Confederation Council Foundation for Africa Inc.,
eNCA visited a few Johannesburg suburbs to trace the movement of the so-called White Widow. eNCA reporter Narissa Subramoney stopped by a suburbs where she had apparently lived and worked.
Nairobi, September 27 - As the smoke settles at Nairobi's Westgate Mall, those who helped save hundreds from the terrorists tell their stories.
From: mark osano
Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 6:22 AM
Subject: [PK] GOVERNMENT AUTHORITIES TO STOP FUSSY MATHS ON WEST GATE TERROR.
From: mohamed warsama
To: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Sent: Friday, September 27, 2013 10:29 AM
Subject: WHITE WIDOW MAY HAVE ESCAPED TO SOMALIA
Shabelle Media Network (Mogadishu)
Somalia: U.S Intelligence Claims Al-Shabab Planning New Kenya-Like Attacks28 September 2013
The US intelligence community has reportedly said that the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the Nairobi mall-attack, may be planning new attacks in East Africa, particularly Kenya.
The intelligence community monitored a specific stream of classified information, but it did not include details of specific target or date. One US intelligence official said that there are data points which are worrisome and now the intelligence is focused on how to prevent any more attacks, CNN reports.
The officials said that the classified information they tracked is different from the public claims and tweets made by the Somalia-based terror group. The US State Department has reissued a travel specific warning to Kenya saying Americans already there or planning to go there should evaluate their personal security situation, the report adde
Sabahi (Washington, DC)
Kenya: Westgate Attack Reveals Gaping Security HolesBy Rajab Ramah and Julius Kithuure, , and Bosire Boniface in Garissa, 27 September 2013
A prior terror alert
In August, security officials issued a terror alert for Kenya, saying they had received intelligence reports that at least five al-Shabaab operatives had entered Mombasa from Somalia and may have been plotting an attack to coincide with the first anniversary of radical cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed's killing.
"A security alert in Mombasa or Kisumu should be a concern for the entire country," said retired army Major Bishar Hajji Abdullahi. "It is evident that someone was lax."
"In the aftermath of this incident, those who know they are culpable should just resign, or the president [should] sack them," Abdullahi told Sabahi.
The Kenyan Defence Forces and allied troops have done a good job dispersing al-Shabaab inside Somalia, but Kenya's security services should have launched a manhunt for suspected militants on the home soil once they got those intelligence reports, he said.
David Ochami, a Mombasa-based journalist who covers Middle East and Horn of Africa militant groups, said there were signs of a potential attack in the weeks leading up to the Westgate siege.
Al-Shabaab and its sympathizers had been very active on social media in the weeks before the attack, for example, and their messages could have provided clues to prevent the attack, he said.
"Some of the postings may turn out to be a hoax to instil fear or posturing, but they should be deciphered and taken very seriously," Ochami told Sabahi.
Even during the siege at the mall, al-Shabaab frequently posted messages about it on Twitter, Ochami said, underscoring the importance of paying attention to how terrorists use social media as they mount and execute such attacks.
Despite having at least five Twitter handles shut down this year, including three in the aftermath of the Westgate attack, al-Shabaab is still using the social media site to threaten and mock its enemies.
In a series of tweets Thursday, al-Shabaab criticised the Kenyan government for the apparent conflicting information it provided following the attack.
"The Kenyan government is still in disarray & it won't be until several months when it fully comprehends exactly what took place at Westgate," al-Shabaab said. "Their contradictory version of events is a sure sign that the Kenyan govt is beginning to suffer from severe constipation of ideas."
The militants went on to boast of their "mesmeric performance" at Westgate, keeping Kenyans "completely enthralled for more than 100 hours".
Al-Shabaab renewed its threats to Kenyans saying, "... despair not folks, that was just the première of Act 1".
A tipoff Westgate attack was coming
Meanwhile, Kenyan lawmaker Mike Sonko made headlines this week by claiming that well before the attack he had received information that terrorists were planning to strike Westgate mall and other Nairobi landmarks.
He said he had relayed this information to the authorities, but they did not take it seriously enough.
According to Sonko, who represents the Westlands constituency where Westgate is located, two women approached him about three months ago with information that al-Shabaab militants had rented a house in the Parklands neighbourhood of Nairobi and were plotting such attacks.
"They told me the attacks were targeting Westgate, Village Market, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and parliament," he told Sabahi. "I assisted them in recording a statement with the police and intelligence officers so a further probe could be carried out."
The National Security Intelligence Service and other security organs failed to act on the tip, Sonko said. He shared this information with the Senate on September 24th, the day the standoff at Westgate ended.
Fellow lawmaker Asman Kamama, who chairs the National Assembly's Administration and National Security Committee, said the mall attack exposed lapses in intelligence gathering.
"The way the attacks were carried out, it was well co-ordinated, meaning it was something that was well planned and executed," Kamama, a United Republican Party member who represents Baringo County, told Sabahi.
"And for our intelligence to have had no clue on the impending attacks, means there [were] huge security failures that we must audit and [for which we must] hold individuals culpable," he said.
Voice of America (Washington, DC)
Somalia: Top Priority for FBI in Minnesota - Somali ExtremistsBy Brian Padden, 27 September 2013
Minnesota — U.S. law enforcement officials say preventing Somali Americans from aiding the terrorist organization al-Shabab continues to be its top priority in Minnesota, where the largest Somali community in the United States resides.
The FBI said it will not comment at this time on its active investigation into the al-Shabab terrorist group's attack on Nairobi's Westgate Mall and whether any Somali Americans were involved.
But for FBI agents in Minneapolis, combating al-Shabab's efforts to radicalize Somali Americans has been the top priority for years. Kyle Loven is the chief division counsel for the region. "We have individuals who have purportedly [been] going over to fight on behalf of a foreign terrorist organization which has been so designated by the state department," he noted. "So that is a violation of federal law and we've had some convictions here in the last couple of years."
More than 20 young Somali Americans have travelled to Somalia to fight for the terrorist group. Some were killed overseas. Some returned and were convicted of aiding a terrorist organization and sentenced to between 3 and 20 years. Loven said the FBI is intent on ending the terrorist ties between Somalia and Minnesota.
"We want to discover who is radicalizing these young men, facilitators, where the money is coming from, and try to disrupt this pipeline of young Somali men. That is the aim of this investigation," Loven said.
Anders Folk, former assistant U.S. attorney for Minnesota said counter-terrorism is also a main focus. "In terms of the number of cases prosecuted and in terms of the number of defendants convicted, it is the most extensive counter terrorism investigation that Minneapolis has seen," he said.
He said the Islamic militant organization indoctrinates disaffected Muslim youths in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to recruit friends to wage jihad against enemies of Islam.
"Al-Shabab used peer to peer recruiting in the twin cities, that it used individuals who once they left Minnesota and joined the organization in Somalia, those individuals reached back to their friends and family in the twin cities," Folk explained.
Folk said law enforcement and moderate Somalis have reduced the influence of al-Shabab, but the group is still trying to reach out to at-risk Somali men in Minnesota.
Militants 'rented Westgate mall shop', had fake IDs
Updated Friday, September 27th 2013 at 20:03 GMT +3
The militants who led the attack on a Kenyan mall hired a shop there in the weeks leading up to the siege, senior security sources have told the BBC.
This gave them access to service lifts at Westgate enabling them to stockpile weapons and ammunition.
Having pre-positioned weapons they were able to re-arm quickly and repel the security forces.
Sixty-seven people are known to have died in the four-day siege. Kenya's Red Cross says 61 others are still missing.
Forensic experts are still combing the complex, looking for bodies and clues.
The Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, which is part of al-Qaeda, says it was behind the attack and the following siege at the upmarket mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
Kenya is in its third day of official mourning for both the civilian and military victims of the attack.
The BBC investigation has revealed how the Westgate gunmen were able to plan and carry out the siege, and how security breaches allegedly fuelled by corruption made it an attack waiting to happen.
To rent a shop, the militants would have needed fake IDs supplied by corrupt government officials.
The BBC has also confirmed more details about how they executed their attack.
Two vehicles dropped the Islamist extremists off outside before they forced their way into the mall, sources say.
They are also believed to have set up a base using a ventilation shaft as a hiding place, on the first floor.
Security sources have also confirmed a change of tack by the militants late on Saturday.
They rolled out heavy calibre machine guns, exploiting the moment when control of the security operation switched from the police to the military.
There are reports that this switchover was fraught with confusion.
The heads of the various security agencies have been summoned to appear before the parliamentary defence committee on Monday, amid rising concern over the authorities' preparedness for such an attack.
The committee's chairman, Ndung'u Gethenji, told the BBC that "people need to know the exact lapses in the security system that possibly allowed this event to take place".
He also said they needed to understand "the anatomy of the entire rescue operation" amid the allegations of confusion over who was in charge.
It is still not clear how many militants took place in the attack or their nationalities.
But senior sources within al-Shabab, which has repeatedly threatened attacks on Kenyan soil if Nairobi did not pull its troops out of Somalia, told the BBC by phone that they would not release the attackers' names.
A senior government official told the Associated Press news agency that the army had caused the collapse of a section of the mall on Monday.
The official, who did not want to be named, said autopsies would show whether this had killed the hostages or whether they had already been murdered.
Correspondents say there have been reports that the military had blown out a supporting column to bring the siege to an end - a controversial decision which, if confirmed, would raise the possibility that hostages' lives were seen as expendable.
Irene Anyango, manager of a Westgate jewellery shop, is one of the few people who has been allowed into the mall following the end of the siege.
"It was a nightmare… and the shop was a totally different place," she told the BBC.
Ms Anyango said 90% of the jewellery was missing from the shop, which is now flooded.
"As far as we know, for the last couple of days they were intact - we don't understand what's happening but they're not there," she said.
Many people not only face the trauma of losing family and colleagues but also the possibility of losing their jobs, she added.
On Friday morning, President Uhuru Kenyatta attended the funeral of his nephew and his nephew's fiancee at a church service Nairobi, where he addressed the congregation.
Mbugua Mwangi and Rosemary Wahito were among those killed in the mall on Saturday.
About 4,000 Kenyan troops have been sent to Somalia to help pro-government forces battle al-Shabab.
The group is banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.
Its members are fighting to create an Islamic state in Somalia.
Why we must reform security agencies now
By MUTUMA RUTERE
Leaked NIS document details terrorist plots of an attack in Nairobi between September 13 and 21
Updated Friday, September 27th 2013 at 22:37 GMT +3
|Director General of NIS Major General Michael Gichangi in deep thought during a past national ceremony. He is due to appear before a House committee on Monday [PHOTO:COLLINS KWEYU/STANDARD]|
An unprecedented leak of Intelligence briefings covering the past year paint the picture of a government fully informed of an impending Al Shabaab attack ahead of the Westgate massacre.
The leak, coming days before the National Intelligence Service ( NIS) Director General Michael Gichangi is grilled by MPs on Monday, appears to draw a line in the sand as accusations are traded over the responsibility for the attack in which at least 67 were killed.
The 8,800-word dossier details terrorist plots and other activities by the militant group, including a direct warning of a terror plot in Nairobi between September 13 and 21.
This is likely to be Gichangi’s line of defence when he appears before the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee. If Gichangi’s assertions cut ice, the tide could turn against other security organs and senior officials who must answer question as to what they did or did not with the Intelligence provided.
At a closed-door meeting of a joint committee of the House that is investigating the matter, the MPs admonished Gichangi for Intelligence gaps and security lapses that allowed terrorists to plan and execute the bloody attack.
Defence and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Ndung’u Gethenji said “it is now time for people to take responsibility and to audit our security system.”
The Intelligence leak claims that a security survey on key installations and shopping malls, including Westgate, essentially assessed their vulnerability to terrorist attacks and the requisite recommendations made.
Reports by NIS are normally shared with Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph ole Lenku and his PS Mutea Iringo, Secretary to the Cabinet Francis Kimemia (meaning President Uhuru Kenyatta must have been briefed), Inspector General David Kimaiyo and his two deputies and CID boss Ndegwa Muhoro.
NIS submitted a Situation Report dated September 21, 2002 — Serial No.184/2012 — which indicated that at least three suspected terrorists were in Nairobi planning suicide attacks on undisclosed dates.
“The following suspected Al Shabaab operatives are in Nairobi and are planning to mount suicide attacks on undisclosed date, targeting Westgate Mall and Holy Family Basilica; Sheikh Abdiwelli Mohamed, Sheikh Hussein and Sheikh Hassan. They are believed to be in possession of two suicide vests, twelve (12) hand grenades and two (2) AK47 rifles, and have already surveyed the two targets.”
“They are being assisted by Sheikh Hassan alias Blackie of Majengo and Omar Ahmed Ali alias Jerry who are currently staying near Mamba Petrol Station and Huruma Mosque along Juja Road,” the report said.
The same report indicated that two suspected Al Shabaab terrorists of Somali origin had entered South Sudan through Djibouti, Eritrea and Sudan and were suspected to be in Uganda on transit to Kenya through either Busia or Malaba border points. The two were allegedly being assisted by Teskalem Teklemaryan, an Eritrean engineer who lives in Uganda and South Sudan.
The Intelligence report further advised that the duo had purchased one GPMG, four hand-grenades, one bullet belt, five AK 47 guns and unknown number of bulletproof jackets from Joseph Lomoro, an SPLA officer, and some maps of Nairobi.
The report further disclosed that one Maalim Khalid (also known as Maalim Kenya), a Kenyan explosives and martial arts expert, had been identified as the architect of current terrorist attacks in the country. Khalid, the report indicated, is associated with attacks at Machakos Country Bus, Assanands House in Nairobi and Bellavista Club in Mombasa.
He was reported to have selected 20 Kenyans in groups of 10, whom he trained at Marka and Barawe to drive, use of pistols and grenades, establish and utilise safe houses, escape and evasion tactics and effective and secure communication.
NIS’s advice to the government then was that Khalid was planning terrorist attacks in Kenya, aimed at damaging the economy, assassination of political and security leaders, and attacking Western interests and tourists.
“Elsewhere, the Al Shabaab is contemplating attacking Kenyan interests in other countries, starting with Zambia, but the timing, target and methods are still unclear. Kenyan interests anywhere in the world, therefore, remain the militant’s potential targets of attack as the Kenya Defence Forces and AMISOM exert pressure on them, and the imminent capture of Kismayu,” reads the report.
The report further established that an Al Shabaab operative, Musharaf Abdalla (also known as Zarkawi, Ali Abdalla, Musab, Shukri Abdirahman, Rashid, Noor Abdi Ismail, Alex Shikanda), who had been arrested on September 29, 2012 in Malindi, had disclosed that his associates were targeting Florida 2000, a club opposite Hilton Hotel (assessed to be Bettyz) and unidentified strip club near Nation Centre.
Another NIS situation report dated November 9, 2012 —serial No 219/2012 — indicated that one Titus Amusibwa alias Maalim Khalid, a terrorist suspect linked to the Al Shabaab and who was arrested with arms at Mariakani on October 27, 2012, had been found with information indicating that the terror group intended to attack the Kenya Pipeline network. The planned attacks were meant to reinforce the one against Changamwe Oil Refinery for maximum damage.
Another Intelligence brief titled “Situation Report for 13.09.13 - Serial no. 178/2013” indicated that one Mohamed Ade, who is based in Kenya, sent fraudulent refugee documents to 15 Al Shabaab Amniyat operatives in Somalia in early September 2013 to enable them access refugee camps in Kenya and thereafter move to other parts of the country.
The cards, according to the reports, were handed to Abdullahi Dheere who would then pass them over to Aynanshe, the Al Shabaab Governor in Middle Juba.
The operatives, said the brief, had undergone a Swahili language course and were under the command of Moalin Ali and were to enter Kenya by mid-September this year.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Blame game over Westgate attack
- Inquiries by the Nation indicate that a coordinated rescue mission was badly delayed because of disputes between the Kenya Police and KDF officers commanding their units on the ground.
- It took prolonged consultations that also involved State House before President Kenyatta publicly announced that Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo was in charge.
By NATION TEAM
The teams also appeared to have had different aims. One officer involved said that some units had a priority to locate and rescue a specific group of VIPs.
“The time for responsibility and accountability has come,” Defence Committee chairman Ndung’u Gethenji said.
Mr Mohammed, 26, and a colleague reportedly bought a Peugeot 505 car for Sh180,000 and did not bother to ask for the log book.
They had planned to use it for a suicide mission on Parliament, but the car broke down on September 13 as they set out on their operation.
They were arrested with four suicide bomb belts, 12 hand grenades, four AK 47 rifles, 481 bullets and two home-made bombs. They led police to a flat in Nairobi’s Eastleigh area where some of the arsenal was recovered.
Friday, September 27, 2013
Suspected terrorist's grandmother collapses in shock
Updated Wednesday, September 25 2013 at 12:51 GMT+3
|She converted to Islam at the age of seventeen. Photo:Courtesy|
'White widow' Islamist Samantha Lewthwaite was just an average British girl who was 'empty in confidence', a councillor who knew her as a youngster has said.
But today suspicion is mounting that she was the ringleader behind a bloody massacre in a Kenyan shopping centre in which more than 60 unarmed victims have been slain.
And it has emerged that her frail 85-year-old grandmother has been admitted to hospital because of the stress of her granddaughter's notoriety.
Elizabeth Allen, from Banbridge, Co Down, was given a panic alarm to contact security services in case terror suspect Lewthwaite ever made contact.
Family friends say the pressure of the situation and Lewthwaite's now-global notoriety have taken their toll on the frail pensioner's health and mental well-being.
Joan Baird, a veteran Ulster Unionist councillor in Banbridge who knows the family, said: 'This is so distressing for everyone. Mrs Allen is 85 and she is in and out of hospital. It is just so distressing.
'Certainly, everybody in the town is shocked and distressed by the news.'
Lewthwaite from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, who converted to Islam age 17, was married to Jermaine Lindsay before he blew himself up in the July 7 terror attacks in London in 2005, killing 26.
The 29-year-old mother of three is already wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the country’s coast.
Now it is suspected that she was the mastermind behind the four-day gun and bomb attack on Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi, which has led to a continuing siege in which more than 60 people have lost their lives.
Born to English soldier Andy Lewthwaite - who met and married Irish Catholic Christine Allen while serving in Northern Ireland during the 1970s - she enjoyed an unremarkable childhood on Banbridge's Whyte Acres estate.
Lewthwaite was still at primary school when her family moved to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. In 1995 her parents split.
Councillor Raj Khan, whose family knew Lewthwaite’s family socially in Aylesbury, said he is surprised at speculation she is involved in the attack in Kenya due to how he remembers her.
She was an average, British, young, ordinary girl. She had a very great personality. She didn’t have very good confidence,' he said.
After becoming a Muslim, Lewthwaite changed her name to Sherafiyah and married suicide bomber Lindsay, who she had met on an Islamic internet chatroom.
Mr Khan recalled a meeting with Lewthwaite and Lindsay regarding a housing issue which took place three or four weeks before the July 7 bombings, and he said she was just as he remembered her.
'Certainly when I was around her, she was the same person, lacking in confidence.
'She was not strong-headed. And that’s why I find it absolutely amazing that she is supposed to be the head of an international criminal terrorist organisation,' he said.
Mr Khan said he was 'perplexed' that someone he knew, who was so 'empty in confidence', was being linked to international terrorism.
He said he prays that she is not involved, adding: '...and of course my worry is that if she in involved, is she under some kind of duress? Is there other factors involved?
'Or indeed, is it Samantha? I mean there are so many questions to be answered at the moment before one can make a view.'
Mr Khan said her family will be 'very upset' if she is involved.
'Of course like anyone else, they will be very hurt, very upset, very, very upset, but I think they too will be waiting for proof, not speculation,' he said.
Suspicion that Lewthwaite was in the attack in Nairobi were raised after the Kenyan foreign minister claimed that a British woman who has has allegedly been involved in terrorism 'many times before' was among the militants.
Amina Mohamed said the woman acted alongside 'two or three' Americans as security forces began a fourth day of fighting at the shopping centre where at least six Britons are known to have died.
After her husband Lindsay detonated his suicide bomb at on a Piccadilly line tube train between King's Cross and Russell Square stations in 2005, Lewthwaite had told how she was horrified by the massacre.
But the Jamaican-born Muslim convert, who grew up in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, had never made a secret of his extremist views, alarming teachers by attempting to radicalise younger pupils.
In 2009 Lewthwaite disappeared with her three children but resurfaced two years later after travelling to Kenya on a false passport.
The Kenyan authorities issued a photograph of a white woman in a veil who they said was wanted for questioning about a bomb factory in the coastal resort of Mombasa. The woman was Lewthwaite.
It is understood she has had little contact with relatives in Northern Ireland since her conversion to Islam.
Mr Khan said he does not think the speculation surrounding Lewthwaite will cause divisions in Aylesbury due to the community’s maturity.
'Of course if it is Samantha indeed, of course they’ll be very hurt, very upset, as indeed any human being would be, but in terms of causing any differences in our community I think the community is far more mature for that kind of thing,' he said.
Stuart Osborne, who was until recently the Met's Head of Counter Terrorism Command, told ITV News that any role Lewthwaite has with Islamist militant group al-Shabaab is unclear.
He said: ‘Lewthwaite has obviously been involved in terrorism or connected with terrorists for some considerable time now. Her role in al-Shabaab is very unclear or even if she has a role within (it).
‘She is currently wanted by the Kenyan authorities in relation to an investigation for those who have committed acts of terrorism. But as yet she is untried and unconvicted for those offences.
‘Traditionally she would be seen to be somebody as a sympathiser, a facilitator or an instigator of terrorism.
‘She has certainly got a large media profile, certainly in the British media press in relation to her activities and her involvement in terrorist activities is still yet to be proven, but as I said she is still wanted for terrorism
Wanted woman killed in Westgate attack, say UK papers
Samantha Lewthwaite alias Natalie Faye Webb. Photo | FILE
- Claims that Lewthwaite was involved in the attack began on Sunday when a number of British papers told of video footage of the attack on a social networking website which appeared to show a balaclava-clad white woman holding a gun.
By PAUL REDFERN
'White Widow' rented property in South AfricaAFP – Wed, Sep 25, 2013
Shabaab finances face squeeze after Kenya attackBy William Maclean | Reuters – Thu, Sep 26, 2013
Reuters/Reuters - Kenya Defence Forces soldiers patrol the area around Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi September 25, 2013. REUTERS/Noor Khamis
The money is important to al Shabaab, a group whose aims include the wider imposition of Islamic law but whose ability to attract fighters in one of the poorest countries of the world is based largely on its ability to pay them.
A report by U.N. monitors in July estimated al Shabaab earned more than $25 million a year from illicit exports of charcoal to Gulf Arab states and from taxing the trucking of charcoal to the Somali ports of Kismayu and Barawe.
Other funds come from informal taxes on small businesses in areas of Somalia that al Shabaab controls, and from donations from Somalis overseas, although these transfers are thought to be declining due to a general disenchantment with the increasingly violent group in the diaspora, diplomats say.
A security source in the capital, Mogadishu, said al Shabaab was expert at extorting money from small businesses and at setting up front companies whose income was funnelled to the group. Both sorts of company also acted as informers.
"It's the small little shops where you repair your vehicle, or charge your mobile phone," the source said. "It's a myriad of little businesses, who also help them in their surveillance."
"There's no need for heavy-handed daily enforcement because everyone knows the penalties for non-compliance are drastic," he said, referring to the amputation of limbs or execution.
Suspected additional sources of income include militant Islamists overseas and, according to U.N. sanctions monitors, the nearby state of Eritrea.
The monitors said Eritrea was destabilising Somalia by paying political agents and financing a warlord linked to al Shabaab.
The Eritrean government, accused by its critics of seeking to use Somali territory to undermine Ethiopia, its old enemy, has long denied meddling in Somalia, saying it has no links to al Shabaab's fight against the Somali government.
Al Shabaab has been waging an insurgency since 2007 and formally became part of al Qaeda in 2012. It remains Somalia's most powerful non-government armed group despite being pushed out of Mogadishu by an African Union force in 2011.
Al Shabaab's economic strength is vital to its operations because it can pay its thousands of fighters a monthly salary normally varying between $100 to $300 a month.
That, more than its declared aim of imposing a strict version of Sharia or Islamic law, is the main incentive to join up, Somali researchers say.
Ironically, al Shabaab's income may have benefited from an upturn in the Somali economy that followed the partial restoration of order in Mogadishu over the past two years and a growth in investment amid hopes of an end to years of war.
In the wake of the four-day attack by al Shabaab militants on a Nairobi shopping mall in which at least 72 people were killed, Western counter-terrorism agencies are expected to subject the group's sources of financial support to renewed scrutiny, Somali experts say.
The success of such efforts will depend to a large extent on the choices made by Somalis, in particular the powerful Somali business community in east Africa.
According to Ken Menkhaus, a leading U.S. scholar of al Shabaab, the most formidable weapon against al Shabaab may be the Somalia expatriate business community in Kenya, which has emerged as a force in property and trade in the past 20 years.
DIASPORA FUNDING DWINDLES
Since the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, more than one million Somalis have fled to or through Kenya, and many now have extensive business and real estate investments there.
Fearing a crackdown on Somali firms by a Kenyan government keen to be seen to be doing something, Somali businessmen in Nairobi might now feel compelled to take their own steps against the group, he wrote on the website www.thinkprogress.org.
"Messing with Somali business interests has never advanced the interests of any political actor in Somalia, foreign or local," he said.
It was up to Somalis to "mobilize against Shabaab and take the movement out once and for all by drying up its financial sources, exposing its operatives, and denying the movement any safe space from which to operate."
The alternative, he said, was action by foreign governments, but that would almost certainly impact "innocent Somalis and legitimate Somali businesses in Kenya and around the world, and that is not in anyone's interest except Shabaab's."
Stig Jarle Hansen, a Norwegian expert on the group, told Reuters that what was best known about al Shabaab finances was its system of local taxation in the areas it held, especially the taxation of transport. But verifying this information was difficult and was hampered by hearsay, he said.
In Somalia, a traditional kinship society, research was complicated by the fact that while someone might nominally be in al Shabaab, in reality people were more loyal to their clan elders, he said.
POCKETS OF SYMPATHY
Adam Matan, head of the Anti-Tribalism Movement, an advocacy group that campaigns against the political exploitation of clan identity in Somalia, said al Shabaab fighters told him on his research trips to Somalia that money was a key attraction.
"If you can get a few dollars a month to feed your family, you will take it," said the British-based former Somali refugee, who travels frequently to Somalia, echoing findings in previous Reuters reports about Somali militancy.
Mohamed Aden Hassan, a researcher at Goldsmiths College in London who studies the Somali diaspora, said he believed diaspora funding had all but dried up for al Shabaab in recent years although there were pockets of sympathy "here and there".
Al Shabaab remains in control of most of southern and central Somalia, a U.N. report published in July 2013 said.
According to the report, defectors from al Shabaab said the wage paid to fighters ranged from $100 to $500, "depending upon clan affiliation and seniority".
In September 2012, al-Shabaab fled Kismayu, the main charcoal export outlet to the Gulf, and Kenyan troops in the African Union peacekeeping force took control.
The U.N. Security Council banned the export of charcoal from Somalia in February 2012 to help squeeze al Shabaab's finances.
But shortly after the AU secured the port, Kenyan forces unilaterally lifted the ban, arguing Kismayu's angry charcoal traders could undermine the security of their troops, the U.N. report said. The Kenyan military denied the allegation.
In the months that followed, al Shabaab got back into the trade thanks to ties to local business networks, earning revenues from about a third of the volumes exported.
The charcoal is sold largely to customers in Dubai who sell it on elsewhere in the Gulf, the U.N. report said.
The largest user of the product is Saudi Arabia, according to Farah M. Mohamed, president of the Somali Environment Protection Alliance Network.
He wrote in a June 2013 blog that Saudi Arabia used Somali charcoal primarily for shisha (hookah) pipes, cooking in upscale restaurants and homes, as camping firewood, and as an extra source of heating in the winter.
Pupil’s essay may lead to key Westgate attack suspectWednesday, September 25, 2013
- The pregnant woman, who stays in Gigiri, rushed home and shared the information with the family members.
- Through the child, detectives traced the woman who Wednesday gave a detailed description of the man and how he warned her.
By Nation Reporter