Entries in al Shabaab (10)


Suicide Bombers Attack As Somali Delegates Approve New Constitution

George Doyle/Thinkstock(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- As more than 600 delegates met in Mogadishu to approve Somalia's new constitution, marking a symbolic break with the country's turbulent past, two al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers tried to attack the gathering only to be killed by security guards.

Two men pretending to be delegates and wearing explosive vests tried to pass a security checkpoint outside the assembly at a police building in the HamarJajab section of the capital city.

According to the news website Somalia Report, the men were shot to death by security forces. Several government soldiers were wounded, but no members of the National Consitutent Assembly, which included legislators and tribal elders, were initially listed among those injured.

Witnesses told Somalia Report that they had seen the bodies of the suicide attackers, and that wounded soldiers had been evacuated to the hospital.

Al Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of al Qaeda, took credit for the attack. Via Twitter, al Shabaab said "twin martyrdom operations" had been carried out by its "Martyrdom Brigade" and that members of the assembly would be "tracked & by one" if they tried to implement the new constitution. The terror group had vowed to attack the National Constituent Assembly, which has been meeting in Mogadishu for the past week.

According to state radio, a regional Somali intelligence chief showed members of the assembly an identity card said to have been carried by one of the attackers, and said they were tracing the attackers.

The delegates passed the constitution in a landslide, with 96 percent of the 645 delegates in attendance voting in favor. The document, which was drawn up after a lengthy debate, will serve as an interim constitution for five years and replaces an earlier charter that lasted eight years.

Notably, it legalizes abortion when a mother's life is in danger and bans female circumcision.

Somalia will next select members of a new parliament, which will pick a speaker prior to the inauguration of a new president.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Shabaab Car Bomb Kills Lawmaker Inside Mogadishu

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/GettyImages(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- Just days after the Somali government announced it was sweeping the remnants of the al Shabaab terror group out of Mogadishu, a car bomb planted by the al Qaeda affiliate killed a prominent member of the Somali government inside the city.

Authorities said a bomb planted in his vehicle and detonated by remote control killed Member of Parliament Mohamud Abdi Garwayne and wounded six others, including three of Garwayne's bodyguards, in the Hamarweyne neighborhood Monday morning. Garwayne, a former trade minister, had been a member of an Islamist party before joining Somalia's Transitional Federal Government.

Witnesses reported that Garwayne's body was burned beyond recognition. Garwayne was driving the car when the bomb exploded. The device was reportedly placed beneath the driver's seat, a technique associated with Shabaab.

"Lawmaker Mohamud Garwayne was killed in the attack," regional deputy security chief Warsame Mohamed Hassan told reporters in Mogadishu on Monday. "A bomb had been placed in his car without his awareness." Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, the head of the African Union Mission in Somalia, condemned the attack in a statement decrying, "attempts to derail the peace."

"It is deplorable that before the beginning of Ramadan foreign-led forces opposed to the peace process use cowardly and barbaric attacks, with no regard for the life of innocent Somalis, in a desperate attempt to derail Somalia's greatest hope for peace in decades," said Ambassador Diarra.

Shabaab issued a statement claiming credit for the attack.

The attack came as Somalia prepares for a National Constituent Assembly that is charged with forming a new and permanent government. The mandate of the current transitional government expires next month.

African Union and Somali troops had largely expelled Shabaab from the capital a year ago. On Friday, the government announced its forces had cordoned off several Mogadishu neighborhoods and conducted a series of mop-up raids, netting 89 suspected members of al Shabaab. "The objective of the raid was to weed out the remnants of the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group," said the government in a statement after the raids, "in the wake of numerous roadmap activities being held in Mogadishu that will pave the way for the return of permanent and representative government."

Somali authorities also say they are now housing several hundred former Shabaab fighters, many of them teens, who have defected from the beleaguered terror group and sought food and shelter via a government program.

Kenyan forces have also been pressing al Shabaab inside Somalia, and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in June that Shabaab would be defeated in a final offensive, expected next month.

On Sunday, Somalia's interior minister said security inside Mogadishu would be increased in anticipation of Ramadan, which begins Friday. Shabaab has vowed to continue attacks despite leaving Mogadishu, and has often stepped up attacks inside Somalia during Ramadan.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Somalis Say US Rewards Will Help End 'Reign of Terror' By Al Qaeda Offshoot

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Somali government and Somali observers say the new $33 million U.S. bounty on the heads of seven al Shabaab leaders may be just what is needed to help crush the al Qaeda affiliate, which is already reeling from military assaults on all sides and from the air.

"The announcement from the U.S. government . . . will certainly help the Somali government's efforts to end al Qaeda's reign of terror in Somalia," said Somalia's transitional government in a statement Thursday. "This is an important juncture in Somali history, where the possibility of full recovery from years of chaos is within reach."

Through its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department this week offered $7 million for information leading to the capture of al-Shabaab founder and commander Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, AKA Godane or Mukhtar Abu Zubeir, $5 million apiece for four other Shabaab leaders and $3 million a head for two more. By comparison, the U.S. had offered only $1 million for Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. strike in Pakistan on Monday and was described by U.S. officials as a bin Laden confidante and al Qaeda's second-in-command.

The $33 million in Shabaab bounties comes as the al Qaeda affiliate, which once controlled large swathes of Somalia, is being squeezed into a smaller and smaller pocket of the country by multiple armies. Somali government forces are pushing on one side, while Ethiopian, Kenyan and African Union troops are pushing on other fronts and the U.S. launches drone strikes from the air.

In May, the Somali Army, supported by Burundian troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) took control of some of al Shabaab last remaining strongholds in the Afgoi Corridor. AMISOM and Somali troops have been pushing Shabaab out of the capital city of Mogadishu since last August. Shabaab announced that they had abandoned Mogadishu but continued to use guerilla and terror attacks, including an attack on a Mogadishu theater in April that killed top sports officials but spared the Somali prime minister.

Professor Yahye Sheik Amir, dean of economics at Mogadishu University, said the new bounties would make Shabaab's already furtive leadership even more "unlikely to appear in public gatherings and mosques," though some of those named by the State Department had once made public appearances.

"They don't have a big space to hide since they are losing territory," said Prof. Amir, "and this reduces their ability to work within the group." Amir also said the Shabaab leaders were likely to become distrustful of "everyone, suspecting their guards, relatives and wives."

Local residents also welcomed the rewards. Said Mohamed Awale, an engineer, "[Shabaab] is running short of funds and losing territories. They have nothing to defend themselves with and will possibly be caught." The Somali government took particular note of the U.S. offer of $7 million for information leading to the capture of al-Shabaab founder Godane.

"As the leader of terror," said the statement, "Godane is responsible for the killing of innocent civilians across Somalia, including series of terror attacks that al-Shabaab operated in neighboring countries." Analysts also believe that three men for whom the U.S. offered $5 million a head, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Mukhtra Robow and Bashir Mohamed Mohamoud, were integral to the group's operations and that forcing them into hiding could cripple Shabaab's ability to act.    

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ex-US Soldier Charged with Aiding Al Qaeda Group

Hemera/Thinkstock(LAUREL, Md.) -- A former U.S. Army soldier and recent convert to Islam was charged Monday with attempting to join an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group in Somalia. The indictment of Craig Baxam, 24, comes just days after the Kenyan and British governments announced they were seeking several British citizens who had allegedly joined the same terror group, al Shabaab, and plotted attacks in Kenya.

Baxam, who appeared in federal court in Maryland, faces a charge of attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group. Authorities alleged that Baxam flew to Kenya with the intention of crossing into Somalia to join al Shabaab, which has been responsible for terror attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

Baxam, from Laurel, Maryland, served four years in the Army before being discharged last July. In December, according to U.S. authorities, Baxam was arrested by Kenyan police in a small coastal town near the Somalia border. Baxam had already been to Somalia, according to the criminal complaint, and told federal agents that he had donated between $600 and $700 to al Shabaab.

Last week, the British government warned of al Shabaab attacks inside Kenya, and Kenyan authorities announced that they had arrested suspected terrorists and issued arrest warrants for others.

One of those wanted for suspected ties to terrorism is a British mother of three who converted to Islam. Kenyan police issued an arrest warrant on Jan. 4 for 26-year-old Natalie Faye Webb, alleging that Webb had links to known Shabaab terrorists. Kenyan police provided Kenyan media with a South African passport that they said Webb had used to enter the country in 2011.

According to London's Sunday Times, UK citizen and Muslim convert Jermaine Grant was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, by Kenyan police. He was reportedly radicalized in the same UK prison as convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid. Bomb-making materials were allegedly found at Grant's home when he was arrested.

Al Shabaab, which means the "lads" in Arabic, has waged a decade-long insurgency inside Somalia and more recently has conducted attacks outside the lawless country. In 2010 an al Shabaab suicide attack killed more than 76 people in Kampala, Uganda.

The group recently announced that they were sending teams of attackers to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in response to the recent Kenyan military incursion into southern Somalia.

British authorities have warned UK nationals in Kenya to be on guard after the Kenyan government alerted the public to an increased threat of attacks in Nairobi. The UK's Foreign Office said it urged Britons to "exercise extra vigilance and caution in public places."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Shabaab Terror Group Picks Twitter Fight

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- Taking a page out of the Taliban's playbook, al Qaeda's Somalia affiliate has now opened a Twitter account, and started an on-line war of words with its real world military foes.

Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate battling for control of Somalia, launched a Twitter account Thursday under the handle @HSMPress with tweets disparaging the abilities of the Kenyan and African Union troops it is now fighting.

"#KDF (Kenya Defense Forces): An Army without experience, clear strategy & objective is fragile to winds of resistance & slightest confrontation precipitates defeat," reads one tweet.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban has attracted attention via a long-running Twitter battle with the NATO ISAF press office. The Taliban has a relatively sophisticated press and information operation, with a web presence and press releases and statements distributed to reporters via email and even text message.

Shabaab also seems to be increasing the sophistication of its propaganda war, having established a virtual press office that sends out English-language press releases to the international press corps. Now it may be rising to a Twitter battle challenge from the Kenyan military.

A KDF press officer has been tweeting since Kenyan troops entered neighboring Somalia in October. Using the hashtag #OperationLindaNichi and the handle @MajorEChichir, KDF Maj. E. Chichir has been tweeting both alleged victories and warnings to the local population. A few of his tweets have inspired ridicule, like the one warning Kenyans on the border not to sell donkeys to suspected Shabaab members, but he now has more than 10,000 followers.

So far @HSMPress, which uses the initials of al Shabaab's full name, the Harakat al-Shabaab al Mujahideen, has fewer than 1,000 followers. Whoever is tweeting for al Shabaab, however, seems to speak fluent, if stilted, English.

"#KDF envisaged a lightning invasion of #Somalia but the Blitzkrieg they'd hoped for became a thorny quagmire for the inexperienced soldiers," reads one.

Al Shabaab is known for recruiting militants from the English-speaking Somali diaspora. There have been at least four confirmed suicide bombings in the country carried out by Somali-American citizens. One of the group's top leaders, Omar Al-Hammami, hails from Alabama. African Union and Somali government officials say there are also Shabaab fighters from Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden.

As in Afghanistan, behind the virtual war of words there is an actual physical fight for territory, a conflict that has intensified in the last few days. Mogadishu has experienced some of the heaviest fighting in months as Shabaab fighters clash with Somali government troops backed by the KDF. Witnesses report the use of heavy weaponry and casualties on both sides.

Via Twitter, Shabaab had a warning for the Kenyans.

"Military ineptitude, deteriorating economy, social imbalance, & public ambivalence trigger a desultory face-saving attempt by the #KDF: FLEE."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio ´╗┐


Terrorists May Target Sports Fans in Kenya, US Warns

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- There is "credible information" that terrorists may unleash attacks targeting sports events in the next few days in Kenya, the U.S. embassy there said in an emergency message for U.S. citizens.

"American citizens are urged to avoid public venues, such as sports bars, night clubs, and restaurants, which will be broadcasting these games, as well as public transportation, such as buses, to and from the events," the alert said.

The message specifically says the potential attacks could be linked to the Rugby World Cup, which runs until Oct. 23 in New Zealand, or the highly-anticipated soccer match between Kenya and Uganda taking place at Uganda's Namboole stadium Saturday.

Last July, Uganda was hit with one of the most devastating terror attacks in its history when a pair of bombs exploded during a viewing of the soccer World Cup, killing 76 people.

The al Qaeda-linked terror group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for that attack.  The terrorist organization is based in Somalia where it has been locked in a violent struggle with the Somali government for years, but has exported violence beyond its own borders.

A recent report by the House Homeland Security Committee said that up to 40 Americans are training with al-Shabaab in Somalia and represent a "direct threat" not only to Americans abroad, but also to the American homeland.

Before his death, Osama bin Laden had also personally urged al-Shabaab to target the U.S. directly because he was aware of the Americans of Somali descent who has joined al-Shabaab, U.S. officials told ABC News in June.

One high-profile American member of the organization, Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, works as spokesperson for the group in addition to releasing jihad-themed raps.

Hammami, a native of Alabama, is wanted by the FBI for "terrorism violations" including allegedly "providing material support to terrorists."

Earlier this week, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a truck bombing outside the ministry of education in Mogadishu that claimed more than 100 lives and injured dozens of others.

In that case, most of the victims were high school students eagerly waiting eagerly with relatives to see if they had been awarded scholarships to study abroad, government officials said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Somali Terror Investigation: Man Extradited to US from Netherlands

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- The Justice Department Monday announced the extradition of a Somali man from the Netherlands to Minneapolis, where he appeared in federal court before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis. Mohamud Omar is facing terrorism charges for his alleged role in the recruitment of Somali-American men to fight with the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab terrorist network.

The 45-year-old permanent U.S resident and Somali citizen living in the Netherlands was arrested and charged in 2009 with five counts of conspiracy, including aiding and abetting, conspiracy to kill, kidnap maim and injure and providing materials support to terrorists. Omar allegedly helped provide financing for the young Somali men to obtain weapons and helped facilitate travel from the United States to Somalia.

Omar had been granted permanent U.S. resident status in 1994, and is believed to have traveled to and from Somalia on several occasions.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Somalian Famine Relief Slowed By Gov't Offensive Against Insurgents

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images(DADAAB, Kenya) -- The United Nations warns that famine in southern Somalia has spread to three more regions and that all of southern Somalia will be a famine zone within the next month if there is not an urgent intervention, potentially dooming tens of thousands to death by starvation.

But getting assistance to the neediest areas has been complicated by an offensive launched by African Union and Somali government troops in Mogadishu against the al Qaeda-affiliated group al Shabaab, U.N. officials said.

The AU Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, told ABC News that it has been working to push back al Shabaab to make it easier for humanitarian groups to deliver assistance. In the last month at least 100,000 refugees have fled their drought-stricken homes to come to the war-torn capital. But two of the newly declared famine areas are both nearby and inside of the city itself.

Ej Hogendoorn, the Horn of Africa Director for the International Crisis Group, said that AMISOM has launched a pre-emptive strike against Shabaab after there were indications that the group planned to carry out a violent campaign during Ramadan. Al Shabaab launched a similar offensive last year that included a deadly suicide bombing at the Muna Hotel which killed 32 people, including government officials.

The fighting has severely hampered the ability of aid agencies to reach those who are starving.

"The ongoing offensive is negatively affecting the ability of UNHCR and other partners to deliver assistance to populations in distress at a time when their needs are most urgent," said Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, spokesperson for UNHCR in a statement.

The complication of violence is what makes Somalia's crisis so much worse than the already serious drought the rest of the Horn of Africa is facing. The famine conditions, say humanitarian groups, are the result of a deadly equation of both drought and violence. Aid agencies don't want to get involved in the politics, they say, and just want to help people.

Lejuene-Kaba tells ABC News that the increase in fighting between pro- and anti-government forces over the last three days has been particularly disruptive to the relief effort.

Hogendoorn said that AMISOM and the Somali government's military actions have been more about securing and capturing the city from Shabaab than about delivering aid.

"We want all parties to ensure that there is humanitarian access, that humanitarian space be preserved at all times," said Lejeune-Kaba. "Without that access it's the civilians who suffer."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Famine Aid Delivery Complicated by Somalia Terror Group

A young child is given a vaccine in the Ifo refugee camp which makes up part of the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 20, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. The ongoing civil war in Somalia and the worst drought to affect the Horn of Africa in six decades has resulted in an estimated 12 million people whose lives are threatened. Oli Scarff/Getty Images(NAIROBI, Kenya) --  International aid groups are preparing to return to southern Somalia nearly two years after threats by a radical Islamic group forced them out, but a devastating and spreading famine has forced the the agencies to do whatever is necessary to save lives.

The agencies are also acting in the face of U.S. concern that the aid could end up bolstering the al Qaeda-affiliated terror group Al-Shabaab.

Parts of southern Somalia have now been officially declared a famine, the first of the 21st century, according to the United Nations. Nearly three million Somalis are affected, and aid organizations are grappling with how to reach the most destitute areas, which are currently under the control of the militant Islamic group Shabaab.

The humanitarian "emergency" became a "famine" after the U.N. determined more than 30 percent of children in the areas were suffering from acute malnutrition, and two adults or four children out of a group of 10,000 people were dying of hunger each day.

"If we don't act now, famine will spread to all eight regions of southern Somalia within two months, due to poor harvests and infectious disease outbreaks," said Mark Bowden, the humanitarian coordinator for Somalia. "We still do not have all the resources for food, clean water, shelter and health services to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Somalis in desperate need."

International humanitarian organizations have not operated in the area for nearly two years. Most pulled out in early 2010 because of insecurity and demands by Al-Shabaab, such as banning women aid workers and charging a "tax" on all assistance. The tax was particularly problematic because giving any money or goods to the group would be violating U.S. anti-terrorism funding laws.

Al-Shabaab has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States, which historically has been the largest funder of food aid to Somalia.

But now, with hundreds of thousands Somalis starving to death as they take the treacherous journey from their drought-stricken homes to overcrowded refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, humanitarian agencies say there is no choice but to do whatever is necessary to save lives, even if that means dealing with Shabaab.

Some organizations have been openly critical of the U.S., saying that its position is partially responsible for the current disaster.

Bowden told reporters Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, that the United States' sanctions against al-Shabaab "complicates efforts through increased levels of suspicion and motivation so it may lead to access problems in parts. We hope there is an understanding that this is a humanitarian imperative to get assistance in."

The United States maintains that the problem is not with U.S. policy, but with al-Shabaab. The group is known for its brutal leadership including stoning a 13-year-old girl to death after she was raped, dismembering alleged thieves, and banning movies, cellphone ringtones and even bras.

"U.S. sanctions are not the issue or the problem," says Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of African affairs at the State Department.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in a statement that the United States will provide an additional $28 million in emergency aid money to the Somalis in dire need.

Copyright 2011 News Radio


Famine in Africa: What Is the US Doing?

ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images(LONDON) -- With international aid groups finally being allowed back into Somalia amid record drought, the United States and international aid groups have begun to explore how they can assist millions of people suffering from famine in the isolated country.

Yet nowhere has the famine been felt more acutely than in Somalia, where conditions have been exacerbated by authorities who, until earlier this month, would not allow international aid groups to distribute assistance to even the most malnourished children. More than 2.8 million people there are said to be affected and up to 1.5 million have already been displaced.

Finally, with famine reaching epic levels in many areas, and rising food prices elsewhere, al Shabaab, the radical Islamist group that rules much of Somalia, agreed to allow incoming aid shipments. The United Nations sent its first emergency aid flight last week.

The United States has provided more than $383 million in emergency food assistance to the region since October, resulting in the distribution of more than 347,720 metric tons of food aid. But al Shabaab’s restrictions have allowed only a fraction of it -- $43 million -- to reach victims in Somalia. That figure includes last week’s $21 million contribution of 19,000 metric tons of emergency food rations through the United Nations World Food Program.

Somalia has been without a central government now for two decades and law and order is enforced in most areas outside of the capital of Mogadishu by al Shabaab, which has ties with al Qaeda. Two years ago Shabaab expelled foreign aid groups, accusing them of undermining the strict Islamic state it seeks to build in Somalia.

The timing could not have been worse as rainy season after rainy season began to fail, plunging an already food insecure region into famine. Desperate Somalis now trek for weeks to reach refugee camps in neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia, where the situation in the host community is not much better. The refugees risk violence from armed groups along the way. Many have had to bury children who starved to death before reaching the relative safety of the camps.

Yet despite the dangers of travel and the dire conditions in the camps themselves, thousands of Somalis continue to stream across the border each day. The United States Agency for International Development quotes humanitarian agency estimates that about half of the children younger than 5 who arrive at the Dolo Ado transit center in Ethiopia are malnourished. They quote relief group estimates that nearly one in five of children between 6 months and 5 years of age residing in refugee camps in northern Kenya are "severely malnourished."

Although the United Nations sent in a first shipment of aid to Somalia last week, other private groups are reportedly reluctant to follow suit, worried about the tenuous security situation in the country and unsure about al Shabaab’s promises.

The U.S. State Department, however, said earlier this month that it would take al Shabaab at its word and test its willingness to cooperate. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week directed her staff to explore what was needed to head off a humanitarian catastrophe, her representative told reporters. The United States Agency for International Development has mobilized its disaster emergency response teams to identify aid priorities and coordinate assistance arriving in the region. USAID has also set up a task force to oversee the effort from its Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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