Tag Archives: Somalia

Kenya – sugarsmuggling link with Somalia’s Al Shabaab 

Nation

Al-Shabaab-linked sugar smugglers still in business after attack

Sugar-smugglers whose activities have been linked to Al-Shabaab are still in business, 3 weeks after Garissa University attack.

 

Sugar-smugglers whose activities have been linked to Al-Shabaab are still in business, three weeks after one of the terror group’s deadliest attacks in Kenya that killed 148 people.
Investigations by the Saturday Nation reveal that none of the sugar barons were named in the list of 86 companies and individuals whose accounts were frozen on allegations of supporting terrorism.
Reports by the United Nations and a US government agency say there are about 70 businessmen — located in the Somali port city of Kismayu and in Garissa and Nairobi in Kenya — who are brokers in the sugar and charcoal trade. 
Garissa was the scene of the latest attack, on April 2, by Al-Shabaab in which 142 university students and six security officers were killed.
Reports say the businesses earn the militant group millions of dollars which they use in their terror campaign.

According to a report prepared jointly by the United Nations Environmental Programme (Unep) and Interpol, Al-Shabaab’s primary source of income appears to be from informal taxation at roadblocks.

“In one roadblock case, they have been able to make up to $8 million (Sh696 million) to $18 million (Sh1.5 billion) per year from charcoal traffic in Somalia’s Badhadhe District,” says the Unep/Interpol report, adding that trading in charcoal and taxing the ports have generated an estimated annual total of $38 million to $56 million for Al-Shabaab.

Earnings from the trade are vital in sustaining the terrorists’ capacity to carry out attacks in Somalia and Kenya.

Kismayu has been controlled by Kenya Defence Forces(KDF) since they captured it from Al-Shabaab in September 2012, cutting off the group’s finances but the militants have since moved into the hinterland where they rake in money at roadblocks.

SENIOR POLITICIAN

Although the reports do not name individuals, the Saturday Nation has established that one of the biggest sugar smugglers based in Garissa is related to a senior politician.

He has been operating a lucrative smuggling ring between the port of Kismayu and Garissa, that brings in millions of dollars a year.

The sugar trade has boomed since KDF went into Somalia in late 2011 and has overtaken charcoal as southern Somalia’s leading cross-border trade commodity.

The smuggler has a fleet of trucks that operate between Garissa and Kismayu. On their way to Kismayu they carry Kenyan food and consumer goods and on their way back, they are loaded with hundreds of bags of contraband sugar imported from Brazil.

“There are five checkpoints between Kismayu and Garissa – three by Al-Shabaab and two by the KDF. The sugar trucks are waved through all the checkpoints without any checks. There is a tacit agreement between the owner and these entities and we are sure hefty sums of money change hand in the form of illegal ‘taxes’,” said the source.

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) office at the Liboi border crossing is also implicated in the scam, through “creative invoicing” or by simply not declaring.

The trucks are also known to use the Kolbio border post where they are driven to Lamu and Mombasa and resold to middle-men as “customed” sugar. They are repackaged and made to look like local sugar.

With Mumias Sugar, Kenya’s biggest producer of the commodity in financial doldrums, sugar importation has become even more lucrative.
The news could undermine confidence in the list of terror associates.

Intriguingly, while the list included two human rights groups — Muhuri and Haki Africa — and money transfer firms, none of the sugar barons was listed.

It also contains names of clerics who the government has been collaborating with to tackle jihadism and youth radicalisation in Kenya’s Somali-speaking communities.

Sheikh Ummal, a prominent Eastleigh-based cleric, whose name was in the list, has protested his innocence. Sheikh Ummal has consistently criticised Al-Shabaab’s campaign of terror and its intransigence and refusal to seek a political settlement.

He is immensely influential and his anti-Shabaab messages are often relayed on Somali satellite TV channels, earning him death threats from Al-Shabaab.
“This is the kind of guy the government should keep on its side in its ideological fight against jihadism and Al-Shabaab,” a Somali security source told the Saturday Nation.

LACK OF INFORMATION

Those who have been named in the list and have appeared before the counter-terrorism police unit have been shocked at the state agents’ lack of information on the subject.

Father Gabriel Dolan of Muhuri who appeared before the unit together with his fellow board members, said: ‘’We expected a ‘grilling’ and to be furnished with substantive allegations and evidence linking Muhuri with the Al-Shabaab murderers. However, nothing of the sort emerged.

Instead, we faced a team of tired, bored NIS officials who did not want to be identified nor unduly bothered and whose task was merely to give out a fourteen-page document to be filled, returned and ‘you will be hearing from us in two weeks.

“The whole thing may have been sloppy, unprofessional and lacking any shape or direction but the IG Boinett and his NCTC team had already condemned the two organisations by freezing their accounts and now in utter contempt of the Constitution and the rule of law, the burden of proof fell on them to prove their innocence,” Fr Dolan wrote in his weekly column in the Saturday Nation.

The KRA has also raided the two rights groups’ offices, carting away documents and computers for tax audits.

Meanwhile, for the big boys in the sugar and charcoal trade, it is business as usual.

Elements of the KDF have been accused of colluding with Al-Shabaab in the illegal multi-billion-shilling charcoal trade.

In 2014, a report by a US government-funded organisation, which echoed earlier findings by the United Nations, alleged that the KDF mission to Somalia appears to include the charcoal trade.

“Kenya, although formally a participant in Amisom, which operates in support of the Somali national government, is also complicit in support of trade that provides income to Al-Shabaab, its military opponent both inside Somalia and, increasingly, at home in Kenya,” the Institute of Defence Analyses (IDA) said in its report by Mr George Ward, formerly Washington’s ambassador to Namibia.

Kenya’s military chiefs have previously denied allegations of involvement in any illicit activity in Somalia and have maintained that since October 2011, they have only engaged in military action aimed at stabilising the war-torn country. But the accusations have refused to go away.

While businesses of the sugar and charcoal barons boom, most of Garissa town is facing an economic crisis following the attack on the university college.

Traders in the county who spoke to the Saturday Nation said they had been incurring heavy losses since the attack and the dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet.

Police have also been accused of using the curfew to extort money from residents. 

Somalia – government wants to drive Al Shabab from southern valley strongold

Reuters

World Thu Apr 23, 2015 5:07pm BST

Somalia seeks to drive militants from southern valley bases – PM

(Reuters) – Somali and African forces aim to drive al Shabaab Islamist militants out of one of the last major tracts of territory in southern Somalia that the group still holds and which it uses to launch attacks, the Somali prime minister said on Thursday.

Omar Sharmarke also told Reuters he was pressing Kenya to reopen Somali money transfer firms that are a lifeline to many in Somalia but whose licences Nairobi suspended after al Shabaab raided a north Kenyan university this month killing 148 people.

Al Shabaab has been driven out of major towns and coastal strongholds since an African Union peacekeeping force and the Somali national army launched an offensive last year.

But the group, which wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, still holds rural areas, such as the Juba valley corridor that leads to the strategic southern port of Kismayu, where a Kenyan contingent of AU troops is based.

“There is a corridor they use as a launching pad,” Sharmarke said in an interview. “There are efforts to close down this corridor which they have been using for the last few years.”

He did not give a timeline for any new operation.

To keep militants out of Kenya, Somalia’s southern neighbour is improving border security, including building new observation posts and barriers, often referred to as a “wall”. Sharmarke said rooting out the militants was a better tactic.

“We have to close the vacuums they use as a launching pads rather than put a wall between families and communities,” Sharmarke said in Nairobi after talks with Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed.

The Somali prime minister also said Kenya was working on new regulations so Somali money transfer firms, known as “hawalas”, could be reopened, adding Kenya’s central bank was leading the process. He said temporary measures were being considered while permanent rules were being drawn up, but did not indicate when the transfer firms would be permitted to reopen.

“Millions depend on hawalas and there are now efforts to see whether, in the interim, these hawalas could be opened.”

Kenya’s central bank had no comment on the remarks but referred to an earlier statement that noted concerns about informal remittance firms and “the global challenges of money laundering and terrorism financing.”

Many of the remittance firms have also been shut down in the United States and other Western nations because of rules aimed at preventing cash reaching al Shabaab.

Sharmarke said he planned to visit Washington in the next few weeks to discuss the issue, while his government planned to push through new Somali anti-money laundering legislation.

Kenya has also announced a three month timetable to close Dadaab, a camp where some 335,000 Somali refugees are housed.

Sharmarke said any action to repatriate the refugees should be done responsibly and only when it was safe. A botched repatriation would help the militants by alienating people, he said.

“We cannot play into the hands of al Shabaab and other terrorists out there. We should not create political discontent out of this repatriation,” he said.

(Editing by Peter Graff)

Somalia – US drone kills Al Shabab leader

BBC

US drone kills al-Shabab leader in Somalia – Pentagon

Armed members of the militant group al-Shabab attend a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia in this February 2012 file photo. Al-Shabab militants have been driven out of the group’s strongholds in Somalia

The US defence department has confirmed that it has killed an al-Shabab leader, Adan Garar.

The Pentagon says the militant was hit by a drone equipped with Hellfire missiles in southern Somalia last Friday.

Garar was a suspect in the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that left 67 people dead.

The US believes Garar was overseeing operations that “target US persons and other Western interests”.

He was a member of the security and intelligence wing and a “key operative responsible for coordinating al-Shabab’s external operations”, according to the Pentagon.

The operation took place about 150 miles (240 km) west of Mogadishu near the town of Dinsoor.

Soldiers and armed police hunt gunmen who went on a shooting spree in Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi 21 September 2013. Garar is accused of planning the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi that killed 67 people

Washington has supported an African Union (AU) force, which has driven the fundamentalist group from strongholds across Somalia since 2011.

The US defence department said in a statement that Garar’s death “has dealt another significant blow to the al-Shabab terrorist organisation in Somalia”.

Hours before the Pentagon confirmed the news, an al-Shabab attack killed four in north-east Kenya.

The militant group has vowed to punish Kenya for its role in the AU force.

Somalia – government forces claim capture of town from Al Shabab

Radio Dalsan (Mogadishu)

Somali government Forces capture new town from Al-shabab

Somali Federal government forces backed by AU troops seized new Al-shabab ground in Somalia’s lower Shabelle region on Monday. The joint forces captured Ali-gaduud, which was Al-shabab’s key hideout in the region.

The government forces and Al-shabaab have exchanged heavy gunfire confrontations shortly after the force’s attack on the terror base. Officials who spoke to media said that many al-shabab fighters were captured during the raid.

“We have killed at least three Al-shabab members, they accustomed to collect money from the villagers living in Ali Gaduud area “government spokesman, who wished to remain anonymous said.

The Al-Qaida affiliated militants, Al-shabab has been controlling the village for more than twelve months despite Masajid Ali-gaduud was an important junction for vehicles heading to Somali capital, Mogadishu.

US appoints ambassador to Somalia since botched intervention

Reuters

U.S. nominates first ambassador to Somalia since ill-fated intervention

Wed, Feb 25 2015

NAIROBI (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has nominated the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia since the early 1990s, when the United States pulled its diplomatic staff out of the country following an ill-fated intervention exemplified by the “Black Hawk Down” disaster.

The U.S. State Department said the nomination of career diplomat Katherine Dhanani signals the deepening relationship between the two countries.

Somalia is attempting to rebuild after two decades of civil war and lawlessness triggered by the overthrow of President Siad Barre in 1991. The fragile government is being backed by international aid aimed at preventing it from becoming a haven for al Qaeda-style militants in East Africa.

The United States intervened in Somalia in 1992, initially on a humanitarian mission, but became embroiled in a conflict against war lords.

In the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, 18 U.S. soldiers were killed and two helicopters shot down in fighting against Somali militias. Hundreds of Somalis also died in the battle, which was depicted in the film “Black Hawk Down”.

U.S. troops pulled out in 1994, ending the mission.

At the time, the battle marked the U.S Army’s heaviest losses in a single day since the Vietnam War and it has remained central to the American view of the Horn of Africa state.

In recent years, persistent attacks in the capital have complicated the government’s efforts to secure the nation for a referendum on a new federal constitution and a presidential election in 2016.

“Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation,” the statement said. “The United States is committed to supporting Somalia on this journey as a steadfast partner.”

The U.S. Mission to Somalia is currently based in Nairobi, Kenya. The State Department said Washington hoped to increase its diplomatic presence in Somalia as security improves.

Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-affiliated militants, were pushed out of Mogadishu by African peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has waged a series of gun and grenade attacks to try to overthrow the government and impose its strict version of sharia law.

The United States has launched a series of strikes against al Shabaab leaders in recent months, killing its leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in September, and Tahliil Abdishakur, chief of al Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, in late December.

Somalia – 20 killed in bomb attack on Mogadishu hotel

BBC

Some 20 people, including senior officials, have been killed in an attack on a hotel in the Somali capital, witnesses have told the BBC.

The Central Hotel, often frequented by politicians, was hit by a car bomb and a suicide attack. Gunmen then stormed the hotel mosque and opened fire during Friday prayers.

An MP and Mogadishu’s deputy mayor were among the dead, the government says.

Islamist militant group al-Shabab has said it was behind the attack.

The al-Qaeda linked group has been driven out of the country’s major towns but still controls many rural areas in the south.

The BBC’s Mohamed Moalimu in the city says the area around the hotel has been cordoned off.

Somali security officers walk in front of the wreckage of a car in front of the Central Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, 20 February 2015.This car was destroyed in the explosion

“First the car bomb exploded at the gate of the hotel, then a suicide bomber blew himself up in the hotel compound,” police Major Nur Mohamed told Reuters.

Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareeye told the BBC that Somalia’s deputy prime minister and other ministers had been at the hotel at the time but had survived the attack.

An al-Shabab spokesman told BBC Somali analyst Mary Harper it had killed the officials while they were praying because they were “apostates”.

It has previously said it would target members of the government.

Earlier this month, al-Shabab shot dead an MP in a drive-by shooting in Mogadishu.

Somali security agents are seen outside the Central Hotel after a suicide attack in Somalia"s capital Mogadishu February 20, 2015The Central Hotel is often frequented by government officials
Rescuers carry a survivor from the scene of a blast at the Central Hotel after a suicide attack in Somalia"s capital Mogadishu February 20, 2015.The gunmen opened fire in the hotel mosque
A file photo taken on 17 February, 2011 shows Islamist fighters loyal to Somalia's Al-Qaeda inspired al-Shabab group Al-Shabab had said it would target government officials

Somalia – Al Shabab intelligence chief said to have been killed in drone strike

BBC
A leader of the al-Shabab Islamist group was killed by a US air strike on Monday, Somali officials say.

The intelligence chief, named as Abdishakur, was part of a unit responsible for suicide attacks, security officials said.

US defence chiefs did not confirm whether the al-Shabab leader had died.

Washington has supported an African Union (AU) force which has driven the fundamentalist group from strongholds across the country since 2011.

On Monday the US said it had targeted a “senior leader” of al-Shabab in the area of Saakow, about 320km (200 miles) west of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

In a statement, the defence department said it was “assessing the results of the operation”.

But Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency said on Tuesday that the air strike had killed a militant it identified as Abdishakur, also known as Tahliil.

It said he had just replaced al-Shabab’s former intelligence chief, who was arrested a few days ago.

The agency added that two other al-Shabab members had also died in the joint US-Somali operation.

The development came three days after another top al-Shabab militant, Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi, gave himself up to the Somali government.

Mr Hersi, a leading figure in the militant group’s intelligence wing, surrendered to police in the Gedo region.

In June 2012, the US state department offered $3m (£1.9m; 2.5m euros) for information leading to his capture.

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