Entries in al Shabab (9)


Al Qaeda Affiliate Loses Ground in Somalia

Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/GettyImages(KISMAYO, Somalia) -- The al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia has officially lost control of its last major stronghold now that Allied African forces confirm they have seized the key port city of Kismayo.

The al Shabab militants were blamed for causing the instability in Somalia that turned last year's drought into a famine when aid agencies couldn't safely reach hundreds of thousands of starving people.

Now that al Shabab no longer controls any large cities in Somalia, some analysts fear the group could shift its focus to planning more terrorist attacks in other countries.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Shabab Terror Group Loses Control of Key Somali Town

STUART PRICE/AFP/Getty Images(NAIROBI) -- While much of Somalia is still controlled by the hard-line terrorist group al Shabab, the internationally-funded troops who are attempting to push the militants out of the country are claiming an important victory.

African Union soldiers have taken control of the southern town of Afmadow, strategically important because of its location along the road leading to the port city of Kismayo -- believed to be the main source of al Shabab’s weapons and funding. African Union troops hope to capture Kismayo within a few months, which would be a potentially significant blow to the militants.

Meanwhile, Somali and world leaders are meeting in Turkey for the second major international conference this year to talk about how to restore peace and order in a country that has had neither for decades.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Another Grenade Attack in Kenya Kills at Least One, Injures Three

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MOMBASA, Kenya) -- Local police in the coastal city of Mombasa say the latest grenade attack in the country since it sent troops into Somalia last year killed one and injured three others Tuesday night at a restaurant and sports bar. Kenya’s Daily Nation reports there were warnings in the last few months that the Bella Vista restaurant would be targeted.  A witness said the attackers in two cars opened fire first in the parking lot before lobbing three grenades toward the entrance of the building, killing a security guard.

Kenya police blame Somalia’s Al Shabab insurgents and sympathizers for the series of grenade attacks in Nairobi, Mombasa, and near the border with Somalia since last October.  Al Shabab has vowed reprisal attacks on Kenya.  Most of the attacks have been targeted at local Kenyans, though the U.S. Embassy recently warned of a possible attack on hotels or government buildings in Nairobi.

Also Tuesday, at the Dadaab refugee camp near the border with Somalia, a police officer was killed while escorting aid workers when his car was hit by an improvised bomb.  Security challenges in Dadaab are making it difficult for aid organizations working at the world’s largest refugee camp that most people now associate with last year’s famine in the Horn of Africa.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Al Shabab: Suicide Bomber in Somalia Was American

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- Al Qaeda's Somali affiliate has claimed credit for a Saturday suicide bombing that killed 10 in Mogadishu, and says one of the men who carried out the attack was a 22-year-old man from Minnesota known to his friends back home as "Bullethead."

Abdisalan Hussein Ali, who was born in Somalia but raised in Minneapolis, disappeared from Minnesota in 2008. After Saturday's attack in Mogadishu, the terror group al Shabab released a tape that it said was made by the bomber prior to the assault, featuring an American-accented voice using U.S. slang to preach jihad. The voice urges other youths not to "just chill all day," but wage jihad instead.

On Saturday, two suicide bombers were among a force of militants disguised in Somali Army uniforms who attacked a military base of African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu. At least ten people died in the bombing and the firefight that followed.

A Somali diplomat to the U.N. said that friends and family of Ali listened to the recording and confirmed his identity, according to The New York Times. If Ali is confirmed to be the bomber, he would be the fourth Somali-American to launch a suicide attack in Somalia. U.S. officials said they had not confirmed the bomber's identity but were investigating.

Ali was among the local youths indicted in absentia by a grand jury in Minneapolis in 2010 for providing material support to al Shabab. He is currently wanted by the FBI.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Ali graduated from Edison High School in Minneapolis, where schoolmates knew him as "Bullethead," and briefly attended the University of Minnesota before disappearing in 2008. The Times said that Ali was a pre-med student in college; the message that al Shabab attributed to Ali includes the statement, "It is not important that you, you know...become a doctor or... some sort of engineer."

After a June incident in which a Minnesota man apparently carried out a suicide bombing that killed two African Union soldiers in Somalia, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said that although she could not confirm the incident, "It's consistent with something we have been raising for months, which is a growth of Americans or U.S. persons who have become radicalized."

"That is a fundamental change in how we have seen terrorism [since] the attacks of 9/11," said Napolitano. Since 2006 as many as 30 young Somali men have left the United States to fight in Somalia. The probe into the youths going to fight overseas in Somalia's war received increased attention from the FBI and DHS officials after Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, blew himself up in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia Oct. 28, 2008 in an attack that targeted an African Union intelligence post. A second young man from the Seattle area blew himself up in an attack in 2009.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Predator Drones Flying Out of Ethiopia, US Confirms

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Obama administration confirmed Friday that it had been quietly operating unarmed Reaper drones out of an airport in eastern Ethiopia as part of the ongoing U.S. counterterrorism effort targeting al Shabab in Somalia. Al Shabab is a militant group affiliated with al Qaeda that has created an unstable security situation in Somalia.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the drones were operating from Ethiopia “as part of our partnership with the government of Ethiopia to promote stability in the Horn of Africa.”  He added, “The UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles] are not conducting any strike missions from Ethiopia. There are no U.S. military bases in Ethiopia. ”

Asked why the drones were being sent to Ethiopia, a U.S. official confirmed it was to focus on al Shabab activities in neighboring Somalia.  In recent years, the U.S. has focused counterterrorism efforts on al Shabab as it’s become more evident that the group may want to conduct terrorist strikes against American targets.  

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. has “an intense partnership” with the Ethiopian military in training peacekeeping troops and counterterrorism assistance.  “We are working together on a broad, sustained and integrated campaign to counter terrorism. And in doing so, we are harnessing all tools of American power. So obviously, the Ethiopians themselves don’t have these advanced drone aircraft that can provide intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, so we support their counterterrorism efforts with these aircraft. ”

The administration’s acknowledgement of the previously undisclosed drone program in Ethiopia was prompted by a story in the Washington Post.

Master Sgt. James Fisher, a spokesman for the 17th Air Force, which  oversees Air Force operations in Africa, said the drone flights “will continue as long as the government of Ethiopia welcomes our cooperation on these varied security programs.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Dozens Killed after Car Bomb Explodes in Somali Capital

U.S. State Department(MOGADISHU, Somalia) -- As many as 65 people were killed in Somalia on Tuesday when a truck filled with explosives went off in a crowded area near a university in Mogadishu, according to a Somali government spokesman.

Soldiers, civilians, and students were among those killed.  Several others were wounded, including the country's minister of health.

Al-Shabab, an Islamic militant group linked to al Qaeda, told the BBC it was responsible for the attack.

Tuesday's bombing was the largest attack in Somalia's capital since al-Shabab pulled out of Mogadishu in August.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


CIA Assists Somali Terror Interrogations, But No Secret Prison in Somalia -- A U.S. official tells ABC News that the CIA has provided assistance to Somalia’s fragile government as it interrogates terrorism suspects, but refutes a report that the agency runs a secret prison in that unstable country.

A story published in The Nation said that the CIA was running a secret prison to house and interrogate terror suspects belonging to al Shabab, the Somali terror group linked to al Qaeda.  The facility is said to be located in the in the basement of Somalia’s security in Mogadishu.

The report also described "a sprawling walled compound" recently set up in a remote corner of the Mogadishu airport  that is used to train a Somali force in counterterrorism.  Consisting of more than a dozen buildings, the facility is said to be protected by Somali soldiers, though access is controlled by the CIA.   

The U.S. official denied that there is a CIA counterterrorism detention facility in Somalia  but acknowledged that the CIA has provided support to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) during interrogations of terror suspects.

According to the official, “the agency, as you would expect, provides counterterrorism support to the TFG fighting al Shabab in their own country.”

The official characterized that support as having occurred  “on very rare occasions” when “CIA officers provide support to the TFG during debriefings of terror detainees in TFG custody.”

The official called the assistance “the logical and prudent thing to do.”  

Senior U.S. officials have expressed concern that al Shabab may be trying to expand its terror operations beyond Somalia, much as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has launched attacks on western targets outside of Yemen.

Somalia is of particular concern because the TFG has little control beyond Mogadishu, and U.S. government officials worry that those lawless regions might become a safe haven for al Shabab and other terror groups.

In the past, the U.S. military has sometimes launched air strikes targeting al Qaeda leaders who have sought refuge in Somalia.

Most recently in late June, the secretive Joint Special Operations Command used a new tool against terror targets, for the first time using a drone to launch missiles at a terror suspect. The military has also been using drones to strike at terror suspects in Yemen, much like the CIA has been doing over Pakistan’s tribal regions for several years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Militant Group Thanked for Lifting Ban on International Aid in Somalia

U.S. State Department(NAIROBI, Kenya) -- A group of international humanitarian agencies issued a joint press release Thursday essentially thanking Somalia's al Qaeda-backed militants for lifting a ban on international aid.

The statement says it "welcomes" al Shabbab's new stance but also wants guarantees that aid workers will be safe.

Southern Somalia, where al Shabab remains in control, is facing its worst drought in decades.  The combination of drought, rising food prices and violence has resulted in at least 1,300 people fleeing to neighboring Kenya daily. Aid groups like Save The Children say 30 to 50 percent of the children arriving are severely malnourished.  The United Nations says areas under the militant group's control are hosting almost 80 percent of the malnourished children.

In the past, aid agencies like the World Food Programme, have struggled with how to provide much-needed assistance to regions controlled by al Shabab without breaking U.S. anti-terrorism laws, which make it illegal to provide material or financial support to any group officially classified as a terrorist organization.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Somali Interior Minister Killed in Suicide Bomb

Getty(MOGADISHU) -- On Friday, the Somali interior minister was killed at his house by a veiled female suicide bomber, say officials.

BBC News reports that Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan died from injuries sustained from a bomb explosion set off by his niece who had joined the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. The group claimed responsibility for the attack and promised that there would be more.

The killing comes amidst days of unrest in the capital. Two protestors were reportedly killed when troops fired on street demonstrators protesting a deal to extend the mandates of the president and the parliament.

Sheik Hassan’s niece had visited her uncle several times and was not checked by security guards when she returned. She detonated the bomb when she entered the house and was killed.

Somalia is considered a failed state with a non-functioning government since 1991.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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