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Terrorism Watch

State Department designates 3 al Qaeda figures as global terrorists

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The State Department has added three commanders from al Qaeda’s branches in Yemen, Somalia, and North Africa to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists.

One of the jihadists is responsible for planning the Mar. 2015 Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, according to Foggy Bottom. Another serves as Shabaab’s deputy emir.

State listed the three al Qaeda figures as Wanas al-Faqih from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abukar Ali Adan from Shabaab (al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa), and Muhammad Al Ghazali from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The three al Qaeda branches wage insurgencies in their respective regions while continuing to plot terrorist attacks elsewhere, including against Western interests.

Wanas al-Faqih

Al-Faqih “is an AQIM associate who planned the March 18, 2015 Bardo Museum attack in Tunis, Tunisia that killed at least 20 people,” State says.

The US government’s decision to finger al-Faqih for the Bardo Museum massacre is noteworthy, as there has been some confusion concerning responsibility for the operation.

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for the murders.

The eighth issue of the group’s Dabiq magazine provided a brief overview of the plot. Dabiq’s editors wrote that a pair of Tunisian jihadists “were sent on their mission after having trained with their brothers in Libya and having declared their bay’ah [oath of allegiance]” to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s self-declared caliphate.

“They returned to Tunisia, bravely advanced towards the security quarter in Tunis, entered the museum – located across from the Tunisian parliament – and poured terror on the kuffār inside, killing more than 20 of them and injuring a dozen others,” Dabiq’s editors added. That same issue of the group’s propaganda rag included an interview with Boubaker al-Hakim, a veteran jihadist who was implicated in high-profile assassinations inside Tunisia. Al-Hakim praised the Bardo gunmen and called on Islamic State supporters to follow in their footsteps.

In Feb. 2016, the US targeted Noureddine Chouchane, a Tunisian, in an airstrike in Libya. Chouchane was an Islamic State facilitator who shuttled fighters between North Africa and elsewhere. The Tunisian government had identified Chouchane as a suspect in the assault on Bardo Museum.

However, Tunisian authorities also blamed members of the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, a wing of AQIM, for the Bardo slayings. Al-Faqih has long had ties to the group. In Apr. 2015, for instance, al-Faqih eulogized Uqba bin Nafi Battalion leader Lokman Abu Sakhr, swearing that the Tunisian jihad would outlive Sakhr. Tunisian officials had implicated Sakhr in the Bardo killings as well. In separate messages, al-Faqih has also called for additional attacks inside Tunisia.

The Islamic State poached members from AQIM and its front groups in order to swell its ranks in North Africa. So, it is possible that the Bardo Museum terrorists were initially part of AQIM and its Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, but decided to defect to Baghdadi’s cause.

Abukar Ali Adan

State described Adan as the “deputy leader of al-Shabaab” but provided no other details on him. Research by FDD’s Long War Journal shows that Adan fits the profile of a rising star in al Qaeda’s East African branch.

Adan’s career can be traced back to Mar. 2010, when he was identified in a Reuters report as Shabaab’s “chairman” along the border with Kenya. In May of that same year, he was reported to be Shabaab’s leader for the southern city of Kismayo. At that time, Kismayo was controlled by Shabaab and was a central hub for the jihadists’ economic and military operations in southern Somalia.

As the emir for Kismayo, Adan wielded significant power, which he used to recruit and expand Shabaab’s footprint. In Dec. 2011, Adan said that teachers and students were obligated to participate in Shabaab’s jihad against the government and the West.

Adan continued to rise within the ranks of Shabaab’s top leadership. In July 2012, a BBC Monitoring report identified Adan as the emir of the Lower and Middle Juba regions, the two southernmost provinces in Somalia where Shabaab’s insurgency has been anchored. He answered directly to Sheikh Godane, Shabaab’s previous emir, at the time.

By 2014, Adan had entered Shabaab’s top leadership circle. According to the International Crisis Group, Adan served as the “overall Al-Shabaab military/militia head.” As the head of its military, Adan would be one of the most powerful figures within Shabaab. Traditionally, Shabaab’s military emir also serves as the group’s deputy emir.

Muhammad Al Ghazali

State also provided few details on Ghazali. He is described as “a senior member of AQAP who is involved in internal security and training of the group’s operatives.”

As a leader within AQAP’s internal security branch, Ghazali would be involved in rooting out “spies,” as well as suppressing dissent from rival jihadist groups such as the Islamic State.

Somali News

Report: Al-Shabab Conscripting Children Young as 8

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A new report says Somalia’s al-Shabab militants are forcing rural communities to hand over children as young as 8 years old for indoctrination and military training.

Human Rights Watch says al-Shabab conscripts the children by subjecting elders and religious school teachers to beatings, abductions and intimidation tactics. The group’s campaign has focused on the Bay region in southwestern Somalia, where communities were already ravaged by droughts and years of conflict, according to the report from the international rights group.

The campaign was first reported by VOA’s Somali service in September.

“These are communities which have already been hit by drought, very poor, struggling to survive,” said Laetitia Bader, a senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch who interviewed families affected by the campaign, which began in late September 2017.

Bader says in some incidents, al-Shabab militants have taken children directly from school classrooms. In others, the group took local elders hostage and refused to release them until a village agreed to hand over a certain number of kids.

In one incident, al-Shabab fighters beat a teacher after he refused to hand over his students. One teacher said that when he was hit by the militants, students started crying and tried to run out of the classroom but the militants were on hand to punish them. “They caned a 7-year-old boy who tried to escape,” the teacher told HRW.

HRW says hundreds of children have been affected. In one village alone, al-Shabab abducted at least 50 boys and girls from two schools near Burhakaba town and took them to Bulo Fulay where the militant group runs schools and a major training facility.

Back in September, Bay region Governor Ali Wardhere Doyow said clans and elders should resist al-Shabab. “Reject, don’t let them take away your children. Fight it off,” he said. But al-Shabab dominates the Bay region, leaving government officials with little means to stop the conscription.

The campaign has prompted hundreds of children to flee areas controlled by Al-Shabab. “A community’s only option to protect their children from recruitment was to send them into government controlled towns, often on their own, just to see if they can get a bit more protection in those towns,” Bader says.

This is hardly the first time al-Shabab has been accused of recruiting children. “We have seen in the past very young children sent to the front line, some children as young as 9 years old, very much being used as a cannon fodder …right at front lines during the fighting in Mogadishu 2010 and 2011 and more recently the large scale offensive in Puntland in 2016,” Bader said.

Al-Shabab’s longer term plan, Bader says, is to train at least some of them as fighters.

“What appears to be part of this campaign is to get these children to go to al-Shabab-managed, controlled madrassas, to put them through their educational system,” she said, adding, “In some cases there is a link children growing in these schools and then being sent to military training. Research also showed children received a mixture of indoctrination and basic military training.”

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Terrorism Watch

Somali Jihadist Killed in Syria

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VOA — A leading Somaliland politician says his son, who joined the Islamic State militant group five years ago, was killed in Syria.

Faysal Ali Warabe, leader of the UCID party who ran for president of the self-declared republic during the November 13 election, says his son — Hussein Faysal Ali Warabe — was killed in an airstrike.

Hussein, also known as Abu Shuaib As-Somali, joined the militant group in 2013, along with his wife.

“We learned the news of his death yesterday [Saturday],” Warabe told VOA Somali. “His wife sent a recorded message via WhatsApp saying he was killed on Dec. 29.”

Warabe did not say where son was killed but says his family assumed he had left Raqqa safely. IS was pushed out of its former capital of Raqqa last year.
“There was no fighting in the area he was staying, so it will have been an airstrike that killed him,” he said.

Asked how his son arrived in Syria, Warabe said he had traveled there from Finland where he was a citizen. But it was in Somaliland where he first tried to travel to Syria in 2013. Warabe said Hussein also tried to travel to Yemen the same year but was stopped by Somaliland authorities because his passport was nearing expiration.

“He tried to travel to Garowe [Puntland] to obtain a Somali passport, which he could use to get a visa from Ethiopia. But he was intercepted in Las Anod,” Warabe said. “We deported him to Finland. We told them [Finnish authorities] not to renew his passport. We told them he was a travel risk. But they said he didn’t commit any crime, so he got a passport. And three months later, he traveled to Syria via Turkey.”

Warabe said his son was planning to leave Syria with his wife and two children after realizing that joining IS was a “mistake.”

“We were expecting him to come our way. He spoke to his mum and siblings on Dec. 24. We were expecting him to contact us from Turkey,” he said.
Warabe said the family contacted the Finnish embassy in Turkey about their son’s intentions to leave Syria. Finnish authorities could not be reached for comment.

Over the years, a number of Somali jihadists have joined IS, but nearly all of them traveled from western countries, including the United States, Canada and Europe.

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KENYA

Somali militants “lecture” frightened Kenyan villagers before escaping

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LAMU, Kenya, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) — About 100 Somali Al-Shabaab militants on Sunday stormed a village in Kenya’s coastal Lamu region where they “lectured” frightened villagers.

The militants flushed out Ishakani villagers from their houses and preached to them radical teachings at the border village between Kenya and Somalia.

According to witnesses living in Ishakani, the militants joined other Muslim faithful for prayers in the mosque in which they lectured them before escaping into Somalia.

Lamu County Commissioner Gilbert Kitiyo confirmed the incident on Sunday evening, saying that they got information and sent officers to pursue the militants.
Kitiyo confirmed that a group of between 60 to 100 suspected Al-Shabaab militants invaded Ishakani village on Sunday.

“However, within 30 minutes, we had already sent out a special team of KDF (Kenya Defence Forces) to pursue the terrorists. Our officers are pursuing the criminals who suspected that our security team must be following them,” Kitiyo said.

The government official reiterated that the national government is aware of the militants’ threats and are working towards weeding out the Al-Shabaab group from Boni forest which he said continues to be their base of operations.

He further said that KDF from the local camp together with the special squad are hunting down the militants in Boni forest.

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