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What Happened? The Wabeeri Market Bombing

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L-R: Bomb-maker; Remote Operator; Planner; Bomb-maker; Driver/Suicide-bomber; and an officer from NISA, the National Intelligence & Security Agency

Our Man on the Horn —  ‘THE history of a battle is not unlike the history of a ball,’ said the Duke of Wellington. ‘Some individuals may recollect all the little events of which the great result is the battle won or lost, but no individual can recollect the order in which, or the exact moment at which, they occurred, which makes all the difference as to their value or importance.’ Equally true would be any attempt to describe a terrorist atrocity.

Saturday’s attempted attack by an al-Shabaab suicide car bomber in Mogadishu targeting – depending upon who your source is – the Somali Police Force Academy or the Presidential motorcade is a prime example. In both versions, the operation went dramatically wrong, with the bomber getting lost and having to ask Somali security forces for directions to the target.

The security forces were on a heightened state of alert anyway, because of the President’s visit to a nearby college. But they were wary of the man anyway:  clearly not a resident of the city, his disorientated, dishevelled state and pronounced limp aroused their suspicions. He was identified by a female shopkeeper as the driver of a parked vehicle, but denied it was his. As an officer investigated the vehicle (which was parked some distance away), the explosives in the car were detonated.

It is also unclear at this point if the man himself detonated the device or if an accomplice initiated the bomb by remote control. (Terrorists often deploy a back-up operative with a remote control in case the suicide bomber, as often happens, has a last minute change of heart.)

The driver of the vehicle was immediately taken into custody and a number of arrests were made at a garage in the city where he claimed the attack had been planned and the car bomb assembled.

Putting aside the amateurishness of the attack, which possibly represents al-Shabaab’s difficulty in finding willing, competent attackers from amongst its dwindling ranks, the human tragedy of the attack stands out, even in a city that has suffered regular and horrifying attacks. Many men and women, shopkeepers and customers, the passengers of a crowded mini-bus, a number of children from nearby schools, were killed. (There was a particularly poignant image on Twitter of some shredded jotters – but it could have been taken anywhere, at any time.) The driver of a passing petrol tanker was killed, but fortunately the tanker itself did not explode, otherwise the death toll would have been even greater. The exact numbers are still unclear and it is not the business of this blog to perform al-Shabaab’s Battle Damage Assessment for it anyway. Suffice to say dozens of casualties.

Al-Shabaab rationalises its attacks using the perverted logic of ‘legitimate targets’ – proximity to a target justifies the deaths of the hapless civilians who happen to be nearby. If you hang around with politicians, security forces, foreigners, then you deserve to die along with them, says al-Shabaab. But how can al-Shabaab justify this atrocity? It is unsurprising that their spokesmen have been unusually silent in the aftermath of this attack, despite it clearly being their handiwork.

One positive did come out of the attack: within hours the market was functioning again, albeit with a few sheets of corrugated iron a bit bent here and there. By the next day no sign could be found of the attack. (I would post a photo but the market always looks like a bomb had gone off in it. A lot of markets do.)

Despite its proclamations, Al-Shabaab’s war is not with the government, the security forces or the international community: it is a war on the population. And the population has proven itself to be consistently, unconquerably resilient.

Somali News

Kansas Trio Convicted in Plot to Bomb Somali Immigrants

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WICHITA, Kan. — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted three men of plotting to bomb an apartment complex where Somali immigrants lived and worshiped in Garden City, Kan., giving prosecutors a victory at a time when threats against religious and racial minorities are rising nationally.

“These defendants conspired to build a bomb, blow up a building and murder every single man, woman and child inside,” Tony Mattivi, a federal prosecutor, told jurors during closing statements.

The men, Curtis Allen, Gavin Wright and Patrick Stein, all of whom are white, appeared stoic as the verdicts were read. They face up to life in prison when they are sentenced in June.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for about seven hours over two days.

Defense lawyers tried to convince jurors that their clients were manipulated by the F.B.I., and had been unfairly targeted for exercising their rights to own guns and speak freely.

“He was a member of a militia. He loved his guns. This was a lifestyle,” Melody Brannon, a lawyer for Mr. Allen, told the mostly white jury. “The government tried to criminalize that lifestyle.”

The trial, which played out over about a month in Wichita, focused on a period before the 2016 presidential election when a paid F.B.I. informant infiltrated a militia group that prosecutors said included the three men. Prosecutors, who built much of their case around secret recordings that the informant made of the men talking, said that they planned to carry out the bombing on Nov. 9 of that year, a day after voters selected a president.

“They wanted to send a message to the people living there that they’re not welcome in Garden City, they’re not welcome in southwest Kansas, they’re not welcome in the United States,” Mr. Mattivi said.

The men, who called themselves “the Crusaders,” were arrested about four weeks before Election Day and charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiracy against rights, which the Justice Department considers a hate crime. Mr. Wright was also charged with lying to the F.B.I. The three men were found guilty on all counts against them.

The trial came amid a national escalation in threats against religious and racial minorities, especially Muslims, according to the F.B.I. and organizations that monitor hate crimes.

“It is now approaching the level of hate violence against the same communities that we saw in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks,” said Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT: South Asian Americans Leading Together, a national advocacy organization.

Prosecutors portrayed the Kansas defendants as aspiring domestic terrorists who joined a militia and decided to bomb the Somali apartments after considering other attacks — on elected officials, churches that helped refugees and landlords who rented to immigrants.

Defense lawyers, who criticized the F.B.I.’s investigation throughout the trial as government overreach, suggested that their clients had merely engaged in idle talk inspired partly by the 2016 election. Expletive-filled recordings of the men played before the jury contained repugnant, bigoted language, the defense lawyers said, but not evidence of a federal crime.

“It is not morally right to hold such hate, but it is not legally wrong,” said James Pratt, a lawyer for Mr. Stein, who acknowledged that his client referred to Muslims as “cockroaches.” Mr. Stein referred to himself, the recordings showed, as an “Orkin man,” referencing the pest extermination company.

“We all have the right to hate,” Mr. Pratt added.

A bombing never took place, and no one was physically injured in Garden City, a point defense lawyers emphasized to jurors. They said the men lacked the ability or commitment to carry out such an attack, and that the F.B.I.’s paid informant helped steer the plot and suggested targeting the apartments.

Garden City is a racially diverse place about 200 miles west of Wichita with around 27,000 residents. Many Somalis and other immigrants have moved to the area in recent years to work at a nearby meatpacking plant.

The apartment complex that prosecutors say was targeted is a center of Somali life in Garden City. Many refugee families live in units of the complex; others come to pray in a makeshift mosque inside one unit.

Moussa Elbayoumy, who chairs the board of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the verdict affirmed his faith in the justice system.

Many Muslims he talked to in Garden City had not followed the trial closely, Mr. Elbayoumy said, but had hoped for convictions.

“The instance was troubling, was concerning. People were afraid,” Mr. Elbayoumy said in a phone interview. “But after that, they put this behind them and moved on with their lives.”

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Somali News

What’s triggering tension between Somalia and the UAE? | Inside Story

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Somalia has been in conflict for much of the past 25 years. But the horn of Africa nation has been showing signs of recovery.
And that’s provoked interest from many regional countries including the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf nation has been conducting a military training programme and running a hospital in the capital Mogadishu.

But, the UAE’s government has now abruptly ended its involvement on both those fronts after a series of recent diplomatic disagreements.

So, why are the UAE and other regional countries interested in Somalia?

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Somali News

AMISOM asks for more police officers in Somalia

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DAILY MONITOR — KISMAYO- The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has asked partners states to contribute more police officers to expand its operations in the war-torn country.

The call was made on Tuesday by Ms Christine Alalo, the acting AMISOM police commissioner while receiving 145 police officers from Sierra Leone.

The deployment of the force from Sierra Leone brings to 160 the number of police officers from Sierra Leone.

“We expect other police contributing countries to do the same because we are expanding our operations. We are moving away from Mogadishu,” Ms Alalo said.

Apart from Sierra Leone, other police contributing countries in Somalia are; Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana.

Early this month, over 500 Ugandan Police Officers sat for interviews that would see successful ones join police operations in Somalia.

Ms Alalo said since police operations will be extended to other federal states and districts, it is inevitable to increase the number of police units.

Between 2015 and 2016, AMISOM trained 600 Somali officers in Jubbaland, but Ms Alalo said that number has to be reinforced.

Meanwhile, the AMISOM Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mustafa Solomon Kambeh, said the police officers would be deployed in Jubbaland and Kismayo.

Mr Kambeh doubles as the Contingent Commander of the Sierra Leonean FPU in Mogadishu urged the forces to stick to the AMISOM mandate of pacifying Somalia and its regional states.

The Formed Police Unit is charged with public order management, protection of facilities and support to police operations that require a concerted response.

The United Nations Security Council Resolution adopted in 2017 approved an increase to a maximum of 1,040 police officers serving under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)

AMISOM is committed to redoubling its efforts to train and recruit more police officers during the transition period as it prepares to hand over security responsibilities to the Somali security forces as stipulated in the Security Council Resolution.

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