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Terrorism Watch

U.S. military kills 17 Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia

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MOGADISHU, Jan. 1 (Xinhua) — The U.S. military intensified airstrikes in Somalia in the past week, killing at least 17 Al-Shabaab terrorists behind increased deadly attacks in countries including Kenya.

The U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in two separate statements on Monday said its forces killed four terrorists some 25 kilometers west of Mogadishu on the evening of Dec. 27, destroying one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu.

Africom also said some 13 terrorists were killed on Dec. 24 in southern Somalia as Washington intensifies airstrikes to weed out Al-Shabaab militants in the Horn of Africa nation.

“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect the United States, its partners and interests, and deny safe haven to terrorist groups,” it said.

“This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region,” it said.

The U.S. forces have carried out a series of drone strikes in recent months in Somalia, targeting Islamist States and Al-Shabaab fighters as the Africa Union peacekeeping mission prepares to exit the country.

Somali and African Union peacekeeping (AMISOM) forces have also intensified military operations against the insurgents, flushing them in their Lower and Middle Shabelle region bases amid an expected recall of 1,000 African Union troops by end of December 2017.

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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