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Terrorism Watch

Somalia Blast Toll at 237 as Residents Protest Al-Shabab

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The death toll from Saturday’s massive truck bombing in the Somali capital Mogadishu has risen to nearly 240 with more than 300 wounded, making it the deadliest attack in the country’s history.

Deputy Speaker of Somalia’s Upper House of Parliament Abshir Mohamed Ahmed tells VOA Somali that the death toll stands at 237.

Angry protesters took to the streets condemning al-Shabab. The militant group, which often claims attacks in Mogadishu, has so far stayed silent. But the Somali government and terror experts strongly believe the group was responsible.

“Whether they claim or not claim makes no difference, we know the act that has happened, it’s al-Shabab,” former intelligence officer Abdi Hassan Hussein told VOA. “The information we are getting so far shows this is the work of al-Shabab, it has their hallmarks.”

Hundreds of residents on Sunday marched to the scene of the attack, condemning the militant group.

“Where is my child, fight against the wicked, to hell with them, my god condemn the evil” said one elderly angry women. Other protesters shouted anti al-Shabab statements like, “We don’t want blood thirsty elements”.

Some protesters wept as they reached the scene and saw the apocalyptic aftermath of the explosion. The truck bomb turned one of Mogadishu’s most beautiful junctions into death and destruction.

US reaction

In Washington, the U.S. State Department condemned the attack “in the strongest terms.”

“In the face of this senseless and cowardly act, the United States will continue to stand with the Somali government, its people, and our international allies to combat terrorism and support their efforts to achieve peace, security, and prosperity,” a statement said.

Mohamed Yusuf, a doctor at Medina hospital, described what happened when the explosion happened at around 3:20 pm local time on Saturday.

“We were preparing to leave work for the day but then huge blast occurred, we were shocked, within five minutes ambulances brought in the wounded,” he said. “We have received many dead people, unlike we have ever seen. The hospital is working, we are lacking intensive care equipment, we get support from ICRC but we are still lacking full capacity.”

The victims

Maryan Abdullahi, 21, just finished Banadir University where she studied medicine. She left her voluntary work at Banadir hospital Saturday and was waiting a bus when the explosion occurred. She was killed instantly. He mother Hindo Yuusuf immediately called her number when she heard about the location of the explosion.

“I called her number immediately but someone else answered and they said the owner of the phone died, her body is near the hotel [Safari],” she told VOA Somali.

Abdullahi’s father flew from London Saturday to attend his daughter’s graduation from the university. He arrived in Mogadishu Sunday morning and attended her funeral instead.

Also killed were five members of the same family who were running a clothing shop.

Aweys Moallim Ali is a cousin to the family. He too was wounded in the attack. He said his relatives own two shops but they gathered into one before the explosion.

“They were doing accounting work about the sales made so far so that they can make zakat [alms] payment, they closed the other shop and were meeting in a shop near Hotel Safari,” He said.

VOA reporter

Hundreds were wounded in the attack including VOA reporter in Mogadishu Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle.

Abdulle sustained injuries to the neck, hand and burns throughout the body. But he was in good spirits as he spoke about his condition.

“I’m injured in the lower neck, there is shrapnel inside. I have a second injury on the right hand, maybe it’s broken, and third, my body is burned in particular on the torso,” he said. “I have smaller injuries throughout the body, facial injuries, I had about 4 stitches on the face, I have multiple injuries.”

Abdulle recounted what happened at the time of the explosion

“I remember leaving the building near Safari hotel, I wanted to get into my car, as I stepped towards the car the explosion went off, that is all I remember,” he said.

‘The next thing I know is this morning when I woke up at 10am when I saw people standing around my bed.”

The Somali government has called for three days of national mourning and lowering the flag at half-mast. President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has condemned the attack as “barbaric.”

Sahra Ahmed, Asha Aden, Jafar Kukay and Kenneth Schwartz contributed to this report.

KENYA

Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi flees after Al-Shabaab fallout

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Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi, a member of Al-Shabaab, is on the run after falling out with other commanders who want him executed. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

A Kenyan who rose through Al-Shabaab ranks to become the poster boy for the terrorist organisation is on the run after falling out with other commanders who want him executed.

Ahmed Iman alias Kimanthi, who appeared in numerous Al-Shabaab propaganda videos taunting Kenyan troops fighting in Somalia, the group’s stronghold, is now seeking to surrender to Kenyan forces and get amnesty, the Nation has learnt.

Until the row, he was close to the current Al-Shabaab supremo Ahmed Diriye and Mahad Karate, also known as Abdirahim Mohamed Warsame, who commanded Shabaab’s Amniyat, its intelligence wing, when gunmen stormed Garissa University College and killed 147 students in April, 2015.

VIDEO CLIPS

In the video clips, which are unavailable after they were pulled down by YouTube, Iman says the killings were carried out to avenge the killing of radical Muslim clerics.

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In those videos, he named the clerics as Aboud Rogo, Samir Khan and Sheikh Abubakar Shariff alias Makaburi.

International security sources operating in Somalia, told the Nation that Iman has been the head of a group of foreign fighters who together with him, are now on the run from the main group loyal to Diriye and Karate.

A number of Kenyans and other foreigners who joined Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia have since been captured and executed.

On November 6, a 25-year-old Kenyan from Garissa was among four people who were publicly executed by the terrorists in Somalia.

Omar Adar Omar was killed by firing squad on accusations of spying for the Africa Union Mission in Somalia, which comprises the Kenya Defence Forces.

The fall-out is further complicated after the emergence of a faction that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Syria, while Diriye’s group maintains its formal partnership with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

DRAGNETS

The Nation has further learnt that Iman, in a bid to escape from Somalia, has evaded several dragnets to capture him.

Al-Shabaab is well known for executing militants within its own ranks whenever there is a fallout.

The latest developments are a repeat of what happened to Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, who was killed in a set up laid by Godane Ahmed Abdi Godane alias Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, who was Diriye’s predecessor.

Godane was later killed in a joint operation by US and KDF in Somalia.

Besides assuming the role of commander of foreign fighters in Somalia, Iman also has a great influence in Jaysh Ayman, another Al-Shabaab faction operating in Boni Forest which spreads across the Kenya-Somalia border in Lamu County.

Furthermore, Iman is also said to be getting foreign funding directly, further angering indigenous Somali commanders, the sources also said.

A 2016 security report published by the Nation, revealed that Iman and accomplices in Nairobi collected millions of shillings every year by renting shops and kiosks in Umoja and Majengo, and the money is smuggled to Somalia to fund terrorism activities.

LOOTED

In one Al-Shabaab propaganda video, he was seen clad in KDF uniform, holding a walkie-talkie and an M-16 rifle, which he claimed was one of the arms looted from El-Adde Forward Operating Base, which was overran by the terrorists in January 2016.

Besides Kenya, whose soldiers are operating in southern Somalia, Al-Shabaab is also being fought by the US and other countries in Amisom, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.
100 fighters killed

On Tuesday, 100 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed in an air strike by the US.

“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conducted an air strike in Somalia against an Al-Shabaab camp at approximately 10.30 local Somalia time, killing more than 100 militants.

The operation occurred 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu,” said a statement by US Africa Command.

The Statement added: “US forces will continue to use all authorised and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats.

This includes partnering with Amisom and Somali National Security Forces in targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.”

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Briefing Room

Somalia says it requested U.S. air strike which killed 100 militants

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Somalia’s government said on Wednesday it had requested the U.S. air strike which killed more than 100 suspected militants on the previous day to help pave the way for an upcoming ground offensive against Islamist militant group al Shabaab.

The United States military’s Africa Command said on Tuesday it had killed more than 100 of the al Qaeda-linked insurgents in an air strike on a camp 125 miles (200 km) northwest of the capital Mogadishu.

“Those militants were preparing explosives and attacks. Operations against al Shabaab have been stepped up,” Abdirahman Omar Oman, the Somali minister, told Reuters.

“We have asked the U.S. to help us from the air to make our readied ground offensive more successful.”

The United States has ramped up operations in Somalia this year after President Donald Trump loosened the rules of engagement in March.

Africom reported eight U.S. air strikes from May to August this year, compared to 13 for the whole of 2016. Including Tuesday’s air strike, it has reported five strikes in Somalia this month alone.

The Pentagon said the U.S. military would continue to target militants in strikes in coordination with the Somali government.

A Navy Seal was killed in a raid in May and U.S. forces were present at a controversial raid on the town of Bariire in August, in which 10 people were killed.

Al Shabaab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since African Union peacekeepers supporting Somali troops pushed the insurgency out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center.

Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a dual U.S.-Somali citizen, has taken a harder line than his predecessors against the insurgency since he was sworn in earlier this year.

But his plans have been repeatedly thwarted by the poor state of the Somali military and political infighting.

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Briefing Room

U.S. airstrikes kill more than 100 militants in Somalia

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WASHINGTON — Reflecting stepped-up targeting of extremists in Africa, the U.S. military said airstrikes killed more than 100 militants in Somalia on Tuesday and hit Islamic State fighters in Libya days earlier.

U.S. Africa Command, which manages U.S. military operations on the continent, said the airstrike in Somalia targeted an al-Shabab camp about 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, killing more than 100. That is the largest number of reported deaths from a single U.S. airstrike in Somalia since the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab, which is allied with al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab is blamed for last month’s truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 350 people.

It’s largest number of reported deaths from a single U.S. airstrike in Somalia since the Trump administration approved expanded military operations against al-Shabab.

A Somali intelligence official said U.S. drone aircraft fired at least eight missiles at al-Shabab bases and training camps in Bur-Eylada, a village situated between the towns of Dinsor and Burhakaba in the Bay region. The official, who was not authorized to speak to reporters on the record and discussed the matter on condition of anonymity, said senior al-Shabab commanders were among the dead.

The U.S. this month also began targeting a small but growing IS presence in northern Somalia.

Separately, Africa Command said it conducted two airstrikes near Fuqaha in central Libya against Islamic State group militants — one Nov. 17 and another two days later. It made no mention of casualties and did not identify the specific targets. It said the strikes were done in coordination with Libya’s interim government, known as the Government of National Accord.

The Trump administration has committed to preventing the Islamic State group from regrouping after losing its grip on significant territory in Iraq and Syria.

AFRICOM STATEMENT

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Somalia against an al-Shabaab camp on Tuesday, Nov. 21 at approximately 10:30 a.m. local Somalia time, killing more than 100 militants.

The operation occurred 125 miles northwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world. Al-Shabaab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our partners in the region.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF); targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.

Our political and security goals in Somalia are the same: a reconstituted Somali state at peace internally and able to address all threats within its territory.

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