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Terrorism Watch

Saudi vows new Islamic alliance ‘will wipe terrorists from the earth’



ABS-CDN — RIYADH – Saudi Arabia’s crown prince vowed to “pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth” as officials from 40 Muslim countries gathered Sunday in the first meeting of an Islamic counter-terrorism alliance.

“In past years, terrorism has been functioning in all of our countries… with no coordination” among national authorities, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defense minister, said in his keynote address to the gathering in Riyadh.

“This ends today, with this alliance.”

The summit is the first meeting of defense ministers and other senior officials from the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, which officially counts 41 countries and identifies as a “pan-Islamic unified front” against violent extremism.

The alliance was announced in 2015 under the auspices of Prince Mohammed, whose rapid ascent since his appointment as heir to the throne in June has shaken the political scene across the region.

Sunday’s meeting comes as several military coalitions, including key Saudi ally the United States, battle to push the Islamic State group from its last remaining bastions in Iraq and Syria.

The alliance groups largely, although not exclusively, Sunni-majority or Sunni-ruled countries.

It excludes Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival, Shiite-dominated Iran, as well as Syria and Iraq, whose leaders have close ties to Tehran.

Sunday’s meeting coincides with an escalation in tensions between Riyadh and Tehran, particularly over wars in Syria and Yemen and the political structure of multi-confessional Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of supporting armed groups across the Middle East, including Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah and Yemen’s Huthi rebels.

“The pillar of this coalition is inclusion,” said Saudi General Abdulelah al-Saleh, the alliance’s acting secretary general, playing down the exclusion of the three countries.

“Our common enemy is terrorism, not any religion, sect or race.”

The alliance meeting in Riyadh brings together Muslim or Muslim-majority nations including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Uganda, Somalia, Mauritania, Lebanon, Libya, Yemen and Turkey.


Retired Pakistani general Raheel Sharif, who has been appointed commander-in-chief, also insisted that the coalition was not against any religion or state.

The alliance aims to “mobilise and coordinate the use of resources, facilitate the exchange of information and help member countries build their own counter-terrorism capacity,” Sharif said.

While the alliance officially includes Qatar, which is the target of a six-month boycott led by Saudi Arabia, organizers in Riyadh said no Qatari officials were present at the meeting.

Qatar’s flag was also absent.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain abruptly cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar in June, accusing the emirate of being too close to Iran and supporting Islamist extremism.

Doha denies the allegations.

Egypt, which sent a military official and not its defense minister to Sunday’s meeting, is reeling from a Friday attack on a mosque that killed more than 300 people during prayer time.

While IS has not claimed responsibility, Egyptian authorities say the organisation is the main suspect as the mosque is associated with followers of the mystical Sufi branch of Sunni Islam, whom IS has branded heretics.

Prince Mohammed said Friday’s “painful event” was a reminder of the “danger of terrorism and extremism”.

“Beyond the killing of innocent people and the spread of hatred, terrorism and extremism distort the image of our religion,” he said.

Since his sudden appointment as crown prince, Prince Mohammed has moved to consolidate power, announcing crackdowns on both terrorism and corruption.

A corruption purge saw around 200 members of the Saudi elite including princes, ministers and business tycoons arrested or sacked earlier this month.

Somali News

At least 14 dead, several hurt in car bomb in Somali capital



ABC — At least 14 people were killed and 10 others wounded in a car bomb blast near a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Somali officials said Thursday.

Capt. Mohamed Hussein said the explosion occurred near the Weheliye hotel on the busy Makka Almukarramah road. The road has been a target of attacks in the past by the Somalia-based extremist group al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa.

Most of the casualties were passers-by and traders, Hussein told The Associated Press. The toll of dead and wounded was announced by security ministry spokesman Abdulaziz Hildhiban.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the blast. The group frequently attacks Mogadishu’s high-profile areas such as hotels and military checkpoints. A truck bombing in October killed 512 people in the country’s deadliest-ever attack. Only a few attacks since 9/11 have killed more people. Al-Shabab was blamed.

Thursday’s blast comes almost exactly a month after two car bomb explosions in Mogadishu shattered a months-long period of calm in the city, killing at least 21 people.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to struggle to counter the Islamic extremist group. Concerns have been high over plans to hand over the country’s security to Somalia’s own forces as a 21,000-strong African Union force begins a withdrawal that is expected to be complete in 2020.

The U.S. military, which has stepped up efforts against al-Shabab in the past year with dozens of drone strikes, has said Somali forces are not yet ready.

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Terrorism Watch

Somali forces kill 32 Al-Shabaab fighters in central Somalia



MOGADISHU, March 17 (Xinhua) — Thirty-two Al-Shabaab militants were killed in a fierce fighting with the Somali National Army (SNA) in the past 24 hours, Somali officials said on Saturday.

Ahmed Mohamed Teredisho, Somali Army Commander in Hiiraan region, told reporters that the fighting took place in Hiiraan region after armed Al-Shabaab members tried to impose taxes on villagers around Mahas town.

“We have killed 32 Al-Shabaab militants at an area about 28 km to Mahas town in Hiiraan region after heavy fighting with Al-Shabaab fighters. SNA soldiers were reinforced by locals to help fight the enemy in the region in the past 24 hours,” Teredisho said.

He did not disclose the number of soldiers or civilians injured in the latest fighting in central Somalia.

The locals said the government soldiers backed with villagers engaged in more than six hours of battle with the insurgents.

Al-Shabaab militants have not commented on the military victory claimed by the Somali government officials in the region.

A resident told Xinhua by phone that confrontation was first staged between locals and Al-Shabaab fighters and then Somali Army later joined to defeat the militants.

Meanwhile, Somali security officials said a roadside bomb has targeted a pickup vehicle carrying members of the security forces in the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The officials said on Saturday that a remote-controlled landmine struck the vehicle along the road between Mogadishu and Afgoye, injuring two security forces and a civilian.

The Saturday attacks by Al-Shabaab militants was the latest in series of improvised explosive device blasts targeting Somali and Africa Union mission troops on the key road linking Mogadishu to Afgoye district in the recent past.

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Briefing Room

US lists Shabaab’s leader in Kenya, wanted commander as global terrorists



The US State Department added Ahmad Iman Ali, the leader of Shabaab’s network in Kenya, and Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi, a dangerous Kenyan commander, to its list of Specially Designated Global terrorists on March 8. The two Shabaab leaders have fueled the group’s insurgency in Kenya and southern Somalia for the past decade and are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians.

Ahmad Iman Ali

Ali was appointed by Shabaab to lead its group in Jan. 2012, just three days after the Muslim Youth Center (MYC) merged with Shabaab and announced that it was “part of al Qaeda East Africa.”

“Allah favours our beloved al Shabaab, and al Shabaab in return has placed the responsibility of waging jihad in Kenya in the capable Kenyan hands of our Amiir Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali,” the MYC said when it announced that it joined Shabaab.

Additionally, the MYC said that Ali is following in the footsteps of “brother Fazul,” or Fazul Mohammed, the former leader of al Qaeda’s operations in East Africa who also served as a senior leader in Shabaab. Fazul was indicted along with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other top al Qaeda leaders by the US government for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Somali troops killed Fazul at a checkpoint south of Mogadishu in June 2011.

Ali was a cleric for the Muslim Youth Center, and he has advocated for Muslims to wage jihad across the world.

“[If you] are unable to reach the land of jihad, the land of ribat, like the land of Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, or Iraq, if you are unable to reach these lands which have established the banner of tawheed and the Shariah of Allah, then raise your sword against the enemy that is closest to you,” Ali said when he was named to lead Shabaab’s operations in Kenya.

According to the MYC, Ali has fought in southern Somalia, where he led other Kenyans against Somali troops and African Union forces. State’s designation said that Ali is the “director of the group’s Kenyan operations, which has targeted Kenyan African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) troops in Somalia,”

According to State, Ali was responsible for the Jan. 2016 assault on a Kenyan base in El Adde, Somalia. The United Nations later found that “150 Kenyan soldiers were killed during the attack, making it the largest military defeat in Kenyan history.” Additionally, 11 kenyan soldiers were captured. [See LWJ reports, Shabaab overruns African Union base in southern Somalia and Kenyan soldier held hostage since Jan. 2016 appears in Shabaab video.]

In addition to serving as Shabaab’s leader in Kenya and its operational commander against Kenyan forces in southern Somalia, Ali is a propagandist, a recruiter who targets “poor youth in Nairobi slums,” and a fundraiser.

Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi

Abdi, who is also known as Musa Muhajir, leads a group of Kenyan jihadists who have been described by the Kenyan government as “bloodthirsty, armed and dangerous,” according to The Nation. In 2015, the government put him at the top of a list of wanted jihadists.

“He is believed to be planning further attacks at the Coast. He is currently in Boni Forest with his associates,” a Kenyan government report that detailed the activities of Abdi and other jihadists noted.

State noted that Abdi is “wanted in connection with the June 2014 attack in Mpeketoni, Kenya that claimed more than 50 lives.” Shabaab claimed the brutal attack and claimed it was carried out to punish Kenya for deploying troops to Somalia.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

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