say.

Merca, some 70km (45 miles) south-west of Mogadishu, is now the biggest town under al-Shabab control.

African Union forces who had held the port city for three-and-a-half years withdrew earlier on Friday morning.

The loss is a major setback for the African Union force (Amisom) in its decade-long battle against al-Shabab, the BBC’s Tomi Oladipo says.

The governor of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region Ibrahim Adam told the AFP news agency that al-Shabab secured control without fighting.

“Amisom forces moved out at midday and the local administration and all other Somali security forces left a few minutes later – and then heavily armed al-Shabab militants entered the town,” local resident Ibrahim Mumin told AFP.

“They have been addressing residents at the district headquarters,” he added.

Another resident, Mohamed Sabriye, told AP news agency that al-Shabab fighters had hoisted their flag over the city’s police station and administrative headquarters.

The withdrawal from Merca comes three weeks after al-Shabab overran an African Union military base outside the southern Somali town of el-Ade, saying they had killed about 100 Kenyans soldiers.

Kenya has not said how many of its troops died.

Al-Shabab was ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011, but still has a presence in large areas of southern Somalia and often stages attacks across the country.

Grey line

Analysis: BBC Monitoring Africa Security Correspondent Tomi Oladipo

Map of SomaliaImage copyrightUPDATED SEPTEMBER 2015

While the retreat is not happening in battle, it’s clear that the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) is having problems securing the region.

Sources within the mission say this is a tactical move. The problem, however, is that as soon as these troops leave, al-Shabab militants are swiftly replacing them.

It’s no doubt a major setback for the regional forces, seeing as they would have to fight their battles afresh to regain these regions.

In January, Kenyan troops withdrew from other parts of southern Somalia after they suffered heavy losses in an an attack on their base in el-Ade.

As al-Shabab fills the void, it will be looking to win the support of the communities – something the regional coalition has failed to do.

And that would be disastrous overall for the regional efforts to bring peace to Somalia. The nations contributing to Amisom are expected to meet in Djibouti later this month to review their campaign.

Somalia – car bomb explodes at Lido Beach restaurant


A car bomb has exploded outside a seafront restaurant in the Somali capital Mogadishu, police say.

Witnesses told the BBC’s Ibrahim Aden that the explosives-laden car rammed a restaurant at the popular Lido Beach. Five gunmen then opened fire.

It is not clear if there have been casualties.

No group has yet said it carried out the attack, but suspicion will fall on al-Shabab which has carried out similar bombings in the past.

Lido Beach, on the northern edge of Mogadishu, attracts thousands of mostly young Somalis looking to relax and enjoy the beach and the surf.

Several restaurants, which people tend to sit out in front of, have opened up along the beach front in recent years.

The vehicle rammed the entrance to one of the restaurants at about 19:30 local time (16:30 GMT). Up to five gunmen then approached from a different direction, shooting at those relaxing on the beach.

Our reporter says a police operation there is continuing.

Somalia – Kenya launches air strikes after attack on AU base

Shabelle New network/allAfrica

Kenyan air force launched an aerial bombardment against Al Shabaab strongholds in Gedo region, hours after heavily armed militants stormed KDF base in El Adde area early on Friday.

Reports reaching us from Garbaharey town indicate Kenya military carry out the airstrikes targeting Al-Shabaab, but in a retaliation for the deadly attack on their El Adde base by the Al Qaeda-linked militants.

The attack claimed the lives of 63 KDF soldiers, according to Al Shabaab spokesman.

It was not possible to determine the number of casualties as a result of the airstrikes in El-adde by Kenyan military.

Somalia – AMISOM offensive puts pressure on Al Shabab

Daily Nation

He said the split means they are moving in smaller groups which are easy to deal with.

Amisom troops on patrol in Somalia. Interior CS

Amisom troops on patrol in Somalia. Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery has said the splitting of Al-Shabaab into smaller groups is as a result of a persistent onslaught by the AU-led Amisom troops. AFP PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB  

The splitting of the Somalia-based terror group Al-Shabaab into two is as a result of the persistent pressure by the African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom) troops, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has said.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery, who spoke at Serena Beach Resort Hotel in Mombasa on Christmas day, said despite the threat the allegiance by the terror group to the Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda poses, Amisom would benefit from the group’s “disorganisation”.

“By the fact that Al-Shabaab has two factions, with one supporting Al-Qaeda and the other ISIS, that should make us more alert. The splitting means they are moving in smaller groups and therefore easy to deal with,” the minister said.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery said the division is a sign of desperation as they seek external support to propel their mission.

The Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet Thursday said the group supporting ISIS is operating near Mandera on the Kenya-Somalia border while the pro-Al-Qaeda one is in Somalia’s southern part and spreads into Boni Forest.

Mr Boinnet said the Mandera gang is led by Isaak Osman Ali alias Okola, Abdifata Basre and Mohamed Bilal while the Al-Qaeda affiliated group is headed by Omar Ahmed Abdumanan.

Maj Gen (Rtd) Nkaissery urged Kenyans to be on the look-out and report any suspicious individuals.

In 2014, end of year festivities were marked by low turnout as visitors to the Coast region shied away because of multiple attacks from the terror group.

“Mombasa and indeed the Coast region is safe for everyone. That is why we have come here to enjoy the peace the region is offering,” the Cabinet secretary said.

Who benefits from Kenya’s war in Somalia?

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane/Pretoria)

It has been more than four years since the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF) crossed the border into Somalia, and Kenyans are entitled to ask what exactly their troops are still doing there.

The official rationale is no longer entirely convincing. The original purpose of the military intervention was to insulate the country from the conflict in Somalia.

‘Kenya has been and remains an island of peace, and we shall not allow criminals from Somalia, which has been fighting for over two decades, to destabilise our peace,’ said George Saitoti, the internal security minister at the time.

It is debatable whether that aim has been achieved. Although Operation Linda Nchi (‘Protect the Nation’) curtailed the operations of al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for dozens of incidents on Kenyan soil in recent years. This includes the high-profile attacks on Westgate Mall and Garissa University.

It didn’t take long for Kenya’s unilateral involvement to be absorbed into (and retrospectively legitimised by) the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). This gave the KDF a more defined mandate: to root out al-Shabaab and support Somalia’s internationally recognised government based in Mogadishu (known now as the Federal Government of Somalia, or FSG).

The report is damning either way: either Kenyan politicians are colluding, or they have no control

This has not been a resounding success either. Although Kenya enjoyed a succession of high-profile victories against al-Shabaab – most notably when it pushed the extremist group out of its de facto headquarters in Kismayo – progress has stalled in recent years. Al-Shabaab remains in control of significant chunks of territory, while the FSG still struggles to assert its authority without the backing of AMISOM troops.

Kenyan officials can and do argue that despite the lack of obvious movement, Kenya’s presence in Somalia remains significant: without it, Somalia would revert to chaos and Kenya would be less safe as a result.

They might be right, but a new report written by researcher Ben Rawlence for Journalists for Justice suggests another, less noble explanation. The report examines the illegal trade in sugar and charcoal, and finds that senior KDF figures are involved in both. Even worse, in doing so they are collaborating with al-Shabaab, and providing the militant group with a vital source of revenue.

The United Nations sanction committee prohibited the export of charcoal from Somalia because it was such an important revenue source for al-Shabaab. Sugar is heavily taxed in Kenya, which means there are huge margins to be made on illegal imports.

‘The Kenya Defence Forces, rather than taking the fight to al-Shabaab, are actually in garrison mode, sitting in bases while senior commanders are engaged in corrupt business practices with the Jubaland administration and al-Shabaab,’ said the report.

If this report is true, Kenya’s intervention in Somalia is nothing more than a criminal enterprise

Here’s how it works, allegedly: ships laden with sugar enter the port of Kismayo, and leave it with a cargo of coal. The KDF levies a US$2 tax on every bag of sugar, while al-Shabaab collects US$1 050 per truck that departs the port. Each truck is taxed again on its way through Somalia by the Jubaland administration (Jubaland is a semi-autonomous region of Somalia), and then again by other KDF elements as it crosses the Kenyan border. For charcoal, the same process operates in reverse.

It’s big business. This illegal trade brings in tens of millions of dollars per year for the KDF elements involved, while al-Shabaab takes home more than US$100 million from charcoal alone. ‘The charcoal trade is not some kind of illicit hobby for KDF officers stationed in Kismayo to earn some pocket money. Together with the import of sugar, it is in fact, the main reason they are there,’ said the report.

The implications are staggering. Not only are Kenyan soldiers profiting from the Somali conflict, they are helping their enemy do the same – the very enemy that funds terrorist attacks on Kenyan soil. It makes a mockery of the entire regional effort to combat al-Shabaab. Further, it raises questions about how much the Kenyan government really knows about what its military is up to. It is damning either way: either the politicians are colluding, or they have no control.

If this report is true, then Kenya’s intervention in Somalia is nothing more than a criminal enterprise, a perfect example of the intersection between organised crime and politics, with an added twist: all its running costs are paid for by the international donors that fund AMISOM.

If the AU fails to act, there is an immediate risk of AMISOM drifting further out of control 

Naturally, an outraged KDF has been quick to deny the contents of the report. ‘Those releasing the report can say whatever they want. They have said it many times. KDF is not involved in the charcoal or sugar business. Those who allege to have done investigations must appreciate that the Somali coastline is 3 300 kilometres long and that KDF is only deployed on a 150-kilometre stretch. Somali authorities themselves appreciate that there are so many makeshift ports that are not policed,’ said Colonel David Obonyo, a KDF spokesperson.

The credibility of the Kenyan army spokesman is at an all-time low, however, following a series of other allegations into corrupt practices (most notably the claims that recruiting officers demand bribes from new recruits). Besides, the damage is already done.

A senior source told ISS Today that the report stains not only the image of the KDF, but of the AU itself, raising questions about the AU’s ability to maintain effective command, control and oversight of the troops operating under its banner in Somalia. The source said that if the AU fails to act, there is an immediate risk of AMISOM drifting further out of control and morphing into a de facto criminal syndicate in Somalia.

Peter Aling’o, a senior researcher and the Nairobi office head of the Institute of Security Studies, said that such concerns are valid. ‘Kenya has vowed to stay put in Somalia despite these allegations. This notwithstanding, the allegations of involvement in a sugar and charcoal smuggling racket obviously dents the KDF’s reputation and certainly has a negative impact on the broader AMISOM operations in Somalia. I believe that the information available significantly undermines KDF and AMISOM operations in Somalia,’ he said.

Simon Allison, ISS Consultant

Somalia – US offers rewards in hunt for Al Shabab leaders


Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, SomaliaAP Al-Shabab were behind an attack on a shopping mall and a university in Kenya

The US government is offering $27m (£18m) in rewards for information on the whereabouts of six leaders of the Somalia-based al-Shabab group.

The highest reward is $6m for the group’s leader Abu Ubaidah.

He replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a US drone strike last year.

Among those being hunted is Mahad Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, believed to be a key player in the attack on a Kenyan university which killed 148 people.

The group, part of al-Qaeda, is battling the UN-backed government in Somalia and has also carried out a string of attacks in neighbouring Kenya.

On Wednesday, Kenyan security forces destroyed five suspected al-Shabab hideouts in the Bono forest close to the Somali border, according to Reuters news agency.

The rewards

  • $6m for Abu Ubaidah also known as Direye, named al-Shabab leader in September 2014
  • $5m for Mahad Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, accused of playing key role in Garissa University College attack
  • $5m for Ma’alim Daud who the US thinks is responsible for al-Shabab’s recruitment and training
  • $5m for Hassan Afgooye who is believed to oversee the financing of al-Shabab
  • $3m for Maalim Salman who the US says he has been involved in operations in Africa targeting tourists
  • $3m for Ahmed Iman Ali who the US believes to have recruited Kenyans

Source: US Department of State

Somalia – 15 killed in Mogadishu hotel bomb


Al-Shabab Islamist militants have attacked a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people.

Gunmen used two car bombs to blast their way into the Sahafi hotel compound before storming the building, police said.

Victims included at least one MP and the general who led the 2011 offensive that drove al-Shabab out of Mogadishu.

African Union troops and government forces say they have regained control of the hotel after a fierce gun battle.

The hotel is popular with Somalia’s members of parliament.

A website associated with al-Shabab said it was responsible for the attack, which it said was carried out early in the morning to avoid civilian casualties.

This is a clear change in strategy, says BBC World Service Africa editor Mary Harper. Until now, attacks in Mogadishu have been carried out during the day and evening, killing civilians who happen to be in the targeted area.

The owner of the hotel and Gen Abdikarim Dhagabadan, who commanded the operation against al-Shabab in 2011, were among the victims.

The attack comes a day after deadly clashes between jihadist fighters and African Union (AU) troops in the Bakool region near the border with Ethiopia.

The AU is helping the government battle al-Shabab.

Security in Somalia has improved, but the al-Qaeda linked group still attacks Mogadishu regularly.

The militants have also targeted neighbouring countries, killing almost 150 people in an assault on Garissa University College in Kenya in April.

A vehicle burns after a car bomb exploded in front of the Sahafi Hotel in MogadishuEPA
Gunmen used a vehicle packed with explosives to blast their way into the hotel
A stock photo of al-Shabab recruits in Mogadishu, SomaliaAFP
The al-Shabab militant group has carried out regular attacks in Somalia