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Briefing Room

How lethal Al-Shabaab spy was caught

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Abdirahaman Abdi Takow who was on November 29, 2017 jailed for 30 years by a Mandera court after he was found guilty of sneaking into the Mandera GK Prison with the aim of spying for Al-Shabaab terror group. PHOTO | COURTESY

Hawk-eyed guards at Mandera prison on September 14 spotted a man squeezing through a small opening at the perimeter wall then moved swiftly and arrested him.

Two months later, after rigorous interrogation and an intense legal process, the court in the north eastern town established that he was an Al-Shabaab spy sent to survey the local police station, prison and military camp ahead of an impending terrorist attack.
Abdirahman Abdi Takow was jailed for 30 years by the court on Wednesday last week.

BIGGER PLOT

In court, Takow remained defiant and refused to divulge the bigger plot by Al-Shabaab forcing Kenyan security agencies to be on high alert to protect citizens from the Somali-based terrorist organisation, a partner of Al-Qaeda.
The terrorist, who travelled from Mogadishu for the espionage mission three days prior to his arrest, also refused to reveal the identity of an accomplice who outran the prison guards and disappeared into thickets while he was arrested.

Mr Hussein Osman Mursal, a prison officer, was on the watchtower when he spotted two men moving close to the stone wall that secured the penal institution.

One of the men squeezed through a small opening which had been drilled by masons contracted to carry out repairs at the facility while the other stayed outside, apparently to keep watch.

The accomplice ran across a field in an adjacent school, disappeared in thickets and is still at large.

Mr Mursal gave his account in court.

PRISON CAMP

Takow, upon arrest, claimed he was at the correctional facility to report that he had been conned Sh30,000 and needed help from authorities, a claim that the court quashed.

“I find the evidence is not denied, rebutted or contravened in any manner. The same is overwhelming against the accused who has not given any reason why he came all the way from Mogadishu and entered the prison camp,” said Mandera senior resident magistrate Peter Areri.

In court, Mt Mursal said: “I was at the watch tower when I saw the accused person enter the prison through an opening that construction workers were using while working on the perimeter wall.”

He was the first prosecution witness.

The prison officer also told the court that the accomplice escaped.

“The second person who kept peeping in took off while I walked in his direction. He ran through Mandera DEB Primary School compound,” he said.

Prison authorities handed over Takow to Anti-Terrorrist Police Unit (ATPU) after he failed to explain his presence in the facility.

AL-SHABAAB CAPITAL

A special interrogation team was formed and comprised ATPU, Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence.

It established that Takow was born in Mogadishu 22 years ago and worked as a mechanic at Yarshit, the current capital of Al-Shabaab in war-torn Somalia.

The detectives also tracked his way from there to Kenya.

He came through Bulahawa, a town near the Kenya – Somalia border that at the time was controlled by Somalia National Army, an ally of Kenya Defence Forces in Somalia.

“He came to Bulahawa a few days before Somalia National Army camp at Bulahawa was overrun early morning of September 11, 2017,” according to a second witness in court.

An anti-terror police officer told the court that the interrogation team concluded that the accused was an Shabaab spy sent to gather information on Prison, Police Stations and the Military Camp in Mandera town.

Sunday Nation did not to name the ATPU officer due to the sensitivity of his duties and also because he is stationed in an area prone to attacks against government officials have taken place in recent past.

The officer, as witness two, said in court: “A multi-agency interrogation team concluded that the accused was an Amniyat dispatched to Mandera to gather information.”

Amniyat is Al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing.

ATTACK

The officer further told the court that the terrorist also planned attacks at county offices and the county referral hospital.

Witness two also connected the foiled Al-Shabaab plan to another attack in Somalia.

Three days before the arrest, Shabaab overran an Somali National Army camp in Bulahawa, not far from the border.

“After a successful attack by Al-Shabaab on Somali National Army camp at Bulahawa on September 11, we received intelligence that their intelligence group members were in Mandera before the accused was arrested,” he said.

In court, the officer said the accused spent the night in Bulahawa before crossing into Mandera.

After crossing over, in the morning of September 14, the terrorist was spotted at Mandera Police Station before he was later apprehended at the prison.

Takow was among groups of people who had converged at the station to escort relatives who were travelling.

It is commonplace for travellers to be screened at the station since terrorists from Somalia pose as passengers travelling to Nairobi and other parts of Kenya.

SENDS SPIES

Magistrate Peter Areri wondered why the terrorist did not report the alleged conning of Sh30,000 to police when he was at the police station, but later sneaked into the prison which is kilometres way.

Amniyat sends spies to gather information ahead of an attack.

“We had intelligence that a Shabaab spy had been dispatched to Mandera immediately after the attack at Bulahawa. He was to collect information on police stations, military camp, prison, county offices and county referral hospital,” the ATPU officer said in court.

In Bulahawa, 15 Somali National army soldiers and scores of civilians were killed and many others injured.

“That attack was to clear the way for the planned attack on our side and this accused was to report back immediately for action within a week’s time,” the witness told the court.

Several Mandera locals shown a picture of the accused denied knowing him but an elderly man identified the accused from the photograph as a descendant of interior Somalia from his physique.

On defence at the law court, the accused maintained that he did not know Al-Shabaab.

“I am not one of those people and I don’t associate with those people.

I am a refugee,” said Takow in defence.

But Mr Areri while sentencing him, said Takow did not deny evidence given in court.

The magistrate said the fact that the accused had been at the police station and then went to the prison camp leads to a conclusion that he was surveying the camps for an intended terrorism attack.

“He was collecting information to facilitate the terrorist attacks. I find him guilty as charged and sentence the accused to 30 years imprisonment,” ruled Mr Areri.

Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Briefing Room

Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Briefing Room

Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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