- Created on 10 October 2013
In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18 km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. International military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 against foreign fighters in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaida operative, officials said. (AP Photo / Farah Abdi Warsameh, File)
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The al-Shabab stronghold of Barawe, a coastal town in Somalia where U.S. Navy SEALs came ashore in a failed raid last weekend, is gripped by fear and tension as residents worry they'll be accused of spying and the insurgents ready for another attack.
Foreign fighters and Somali members of al-Shabab have in recent years moved into the town, edged by red desert and emerald seas, as African Union peacekeeping troops and Somali government forces pushed the Islamic insurgent group from Somalia's capital and other areas.
Saturday's pre-dawn raid by the American commandoes was aimed at a Kenyan al-Shabab member named as a planner of al-Shabab terrorist attacks. Since the SEAL raid, more al-Shabab battle wagons — pickup trucks mounted with machine guns or recoilless rifles — can be seen prowling the sandy streets of the town, residents say.
Most of the residents of Barawe, a town which has existed for more than five centuries, rely on fishing and small businesses for income. Al-Shabab maintains strict control of the activities and life of local residents who are told to close shops and other businesses to attend the five daily Muslim prayers at mosques. The insurgents also require women to wear Islamic dress that covers the whole body except for the face or eyes.
Residents told The Associated Press by phone that after the SEAL raid on a seaside villa, al-Shabab fighters detained several people on suspicion of spying, an allegation that often leads to public executions without any meaningful judicial process.
"We are really scared. Sounds like they think everyone is spy," said Noh, a resident who did not want to have his surname used out of fear of reprisals.
Barawe, which lies on Somalia's southeast coast between Mogadishu and the Kenyan border, has been under the control of al-Shabab since 2009, when Ethiopian troops pulled out of southern and central Somalia. The militants named a mayor of the city, which is a militant training ground and economic hub.
A July report by the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia said that al-Shabab has a "suicide training school" near Barawe.
The town hosts the largest number of foreign fighters in Somalia, most often from Kenya, Yemen and Sudan. In September 2012, militants publicly executed two men they accused of spying for African Union forces. In February the bodies of two beheaded men were found, likely killed by militants who suspected them of having links with the government, the U.N. report said.
Barawe's port is a money-maker for the insurgent group, used by ships bringing in illegal weapons and shipping out charcoal — between 600,000 and 1 million sacks per month, according to a U.N. estimate. Each sack is charged a $2 tax, netting between $1.2 million and $2 million a month for al-Shabab.
Since al-Shabab lost control of the port city of Kismayo, the Barawe income and taxes provide an important economic base for al-Shabab, which provides no social services to residents. The fighters have been able to maintain control of the town and its crumbling, arched buildings because the African Union and Somali government forces are too thinly spread to try to invade.
The Somali government and AMISOM, the acronym of the AU peacekeeping mission whose forces currently number 17,000, have repeatedly asked the U.N. for authorization and funding of more troops and attack helicopters, so far to no avail.
In September 2009 a SEAL raid in Barawe killed six people, including Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the most-wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region and an alleged plotter of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
"The latest attack made the mujahedeen even more vigilant," said Abu Mohamed, an al-Shabab official in Barawe. "Any more attacks by them will strengthen our morale and spirit."
Saturday's SEAL raid occurred 20 years after the "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu in which a mission to capture Somali warlords in the capital went awry after militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle, which marked the beginning of the end of that U.S. military mission to bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation.
In 1991, warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging Somalia into chaos.
- Created on 10 October 2013
LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — A pan-African magazine says Africa has many more billionaires than previously reported, 55 of them worth $143.88 billion including a Nigerian said to be the richest black woman in the world.
"Move over, Oprah!" Ventures Africa says in its latest edition published this week.
Editor-in-chief Uzodinma Iweala said Tuesday, Oct. 8 that their estimates are "on the conservative side."
The report predictably identifies Nigerian manufacturer Aliko Dangote as the richest African worth $20.2 billion, among 20 Nigerians listed.
It surprises by identifying oil tycoon Folorunsho Alakija as the richest black woman in the world, worth $7.3 billion.
Forbes magazine in its respected list had estimated Alakija's fortune at $600 million and Oprah Winfrey's worth at $2.9 billion. Iweala said his researchers are "closer to the ground" and expect to unearth more African billionaires.
- Created on 07 October 2013
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, al-Shabab fighters march with their weapons during military exercises on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. Foreign military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 against foreign fighters in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaida operative, officials said. (AP Photo/Mohamed Sheikh Nor, File)
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The man U.S. Navy SEALs tried to take down in Somalia over the weekend was a Kenyan who had plotted to attack his country's parliament building and the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi, according to a Kenyan government intelligence report.
The pre-dawn, seaside SEAL raid on Saturday targeted Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, who is also known as Ikrima, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The U.S. troops are not believed to have captured or killed their target. The official insisted on anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release the information
In the internal report by Kenya's National Intelligence Service, Abdulkadir is listed as the lead planner of a plot sanctioned by al-Qaida's core leadership in Pakistan to carry out multiple attacks in Kenya in late 2011 and early 2012. The AP has previously reported that those attacks, linked to the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, were disrupted.
The report, which was leaked to AP and other media in the wake of the Sept. 21 terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall that killed more than 60 people, lists Samantha Lewthwaite — a Briton known in British media as the "White Widow" — as one of several "key actors" in the plot to attack Parliament buildings, the U.N. Office in Nairobi, Kenyan Defense Forces camps and other targets. The plotters also intended to assassinate top Kenyan political and security officials, the report said.
Police disrupted that plot. Lewthwaite, who was married to one of the suicide bombers in the 2005 attack on London's transit system, escaped capture when she produced a fraudulently obtained South African passport in another person's name. Late last month Interpol, acting on a request from Kenya, issued an arrest notice for Lewthwaite.
The National Intelligence Service report, in an entry dated exactly one year before the Sept. 21 mall attack, said al-Shabab operatives were in Nairobi "and are planning to mount suicide attacks on undisclosed date, targeting Westgate Mall and Holy Family Basilica." Two suspects were believed in possession of suicide vests, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, the report said.
The report makes no mention of Abdulkadir in relation to the attack on Westgate Mall.
The men who attacked the mall last month and held off besieging Kenyan troops for several days were armed with grenades and AK-47s, but apparently had no suicide vests. It was unclear if one planned attack on the mall was foiled and then carried out again or if it was merely postponed for a year by al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the carnage.
The internal document shows that Kenyan intelligence officers have detailed information about plots and individuals tasked with carrying them out, and that the spy handlers face a continuous threat. Other targeted sites included the Hilton Hotel, the Yaya shopping mall, the office of the prime minister, and possibly the embassies of the United States — which was blown up by al-Qaida in 1998 — and of Britain and Israel.
The SEAL raid in Somalia was only one of two anti-terror missions by U.S. forces in Africa over the weekend. In Libya on Saturday, the U.S. Army's Delta Force captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Libi, an al-Qaida leader linked to the 1998 American Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
That raid prompted a warning Monday from a group of Libyan Islamic extremists who vowed to avenge al-Libi's capture.
In a statement posted on a militant website Monday, "The Revolutionaries of Benghazi, al-Bayda and Darna" denounced the kidnapping, saying "this shameful act will cost the Libyan government a lot."
The cities of Benghazi, Bayda and Darna are strongholds of Islamic extremists who are carrying out political assassinations targeting political activists, judges and members of security agencies.
"We owe it to God to fight whoever betrayed his country and involved in this conspiracy," the group said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that al-Libi was in U.S. custody. A U.S. official familiar with the case said later that al-Libi was taken aboard a U.S. warship for questioning. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details.
The FBI and CIA had been tracking Abu Anas al-Libi for years, said two former U.S. intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak about the case.
One of the former officials said that al-Libi had been living in Pakistan before he returned to Libya before Moammar Gadhafi's government fell. He went back to Africa to be reunited with his family.
Al-Libi, the former official said, and his network of associates had been involved in battling Gadhafi's forces.
Once the fighting ended, the U.S. intelligence community began focusing on trying to capture al-Libi, the official said, adding that the U.S. Army's Delta Force worked with local Libyans to apprehend al-Libi. One of the New York FBI's counterterrorism squads — CT-6— that focuses on Africa played a significant role in the arrest of al-Libi.
It's unclear when al-Libi will be brought back to New York to face terrorism charges.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday defended the capture of al-Libi, saying complaints about the operation from Libya and others are unfounded. Kerry said the suspect was a "legal and appropriate target" for the U.S. military and will face justice in a court of law. Kerry added it was important not to "sympathize" with wanted terrorists.
"I hope the perception is in the world that people who commit acts of terror and who have been appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process, will know that United States of America is going to do anything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and to protect our security," Kerry told reporters after meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific economic conference in Bali, Indonesia.
"Members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can't hide," he added.
- Created on 04 October 2013
An armed Kenyan policeman patrols past the Masjid Musa Mosque, where Muslim cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismael who was killed Thusday night preached, following rioting after Friday prayers in the area in Mombasa, Kenya Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. A religious leader on Kenya's coast says that the cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Ismael who preached at Mombasa's Masjid Musa Mosque, whose previous imam Aboud Rogo Mohammed was mysteriously shot dead in August 2012, has died in a barrage of bullets late Thursday near the coastal city of Mombasa. (AP Photo)
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Gunmen killed a Muslim cleric and three others in a hail of bullets in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, a year after the imam's predecessor was killed in the same manner and on the same road and nearly the same spot. The killings triggered street violence by youths on Friday who blamed police for the homicides, and four more people were killed in the mayhem.
The shooting death late Thursday of Sheik Ibrahim Ismael may be a reprisal by Kenyan security forces for the Sept. 21 attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall that killed more than 60 people. A Somali Islamic extremist group, al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for the mall attack. Ismael's predecessor at the Masjid Musa Mosque, who was gunned down in August 2012, had been accused of aiding al-Shabab, including recruiting youths for the Somali group.
The dark four-door car that Ismael was riding in was riddled by bullets. People gathered around the car, taking photographs and staring at the bodies as weeping relatives of the dead approached.
Police spokeswoman Gatiria Mboroki denied that police had any involvement in the killings. "We are investigating who did this and what the motive is because we don't know," she said.
The U.S. State Department, in an annual report, said Human rights groups estimated that police were responsible for approximately 1,000 extrajudicial killings between 2008 and 2012.
"Members of the security forces were suspected of being responsible for a number of forced disappearances. At least half dozen prominent Muslim leaders alleged to have terrorist ties were victims of killings or forced disappearances," the State Department said.
Young men on Friday partly burned the Salvation Army Church and put burning tires on the road. Police carrying assault rifles came to the scene as smoke poured from the compound. Police fired into the air and lobbed tear gas. Kenya's Red Cross said four people were killed, including at least one with gunshot wounds.
Supporters who had gathered around the scene of Ismael's assassination Thursday blamed Kenyan police for the deaths, saying the killings were payback for the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi.
"If we take up arms we are terrorists, if we don't we get killed... what are we supposed to do when they are killing us. The police are killing us," said Sheik Abubaker Shariff Ahmed also known as Makaburi, who has been sanctioned by the U.N. and the U.S for alleged links to al-Shabab.
The four deaths and Friday violence come amid fears of worsening relations between Kenya's minority Muslim population — many of whom are of Somali origin — and Kenya's majority Christian population.
Ismael preached at Mombasa's Masjid Musa Mosque, where Aboud Rogo Mohammed once preached. Mohammed had been sanctioned by the U.N. and U.S. for supporting al-Shabab. A Kenyan government task force did not establish who killed Mohammed. His supporters and human rights groups blamed the police. The killing led to days of deadly violence in Mombasa, which lies on the Indian Ocean and has a large Muslim population.
In the wake of Friday's violence, the U.S. Embassy restricted travel to Mombasa and said "we strongly encourage all American citizens" to avoid areas in Mombasa where violence has been seen.
"There is the potential of further demonstrations and violence," the embassy said.
The U.N. advised its staff in Mombasa to minimize their movements and to follow a 10 p.m. curfew over the weekend.
Following the Kenya mall attack, Human Rights Watch researcher Laetitia Bader wrote that many Somalis who have fled to Kenya because of al-Shabab violence inside Somalia have sometimes faced "serious abuses at the hands of the Kenyan security forces who wrongfully accuse them of supporting" al-Shabab.