Tag Archives: Somalia

US targets al-Shabaab leader


U.S. Targets al-Shabaab Leader as Africans Meet on Attacks

Source: AFP/Getty Images

This undated and unlocated picture provided by U.S. website ‘Rewards for Justice’ shows top al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane also known as Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed.

Source: AFP/Getty Images

This undated and unlocated picture provided by U.S. website ‘Rewards for Justice’ shows top al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane also known as Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed.

U.S. drones targeted the head of the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, a regional governor said, as African leaders met in Kenya to discuss ways of dealing with the threat posed by militants.

Ahmed Abdi Godane was among a number of “high-ranking” al-Shabaab officials who were meeting at Dhaytubako, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, when the drones struck late yesterday, Lower Shabelle Governor Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said in a phone interview today. The Pentagon said in an e-mailed statement that it carried out an operation against al-Shabaab, without providing further details.

“We believe that a large number of senior al-Shabaab officials have been hurt in the attack, but I cannot specifically confirm if Godane was killed,” Mohamed Nur said. “He was among those meeting during the attack.”

Godane, also known as Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, was named as emir of al-Shabaab in December 2007, according to the United Nations, which lists him among 13 organizations and individuals subject to sanctions. In June 2013, he carried out a purge of dissident leaders to tighten his control over the group, assassinating Ibrahim al-Afghani, a senior al-Shabaab leader who had criticized Godane’s leadership, according to Austin, Texas-based Stratfor Global Intelligence.

In September 2013, Godane claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died. The U.S. has offered a $7 million reward for information on his whereabouts.

Militants Killed

The Associated Press said that Godane was in one of two vehicles hit in the drone strike, citing Abu Mohammed, a commander of al-Shabaab. Mohammed did not say whether Godane was among six militants killed in the attack, it said.

The U.S. has carried out previous raids in Somalia, including one in January that targeted an unidentified al-Shabaab leader. The group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia since 2006.

No further information is available about yesterday’s strike, Defense Department spokeswoman Lt.-Col. Vanessa Hillman said in an e-mailed response to questions.

African leaders meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said more concerted action is needed to defeat the threat posed by al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups in Africa. Governments on the continent have failed to take action that is “commensurate” with the threat posed by militant groups, African Union Peace and Security Council Chairman Idriss Deby said at the summit.

‘Terrorist Incidents’

Attacks by militants have left thousands of people dead across the continent. Boko Haram Islamist militants in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, killed more than 2,000 people in the first half of this year in their campaign to impose Islamic rule, according to Human Rights Watch.

On the other side of the continent, at least 179 people have died in “terrorist incidents” in Kenya, Bath-based risk consultancy Maplecroft said, while in Libya, Islamists are battling for control of the capital, Tripoli.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced at the summit that a fund will be created to combat militant groups, without providing further details.

In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the African Union Peace and Security Council urged its members to work toward preventing recruitment of their nationals into militant groups operating on the continent and other territories like Iraq and Syria.

The council also urged member states to increase their efforts to stop transnational organized crime including drug trafficking so that insurgents don’t gain proceeds from those activities.

To contact the reporters on this story: Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu at msheikhnor@bloomberg.net; David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at dmalingha@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net Paul Richardson, Karl Maier

Somalia – US military operation against Al Shabab


WASHINGTON Tue Sep 2, 2014

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. military forces carried out an operation on Monday against al Shabaab militants in Somalia, a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman said.

“We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

No further details about the operation in the African country were immediately available.

Al Shabaab is an Islamist group affiliated with al Qaeda that wants to impose its own strict version of Islam in Somalia. It ruled most of the southern region of Somalia from 2006 until 2011, when African peacekeeping troops marched into the capital, Mogadishu.

African and Somali forces have regained several towns this year, but rebels still hold other centres and tracts of countryside.  Reuters


Somalia – Shabelle radio off air and manager in hiding over hate allegation


Somali radio closure: Shabelle manager ‘in hiding’

On Air sign at Radio Shabelle - December 2012Radio Shabelle has long had a fractious relationship with the government

The manager of the independent Shabelle radio station in the Somali capital has told the BBC he is in hiding after the authorities took it off air.

Mohamed Musa said soldiers stormed the radio’s office on Friday, arresting about 20 people, three of whom are still in custody without being charged.

When the station started broadcasting again on Tuesday, the office was raided again and all equipment removed.

Mr Musa denied accusations that the station was spreading hate messages.

The UN-backed government issued a statement saying that the station had been unprofessional by spreading disharmony amongst Mogadishu’s clans.

‘Very scary’


There has been tension in the capital following the government’s recent disarmament programme, which has seen the militias of clan leaders disarmed.

Mr Musa said Shabelle had not broadcast either for or against the disarmament.

“We are not on the side of government, we are not on the side of opposition, we only tell the people the truth,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

The BBC’s Mohammed Moalimu in Mogadishu says media organisations have condemned the arrests and been shocked at the heavy handed approach of the government.

There have been calls for the detainees to be charged in accordance with the constitution, which only allows for 24 hours detention without charge.

Mr Musa admitted Shabelle had a fractious relationship with the government, which evicted it from a state-owned building last year.

He said he believed there was a warrant out for his arrest and he was concerned for the safety of his colleagues who remained in detention, fearing they were being maltreated.

“I’m in hiding in Mogadishu…. I keep moving, it’s really very scary.”

Clan-based warlords, rival politicians and Islamist militants have battled for control of Somalia since the fall of long-serving ruler Siad Barre in 1991.

Under a UN-backed plan, a new government was formed in 2012 which is trying to win back territory occupied by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab insurgents, and bring back a measure of stability to the country with the help of an African Union force.  BBC

Somalia – 14 dead in AMISOM attack on insurgents


At least 14 killed as AU forces attack insurgents in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU Fri Aug 15, 2014

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – At least 14 people were killed in heavy fighting when African Union peacekeepers entered a surburb of the Somali capital Mogadishu in an offensive against armed militias.

Frequent militant attacks in the Horn of Africa country show that a push by African Union peacekeeping troops has not weakened the Islamist al Shabaab group’s capacity to wage asymmetric warfare in the capital, where coordination between Somali and foreign intelligence agencies is poor.

“At least 14 people, mostly militia, died in the fighting this morning. The government’s aim is to secure the city,” Major Abdullahi Farah, a senior police officer, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Kevin Liffey)



Somalia – security reshuffle after palace attack

Dalsan Radio/allAfrica

Somalia: Abdiweli Reshuffles Security Docket After Al Shabaab Presidential Attack
9 JULY 2014

A pickup truck carrying soldiers of the Somali National Army.
Somali prime minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed has sacked the police commissioner and the director of Somali intelligence following Al Shabaab militant group attack on the presidential palace in the capital Mogadishu.

Mohamed Sheik Ismail and Mohamed Abdullahi Hamud are the new police commissioner and interim intelligence chief respectively after a letter from PM Abdiweli office immediately sacked both police commissioner and intelligence director.

Khalif Ahmed Ergo was also appointed as the new internal security minister with immediate effect after former minister Abdullahi Gulet resigned months ago.

The PM has also instructed various police chiefs in Banadir province which the city is part of to work together to improve the security of the capital Mogadishu.

The PM move comes following Al Shabaab militant group assault on the heavy fortified Mogadishu presidential palace famously known as Villa Somalia on Tuesday.



Somalia – Al Shabab attack presidential palace


Al Shabab has carried out an armed assault on Somalia’s presidential palace, penetrating the fortified complex. Security had been increased after al Shabab attacked the parliament building over the weekend.

Mogadischu Somalia Regierungssoldaten Juli 2014

The Shabab attackers reportedly blew themselves up after penetrating the presidential palace, known as Villa Somalia, on Tuesday. Officials reported that the internationally backed president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, elsewhere at the time of the attack, remained safe under the protection of guards from the African Union’s 22,000-strong AMISOM force.

“There were at least nine attackers, all have been killed, and the situation is under control, the attack is over,” security official Abdi Ahmed said on Tuesday. “There were eight blasts towards the end of the fighting, believed to have been suicide vests. They detonated themselves.”

Police said the attackers had launched a two-pronged assault on the complex, setting off a car bomb at the rear of the compound and then storming in via another entrance. On Tuesday, a Shabab spokesman confirmed that the al Qaeda-linked group had launched the attack, and claimed fighters managed to seize the president’s office inside the compound.

“Our commandos are inside the so-called presidential office,” Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told the news agency AFP on Tuesday. “We are in control of the headquarters of the apostate regime.” He had added that “the enemy suffered high casualties during the operation, which is ongoing.”

‘The peaceful state’

Witnesses told news agencies that the heavy gunfire and several blasts died down about an hour after it began. The speaker of the parliament was reported to be inside the presidential palace at the time of the attack but was said to be safe after.

Nicholas Kay, the UN’s top envoy to the country, condemned the attack, calling it “an attempt to rob Somalis of the peaceful state they deserve.” Kay added that “terror will not win.”

In February, Shabab fighters also assaulted the presidential palace, penetrating the complex before guards killed them. In May, the group also launched a similar suicide attack against the national parliament while in session, killing several guards and staff before AMISOM and Somali government forces restored control.

Over the weekend, al Shabab claimed a car bomb attack outside of Somalia’s parliament (aftermath pictured). Days before, al Shabab killed a legislator.

Al Shabab has also claimed a host of attacks abroad in recent days.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP) DW

Somalia – how to deal with Al Shabab defectors


No easy way forward for Al-Shabab defectors

BAIDOA, 12 June 2014 (IRIN) – Anwar Ahmed*, 50, an Al-Shabab defector, was drawn to Somalia’s Salafist armed group both by the promise of a wage and a belief in the Islamic ways of “rights and justice for all”.

Stationed in the Bakool provincial capital of Hudur, Ahmed worked mainly as a sentry, while also corralling residents to answer the call to prayer, collecting road taxes – up to US$300 for freight trucks and between $10 and $20 for cars – and assisting in the collection of zakat, the 2.5 percent tax on annual earnings paid in either cash or kind.

Ahmed’s own pay was modest: $20 or $30 every few months during his three year stint with the armed group, never enough to provide for his four children and wife. “ On a personal level, there was nothing to gain,” Ahmed recalls. “I thought Al-Shabab were real about Islam’s call for justice for all. But it was based on a big lie. The commanders got it all.”

Disillusioned, he made his way to Baidoa, crossing the hills, surviving on the generosity of herders who gave him water and milk. After being screened by Somali intelligence officials, he entered an ex-combatants programme.

The former killer

Gabeyre Mohamed*, 28, was a member of the elite Amniyat, Al-Shabab’s “secret service”, whose operatives were reportedly implicated in Nairobi’s Westgate mall attack in 2013.

Upgraded from being an Al-Shabab foot soldier to joining a five person Amniyat cell, Mohamed acknowledges it was an honour to be chosen, but despised his role as a killer. “I was given a pistol, a name and a picture of them and sent to kill them. I always lied and came back and said this man is nowhere to be seen.” His conscience told him to leave. “I made up my mind, as I believed I was being sent to kill innocent people.”

“I believed I was being sent to kill innocent people”

At the Baidoa ex-combatant centre he gets no money, but three meals a day, and the hope of a driver’s licence and an education. “I will not return to Al-Shabab,” Mohamed says. “Even the promise of heaven will never make me go back.”

Ahmed and Mohamed are among those who have left Al-Shabab and sought to make a new life. But working out what to do with Al-Shabab defectors is not easy either for the Somali authorities or for the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

Waldemar Vrey is director of UNSOM’s  Rule of Law and Security Institutions Group (ROLSIG), with part of its brief being to deal with former Al-Shabab ex-combatants.

Vrey describes the work as “delicate”. Applying Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) to an organization officially declared a terrorist group has its own difficulties, not least when it comes to gaining donor support.

High risk and low risk

Under current procedures, defectors from Al-Shabab are vetted by the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). They are classed as either “high risk” or “low risk”.

Vrey says around 1,000 “low risk” ex-fighters have received some rehabilitation and skills training. Those who want to go home can do so “if it is agreeable to the communities”.

Vrey points out that there is no shortage of replacements for those wanting to quit Al-Shabab. “As 1,000 defect, another 1,000 are recruited. It is not as though recruitment will stand still.” Current estimates of the number of active Al-Shabab fighters vary from 5,000 to 9,000.

It is with the more experienced fighters that the dilemmas become more serious. “The high-end guys, the ones that are hardened, the ones NISA feels cannot go through the rehab process, they have to go through a judicial process,” Vrey points out. “The majority of them are sitting in jail and it is with them we have stumbling blocks.”

The trials have brought new dangers. There was a series of assassinations of civilian judges presiding over court cases for high risk Al-Shabab fighters, who had either defected or been captured. The solution of the authorities was to bring in military tribunals. But the tribunals’ readiness to apply the death penalty drew disapproval from the international community and human rights organizations.

A road-map for ex-combatants

In an attempt to find lasting solutions for fighters who want a new start, in April 2013, the Transitional Federal Government published a road map for a National Programme for the Treatment and handling of Disengaging Combatants and Youth at Risk in Somalia.

The initiative came in the wake of significant military victories by AMISOM and Somali national forces against Al-Shabab in Mogadishu in August 2011, Belet Weyne in Hiraan province in February 2012 and then with the securing of Baidoa and the southern port of Kismayo.

Four Transitional Facilities (TF) for low risk ex-Al-Shabab fighters are in various phases of development, in Mogadishu, Baidoa, Belet Weyne and Kismayo.

A NISA official in Kismayo, who declined to be identified, told IRIN that former combatants are examined on the basis of their previous history and ideological convictions, which determine the kind of threat they may still pose. The process can be long and laborious. “The longest screening I was involved in took about one month. Some might tell the truth immediately. Others might not say anything, while in other cases stories will change.”

UNSOM’s legal considerations associated with rehabilitation of ex-Al-Shabab fighters, has provided for interventions from outside the mission, with a three man unit, known as the Serendi team – named after Mogadishu’s TF – funded by the Norwegian, Danish and Spanish governments.

“They see us as disassembling their force and we are a target”

Serendi team members include a Special Forces bodyguard and a European-based Somali engineer who fled Somalia during the civil conflict of the 1990s, back on a two-year sabbatical.

Team members did not want to be identified, highlighting the threat from Al-Shabab. “They see us as disassembling their force and we are a target”, one pointed out. The same dangers apply to everyone involved in DDR. A Serendi team member told IRIN that around 70 percent of Al-Shabab disengaged fighters who had been screened had been classed as low risk.

The Serendi team’s methods blend Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) techniques, including individual mentoring and the sharing of experiences between the ex-Al-Shabab, with skills training programmes for livelihoods. DDR experts say building-up self-esteem for ex-fighters is vital.

The militias outside Al-Shabab

Vrey notes that the focus on the war against Al-Shabab has overlooked the activities of other militias. Having profited from two decades of Somalia’s breaking down into a failed state, some groups continue to prosper.

They include clan-based militias, through to the private armies of warlords and business concerns raising their own armed forces to protect their financial interests.

A February 2014 briefing by the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group highlighted dangers of small-arms proliferation following the partial lifting of the country’s arms embargo and the scale of violence used by different militias.

The briefing noted “indiscriminate attacks” by Abgaal and Habar Gedir clan-based armed forces on civilian areas in December 2013, “resulting in the killing and wounding of children, women, and unarmed young men; rape; looting and burning of villages, and extrajudicial executions.”

Vrey said the advantage of other armed groups was they “are not Al-Shabab,” which spares DDR programming the pitfalls of engaging with a terror listed organisation. Furthermore, most militias were already within their communities, making it easier for local authorities to end conflicts through economic revival programmes and other grassroots initiatives.

Ensuring proper facilities for ex-combatants takes time. For example, the location of a TF in Kismayo was recently identified, but security and infrastructural problems slowed things down. To carry out a 30-minute recce of the building, the Serendi team required an escort by Kenyan AMISOM soldiers, NISA, the Somali National Army and close protection security officers. Meanwhile, Al-Shabab defectors in the port city are living in safe houses.

Peaceful solutions within the clans

In Baidoa, where the French funded TF is about to open, the delays have given clans a bigger role in the rehabilitation of about 120 ex-Al Shabab combatants.

A Baidoa elder, Abdul Kadir Hassan, told IRIN that families were taking responsibility for ex-combatants and working out if they could be trusted. “It depends on the individual, but by leaving, most ex-fighters have made up their minds already. So they are seen as safe.” Hassan stressed that DDR was crucial for peace in Somalia.

Elder Adan Abdi, told IRIN about 90 percent of Al-Shabab forces were Somali and “joined because they had no means”. But he stressed that “Al-Shabab is a foreign ideology” and the foreigners would have to be hunted down, not rehabilitated.

Clan elders have an important role to play in managing clan feuds caused by the conflict. Hassan said a family could request “blood money” as a form of reconciliation, but wide scale poverty made this an unrealistic solution.

“We argue that they were brainwashed, so they were not in their right minds and in this way we can often resolve things through clan justice”

He says it is better to defend the ex-fighters on the basis that they were not free at the time of their actions. “We argue that they were brainwashed, so they were not in their right minds and in this way we can often resolve things through clan justice”.

However, clan elders say the development of the centres is hugely important. For Abdi, there have to be enough centres and they must be able to cater properly for the former fighters. “If someone is hungry and you say come and eat, but there is no food, will they come? The answer is no.

“If you offer them a life they will come. If the centres provide, the ex-combatants will contact their friends in Al-Shabab and tell them it’s not as bad as we thought and they will come as well. And then this thing will end very quickly”.  IRIN