|US al-Shabab militant held in Somalia|
|[BBC] An American member of Somali Islamist group a has been in Somalia, an official has told the BBC.|
He said the man had been stopped while he was trying to escape from al-Shabaab after some of his friends were killed following an internal rift.
The cause of the dispute is not clear.
The group has experienced some splits in recent months over whether to switch allegiance from al-Qaeda to the so-called .
The man's position within al-Shabaab is not clear but Barawe District Commissioner Hussein Barre Mohammed told the BBC Somali service that the US has been in the group for "a very long time".
The captured admitted that he had been involved in the al-Shabaab attack on Garissa University college in north-eastern Kenya, in which 148 people were killed earlier this year, according to the commissioner.
He added that the man does not speak Somali.
He was intercepted by the Somali army on his way to Barawe, 220km (135 miles) south-west of the capital Mogadishu on Sunday, the commissioner told the BBC.
He is being investigated by the police who are working with the army and Amisom, the Africa Union force in Somalia.
Hundreds of foreigners are believed to have gone to join al-Shabaab, including American Omar Hammami, known as al-Amriki, who was killed in 2013 Somalia after falling out with the group.
|Home Front: WoT|
|2 Swedes, Somali Plead Guilty in NY over Shebab Conspiracy|
The trio face up to 15 years in an American prison and deportation, prosecutors said in New York.
Prosecutors say Madhi Hashi, 25, from Somalia, and Swedes Ali Yasin Ahmed, 30, and Mohammed Yusuf, 32, were members of the Shabaab group in Somalia from December 2008 to August 2012.
Shabaab is blacklisted as a foreign terrorist organization in the United States and federal prosecutors have spearheaded efforts to try foreign terror cases in New York courts in recent years.
The Swedes fought against US-funded forces in Somalia, prosecutors said. Hashi was close to Omar Hammami, the U.S.-born public face of Shabaab who was killed by fellow fighters in 2013, they added.
Yusuf appeared in a Shabaab video to encourage recruits to travel to Somalia and join the group, and threatened a cartoonist who depicted the Prophet Mohammed -- considered blasphemous to many s.
U.S. officials said the men were by local authorities in East Africa en route to in August 2012, then handed over to the FBI in November 2012 and flown to New York to be prosecuted.
Acting U.S. attorney Kelly Currie said the defendants were "committed supporters" of the Islamist group, which holds large swathes of territory in the south and center of Somalia.
Since 2007, the United States has carried out more than a dozen drone and covert operations targeting Shabaab, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism which tracks U.S. covert operations.
In September U.S. missiles killed Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.
|Home Front: WoT|
|Alabama men convicted on terrorism charges get 15-year prison terms|
|Two men accused of plotting to wage violent holy war overseas were sentenced to 15 years in prison each on Friday by a federal judge in Alabama who said their lack of remorse made it likely they would conspire to commit such acts again.|
Randy Rasheed Wilson and Mohammad
U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose said she pored over hundreds of hours of recorded conversations and emails between Wilson and Abukhdair and concluded they had conceived a well-researched plan to support jihad. They also spoke of killing Americans to further their cause, the judge said.
The men were in the process of putting their plan into motion when they bought airplane tickets to Morocco and were trying to leave the country when they were arrested in separate locations in Georgia in December 2012, DuBose said at the hearing in Mobile.
Most people in this courtroom support peoples right to have whatever beliefs they want, she said. But when a religion requires you to murder, that is crossing the line.
Their friendship revolved around extreme Islamic views, prosecutors said.
Undercover FBI agents began watching them in 2011 and recorded their discussions about where they could go to best defend Islam. The men eventually settled on the African nation of Mauritania, adjacent to Mali, which has seen a surge in Islamist violence, court documents said.
Wilsons attorney argued that his client was guilty only of thinking about crimes that he never carried out.
I ask you to punish Randy Wilson, not Osama bin Laden or any of these other people, said Wilsons attorney, Dom Soto. This is basically a case of outing Randy Wilson because he said some terrible things.
Authorities previously said Wilson was a friend and former roommate of Omar Hammami, an Alabama native who became a senior leader in al Shabaab, a Somalia-based al Qaeda affiliate. Hammami, who was on the FBIs Most Wanted Terrorists list, was killed in a gunbattle in Somalia in September.
|How Muslim militants and Western jihadis wrecked enchanting Somalia|
|[Shabelle] The beautiful port of Barawe became a base for the vicious known as the 'muhajireen'|
Wizards inland from the little Somali port of Barawe bewitched a person to come to them by banging a nail into a tree and chanting his name. 'He comes no matter how far away he may be,' wrote Gerald Hanley in Warriors, his unrivalled classic about Somalia -- for him a place of 'swirling sandstorms, heat and billions and billions of flies'. But I need no nail in a tree to return to Barawe, which to me is a paradise I once aimed to make my home.
I first saw Barawe from the high, red dunes of the hinterland. It glittered white against the azure Indian Ocean: beautiful houses and mosques, a colonial Italian lighthouse ringed by a necklace of surf. It was 1998 and I had never seen anywhere so exotic, populated by very light-skinned descendants of Portuguese, Arabs and Shirazis. They spoke a northern form of Swahili called Chimbalazi and were full of poetry. The perfume of incense and halwa sweetmeats drifted through sandy streets. I swam off a white sand beach and found Amharic inscriptions in the ruins of an old fort. I was made a guest at a four-storey mansion where a banquet of delicacies was prepared in the courtyard below and then hoisted up by a coconut rope on huge copper trays.
Barawe, in those days an island of beauty and sophistication amid the horrors of Somalia, was birthplace of the eponymous Sufi Sheikh Uways al-Barawi. This great religious leader promoted a tolerant form of Islam that so many Somalis still worship by today. Al-Barawi was murdered on the orders of the Mad Mullah, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, a fanatic who fought for 22 years and left nothing good except poetry extolling ultra-violence. That tension, between extremism and decency, has been played out again in Barawe's recent history.
I noticed that some of the most delightful Bravanese houses were abandoned. I was told that clan militias had used the town as a battleground. They menaced the prominent families so much that they fled -- overseas and along the Kenyan coast, where they continued to hand-weave their wonderful cloth with its geometrical designs that told a secret story. For now, Barawe was calm, and I did not want to go.
'What if I were to live in Barawe,' I asked. 'What if I were to buy a house?' 'Certainly,' replied my host. He revealed that the title deeds were held by the elders -- in Minnesota and London's East End. If my offer was accepted, I could settle down. The price of a very fine house was no more than £7,000. I was not the first Westerner to own a home in Barawe. My host showed me one lovely place that allegedly belonged to Graham Hancock, author of great books like Lords of Poverty.
I tried to pursue my purchase, dreaming that I might cut myself off from the outside world, learn Chimbalazi dialect and fish for yellowfin tuna. But I found myself in Yemen, and then London. One day an intricately carved camphor chest arrived on a flight, with best wishes from my host in Barawe, and this sits at home today. Somalia's civil war flared again, hiding the bright horizon of Barawe from the world once more.
A few years ago of A seized Barawe. They murdered local inhabitants. They beat Sufi worshippers and desecrated their saints' shrines. They imposed huge taxes on the people, denied them vaccines or poetry, music or even football. The place became a base for the most vicious of all the Al-Shabaab fighters -- foreign jihadis known as the muhajireen. Some of them were probably from and other western countries. In stolen lovely houses they designed s, truck bombs and massacres. In 2009 American special forces in helicopters ambushed and killed a senior al-Qa'eda leader a little way inland from the huge red dunes.
In June this year two of the nastiest factions of Al-Shabaab began liquidating each other -- as they do -- in Barawe's streets and a number of foreigners went straight to hell. Up the road a few weeks ago, Omar Hammami, an American known as the 'rapping jihadist' because of his YouTube jingles, together with Osama al-Britani, a British bomber and allegedly father of Samatha Lewthwaite's two younger children, also died during internecine feuding. It appears that Barawe became the place where plans were developed for the vile attack on Nairobi's Westgate shopping mall last month.
On 5 October, special forces of the American SEAL Team 6 launched a night raid on Barawe from the ocean, in a bid to kill or capture a man they did not get. After they withdrew into the waves, Al-Shabaab took reprisals against the local population. In London, where Islamophobic arsonists burned down the Bravanese community centre in June, these moderate, civilised people must wonder what they did to deserve all of this.
|Who are the world's 10 most dangerous terrorists?|
1. Ayman al- Despite the whittling away by drone attacks of "al Qaeda central" in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistain, the group's leader remains vocal and active in trying to harness the disparate affiliates that claim the al Qaeda name.
Source: al Qaeda leader urged affiliate to 'do something'
Since former leader 's death in 2011, al-Zawahiri has sought to take advantage of the unrest sweeping the Arab world, and has recognized that groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are better placed to carry out attacks than the ever-diminishing core that remains in "Af-Pak." At times, al-Zawahiri has struggled to exercise authority over groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq, not least because of the difficulty in communicating with far-flung offshoots.
Aware that pulling off another 9/11 is a remote possibility, al-Zawahiri has suggested a shift to less ambitious and less expensive but highly disruptive attacks on "soft" targets, as well as hostage-taking. In an audio message in August he recommended taking "the citizens of the countries that are participating in the invasion of countries as hostages."
Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor who is now 62, is not the inspirational figure to jihadists that bin Laden was, but he is trying to fashion a role as the CEO of a sprawling enterprise. According to the Economist, he may be succeeding. "From Somalia to Syria, al-Qaeda franchises and jihadist fellow travellers now control more territory, and can call on more fighters, than at any time since Osama bin Laden created the organization 25 years ago," it wrote this month.
Reward offered by the U.S. government for his capture: up to $25 million
How effective are terror watch lists? First woman added to FBI terror list Terrorists spreading ideology on Twitter
2. Nasir al Wuhayshi
For someone thought to be about 36 years old, al Wuhayshi's terror resumé is already extensive. Once bin Laden's private secretary in Afghanistan, he returned to his native Yemen and ended up in jail. But not for long: He and several other al Qaeda operatives dug their way out in 2006. He went on to to help found al Qaeda in Yemen, and began launching attacks on Yemeni security services and foreign tourists, as well as directing an ambitious attack against the U.S. Embassy in Yemen.
He is now the emir of AQAP, widely regarded as the most dangerous and active of al Qaeda's many offshoots. A slight figure with an impish sense of humor, according to some who have met him, al Wuhayshi appears to have been anointed al Qaeda's overall deputy leader in a bold move by al-Zawahiri to leverage the capabilities of AQAP. Seth Jones, a Rand Corporation analyst, called the appointment "unprecedented because he's living in Yemen, he's not living in Pakistain."
If al-Zawahiri is al Qaeda's CEO, al Wuhayshi appears to be its COO -- with responsibilities that extend far beyond Yemen. It appears that in 2012 he was already giving operational advice to al Qaeda's affiliate in North Africa.
Despite a concerted effort by the Yemeni government and the United States to behead AQAP, al Wuhayshi survives, and his fighters have recently gone on the offensive again in southern Yemen. The group is bent on exporting terror to the West -- both through bomb plots and by dispatching Western converts home to sow carnage.
3. Ibrahim al Asiri
Not a household name, but one that provokes plenty of anxiety among Western intelligence agencies. Al Asiri, a 31-year-old Saudi, is AQAP's master bomb-maker, as expert as he is ruthless. He is widely thought to have designed the "underwear" bomb that nearly brought down a U.S. airliner over on Christmas Day 2009, as well as the ingenious printer bombs sent as freight from Sanaa, Yemen, and destined for the United States before being intercepted thanks to a Saudi tip-off. The bombs were so well hidden that at first British police were unable to find one device even after isolating the printer.
Al Asiri also fitted his younger brother Abduillah with a bomb hidden in his rectum in an effort to kill 's counter-terrorism chief, Mohammed bin Nayef. The brother died in the attack; bin Nayef survived.
His trademark explosive is PETN -- a white, odorless powder than cannot be detected by most X-ray machines.
Al Asiri is thought to be somewhere in the vast mountainous interior of southern Yemen. The anxiety among Saudi and Western intelligence officials is that he has passed on his expertise to apprentices.
4. Ahmed Abdi Godane
Godane, aka Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, became the leader of the Somali group A at the end of 2008. Traditionally, Al-Shabaab has been focused on bringing Islamic rule to Somalia, and as such has attracted dozens of ethnic Somalis (and a few Western coverts) from the United States and Europe. But Godane appears to be refocusing the group on terrorist attacks beyond Somalia, against the east African states that are supporting the Somali government -- especially Uganda and Kenya -- and against Western interests in east Africa.
The Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi September 21 was Al-Shabaab's most audacious, but not its first nor most deadly outside Somalia. In 2010, Al-Shabaab carried out s in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in which more than 70 people were killed. But the Westgate siege, which left 67 people dead, demonstrated Godane's desire to align his group more closely with al Qaeda. In a taped message afterward, he noted the attack took place "just 10 days after the anniversary date of the blessed 9/11 operations."
Under Godane, Al-Shabaab has become a formal ally of al Qaeda. That has led to dissent, which Godane has dealt with ruthlessly, using his control of Al-Shabaab's intelligence wing. The American jihadist Omar Hammami was killed in September after criticizing Godane's leadership and his treatment of .
Godane is said to be 36 years old, and is originally from Somaliland in northern Somalia. He is slim to the point of wispy, as seen in the very few photographs of him, and prefers recording audio messages to appearing in public.
After the Westgate attack, Kenyan and Western intelligence agencies will undoubtedly step up efforts to end his reign of terror. But he should not be underestimated. A former Somali prime minister, Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, once described Godane as the cleverest of Al-Shabaab's leaders.
The U.S. government's Rewards for Justice program lists him under another alias, Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohammed, and is offering up to $7 million for information leading to his location.
5. Moktar Belmoktar
Belmoktar is Algerian but based in the endless expanse of desert known as the Sahel. Like many on this list, he has an uncanny knack for survival against the odds. A year ago, he probably would not have been counted among the world's most dangerous terrorists. Then he announced the formation of an elite unit called "Those Who Sign With Blood," which he said would be the shield against the "invading enemy." A short time later, his fighters launched an attack on the In Amenas gas plant in southern Algeria. A three-day siege left nearly 40 foreign workers dead.
Since then, Belmoktar's fighters have launched attacks on a military academy and French uranium mine in Niger in May, despite losing much of their freedom of movement after the French intervention in Mali in January.
Belmoktar is unusual in combining jihadist credentials with a lucrative business in smuggling and kidnapping. He is often called "Mr. Marlboro" because of his illicit cigarette trafficking, and is thought to have amassed millions of dollars through ransoms for westerners kidnapped in Mali.
Intelligence officials have told CNN that he has also developed contacts with jihadist groups in Libya as instability has gripped the country in the wake of 's overthrow.
Born in 1972, Belmoktar grew up in poverty in southern Algeria. He traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 in his late teens to fight its then-Communist government, and returned to Algeria as a hardened fighter with a new nickname "Belaouar" -- the "one-eyed" -- after a battlefield injury. He later joined forces with the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) in its brutal campaign against the Algerian regime.
Reward offered by the U.S. government: up to $5 million for information leading to his location.
6. Abu Muhammad al Julani
While Belmoktar might have been on the fringes of a "most dangerous terrorist list" a year ago, Abu Muhammad al Julani would not have been anywhere near it. But as Syria has descended into a state of civil war, al Julani's group -- the al-Nusra Front -- has emerged as one of the most effective rebel factions. Formed in January 2012, it is a jihadist group with perhaps 10,000 fighters, many of them battle-hardened in Iraq. It has specialized in s and IED attacks against regime forces, and its success has attracted hundreds of fighters from other rebel groups.
Al Julani personally pledged his group's allegiance to al-Zawahiri in April, and the U.S. State Department has branded al-Nusra as part of the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State in Iraq. In May, the United States added al Julani to to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Al-Nusra has so far not shown any inclination to take the fight to Western targets. Andrew Parker, the head of the British intelligence agency MI5, thinks that will change.
"A growing proportion of our casework now has some link to Syria... Al-Nusra and other Sunni groups there aligned with al Qaeda aspire to attack Western countries," he said in a speech in London this week.
Of al Julani himself, very little is known. Al-Nusra places a premium on organizational security. Even his nationality is unclear, but he is thought to have had experience as an in Iraq. A recent study by the Quilliam Foundation in London concluded his leadership of the group was "uncontested."
"Sources tell us that his face is always covered in meetings, even with other leaders. Al Julani is thought to be a Syrian jihadist with suspected close ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and al Qaeda in Iraq," the study's authors said.
Al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. missile strike in 2006.
7. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi
One factor that may influence the growth and potency of al-Nusra is its relationship with fellow jihadists in Iraq. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) was publicly at odds with al Julani over the regional pecking order earlier this year, asserting that al-Nusra was part of his group, a claim swiftly rejected by al Julani. Western intelligence would like nothing more than dissent between these two groups. Close cooperation between them across the long Syrian-Iraqi border -- the goal of al-Zawahiri -- is the nightmare scenario.
On the battlefield in Syria, cooperation between the two groups appears to be continuing, especially in towns like Deir Izzor in eastern Syria.
Inside Iraq, al Baghdadi has overseen a dramatic spike in terror attacks against the Shia-dominated state and security apparatus, aided by jail breaks and bank robberies. It has also claimed devastating s against Shia civilians and is open about carrying out attacks on purely sectarian grounds. It claimed credit for a wave of ings in Storied Baghdad on September 30, in which more than 50 people were killed, calling it a "new page in the series of destructive blows" against Shiite areas in Iraq.
The monthly number of civilian deaths in Iraq, according to the , is now at its highest since 2008.
Al Baghdadi benefits from fertile ground in that Iraq's Sunni minority is increasingly fearful of the Shia-dominated government led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Sunni tribes straddle the Syrian-Iraqi border, adding to a combustible regional picture.
Born in Samarra, al Baghdadi is in his early 40s. In a eulogy for bin Laden, he threatened violent retribution for his killing. Analysts regard ISIS as a greater threat now than at any time since the U.S. "surge" and the emergence of the Sunni Awakening Councils six years ago, which then turned the tide against al Qaeda in Iraq.
Reward offered by U.S. government, which lists him as Abu Du'a: up to $10 million for information leading to his location.
8. Sirajudin Haqqani
Shifting from the Middle East to the Afghan-Pakistain border regions, several groups are positioning themselves for the exit of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan next year. Among the most dangerous is the Haqqani Network, responsible for some of the deadly attacks in Kabul in recent years. A 2008 coordinated suicide on the Serena Hotel in Kabul left six dead. Another strike in June 2011 killed 12 at the InterContinental Hotel.
U.S. officials say that in addition to its high-profile s against hotels and other civilian targets in the Afghan capital, it is responsible for killing and wounding more than 1,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Siraj Haqqani is the son of the group's founder, and is in his early 40s.
"Siraj is a brutal criminal murderer," Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, the outgoing commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in eastern Afghanistan, told the publication Jane's in 2009.
Jeffrey Dressler, a senior analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, told CNN last year that Haqqani is "very, very competent, a very capable leader who has really grown the network over the past five, six years."
U.S. officials say the Haqqani Network is all the more dangerous in that its presence in the tribal territories of Pakistain is tolerated by the Pak government. The family belongs to the Zadran tribe, which spans the Afghanistan-Pakistain border and stretches to . The Haqqanis have a close relationship with both al Qaeda and the Taliban, but are also thought to have begun recruiting Chechen and Turkish jihadists.
The designated the Haqqani Network a terror group last year. It is regarded as well-funded because of a series of legitimate and illicit businesses that stretch to the Gulf.
Reward offered by U.S. government for information leading to Haqqani's location: up to $5 million
9. Abubakar Shekau
Shekau's inclusion recognizes the growing tide of Islamist militancy in West Africa. For the last four years, he has led Boko Haram, a Salafist group in northern Nigeria that has begun cooperating with other groups as far away as Mali.
But its main focus remains churches and other Christian targets, the police and the moderate establishment in northern Nigeria. Just last month, suspected Boko Haram fighters broke into a college in Yobe state and murdered more than 40 students as they slept.
In 2010, Shekau warned that the group would attack Western interests and the following year it carried out its first -- against U.N. offices in the capital, Abuja -- killing at least 23 people. The group has also kidnapped and killed several Western hostages. While Bokko Haram is not an affiliate of al Qaeda, Shekau has made clear his sympathy for the group's goals. The United States made him a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in June 2012.
Two caveats here: there are conflicting reports that Shekau was killed in an August raid by Nigerian special forces. But a video that appeared weeks later purported to show he was still alive. And Boko Haram's leadership structure is opaque at best; it's unclear how much control Shekau himself exerts over its fighters.
John Campbell, a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, wrote last month that so far "Boko Haram has shown little interest in the world outside of Nigeria and the Sahel. But the situation in Nigeria is dynamic, and it is possible that closer ties will develop between al-Qaeda and elements of Boko Haram."
"Boko Haram" means "Western education is forbidden" and reflects the group's utter rejection of modernity and Western influences.
"Hostile to democracy, modern science, and Western education as non-Islamic, it is highly diffuse," Campbell said of the group. "For some adherents, religious, even apocalyptic, themes appear to be paramount."
Reward offered by the U.S. government: up to $7 million for his location.
10. Doku Umarov
... Self-styled first emir of the Caucasus Emirate. Count Doku has announced that his forces will not target civilians, but qualified that statement by saying there aren't any civilians in Russia...
Doku Umarov leads the Caucasus Emirate (CE), a Chechen group dedicated to bringing Islamic rule to much of southern Russia.
The U.S. State Department named Umarov a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2010, and said subsequently he was "encouraging followers to commit violent acts against CE's declared enemies, which include the United States as well as Israel, Russia, and the United Kingdom."
U.S. officials have been investigating whether the Tsarnaev brothers -- who were blamed for carrying out the bombing at the Boston Marathon in April -- had any links with Chechen groups. But nothing has surfaced connecting them with CE. And the group's main focus has been on attacking Russian institutions and civilian targets. In January 2011, it bombed Moscow's Domodedovo airport, killing 36 people, and s of Moscow subway stations in 2010 killed 40 people.
Umarov was born in southern Chechnya in 1964, according to Chechen websites, and describes his family as part of the "intelligentsia." He came of age as the separatist campaign against Russian rule began to take root and joined the insurgency when then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin sent troops into the region in 1994.
In a proclamation published on a Chechen jihadist website in 2007, he declared, "It was my destiny to lead the Jihad... I will lead and organize Jihad according to the understanding, given to me by Allah."
Reward offered by the U.S. government for information on his location: up to $5 million.
|Before Kenya Attack, Rehearsals and Planting of Machine Guns|
|[NYT] NAIROBI, Kenya -- The plot was hatched weeks or months ago on Somali soil, by the Shabab's "external operations arm," officials say. A team of English-speaking foreign fighters was carefully selected, along with a target: Nairobi's gleaming Westgate mall. |
The building's blueprints were studied, down to the ventilation ducts. The attack was rehearsed and the team dispatched, slipping undetected through Kenya's porous borders, often patrolled by underpaid -- and deeply corrupt -- border guards.
Note: Underpaid employees are the real problem.
A day or two before the attack, powerful belt-fed machine guns were secretly stashed in a shop in the mall with the help of a colluding employee, officials say. At least one militant had even packed a change of clothes so he could slip out with fleeing civilians after the killings were done.
That is the picture emerging from American security officials of the massacre at the Westgate mall, which killed scores of people over the weekend. After a four-day standoff, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya claimed Tuesday to have finally "ashamed and defeated our attackers," declaring that the last militants still holed up inside the mall had been killed, though the bodies of many civilians, perhaps dozens, had yet to be recovered.
"Shamed and defeated" are they? Typical mindless tribal boasting and bravado.
Mr. Kenyatta said that "intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved," but that he could not confirm those reports. American officials said that they had not determined the identities of the attackers and were awaiting DNA tests and footage from the mall's security cameras, but that they did know the massacre had been meticulously planned to draw "maximum exposure."
"They had people in there, they had stuff inside there," said an American security official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly. "This was all ready to go when the shooters walked in."
Kenya is now entering an official three-day period of mourning to mark one of the most unsettling episodes in its recent history. The authorities here, in a country widely perceived as an oasis of peace and prosperity in a troubled region, are struggling to answer how 10 to 15 Islamist extremists could lay siege to a shopping mall, killing more than 60 civilians with military-grade weaponry, then hold off Kenyan security forces for days.
The virtual Afri "Oasis of Peace", yes of course.
On multiple occasions, the Kenyan government said the mall was under its control, only to have fighting burst out again. Earlier on Tuesday, the Shabab, the Somali Islamist group that has taken responsibility for the attack, bragged in a Twitter message that their fighters were "still holding their ground."
Western security officials fear that several fighters slipped out of the mall during the mayhem of the attack, dropping their guns and disguising themselves as civilians, an account echoed by some witnesses.
A fear is it? Generally an assumption made by professionals and dealt with early on, via a multi-ringed security perimeter.
And the death toll could keep going up. The Kenya Red Cross said Tuesday that more than 50 people were missing.
The way the attack was carried out may have had something to do with the recent killing of Omar Hammami, a Shabab fighter who grew up in Alabama and became a phantomlike figure across the Somali deserts, known by his nom de guerre: Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, "the American." Mr. Hammami was fatally shot by another wing of the Shabab less than two weeks ago.
One reason for the rift was Mr. Hammami's complaints that the Shabab had become too brutal toward fellow Muslims under the leadership of the group's emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane. That brutality, Mr. Hammami said, was the reason the Shabab had become so unpopular in Somalia and lost so much territory recently.
Stig Jarle Hansen, a Norwegian researcher who has published a book on the Shabab, said this rift might explain why the militants in the Nairobi mall decided to spare the lives of many Muslims. In the past, the Shabab have killed countless Muslims in Somalia with suicide bombs and buried Muslim girls up to their necks in sand and stoned them.
"Even Osama bin Laden criticized Godane for being too harsh," Mr. Hansen said. "This attack might have been Godane's way of saying, 'See, I'm not so harsh -- to Muslims.' "
A wealth of information and TTP's here. Hopefully it will be validated, fully researched and studied.
|American jihadi in Somalia tweets on kill attempt|
|[Shabelle] A most-wanted American jihadi in Somalia says a known assassin from the group a has shot him in the neck.|
Omar Hammami posted on Twitter about what he labeled an attempt late Thursday as he was sitting in a tea shop. He posted four pictures, one of which shows his face with blood on his neck and a blood-stained blue shirt.
On Friday Hammami tweeted that al-Shabaab's leader was sending forces against him.
Hammami moved from Alabama to Somalia and joined al-Shabaab in about 2006. He has since had a falling-out with the group and has previously publicized two al-Shabaab death threats against him.
The U.S. named Hammami to its Most Wanted terrorist list in March.
|Jihadi tweets of 'bid to kill me'|
| A most-wanted American jihadi in Somalia has tweeted pictures of himself after what he says was an assassination attempt. Omar Hammami posted four pictures, one of which shows his face with blood on his neck and a dark blood-stained t-shirt.|
Hammami, one of the two most notorious Americans in overseas jihadi groups, moved from Alabama to Somalia and joined al-Shabab in about 2006. He fought alongside the al-Qaida-linked group for years while gaining fame for posting YouTube videos of jihadi rap songs.
But Hammami has engaged in a public fight with the group over the last year amid signs of increasing tension between Somalis and foreign fighters in the group.
He first expressed fear for his life in an extraordinary web video in March 2012 that publicised his rift with al-Shabab. He said he received another death threat earlier this year that was not carried out.
"Just been shot in neck by shabab assassin. not critical yet," Hammami tweeted. He wrote that the leader of al-Shabab was sending in forces from multiple directions. "we are few but we might get back up. abu zubayr has gone mad. he's starting a civil war," Hammami posted.
Hammami has been a thorn in the side of al-Shabab after accusing the group's leaders of living extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collect from Somali residents. Another Hammami grievance is that the Somali militant leaders sideline foreign militants inside al-Shabab and are concerned only about fighting in Somalia, not globally. Hammami's comment about a civil war could refer to violence between those two groups.
|The jihadi rapper hated by both sides|
|With songs such as Send Me a Cruise (Missile) and Make Jihad with Me, Alabama-born Omar Hammami's notoriety has led to the US state department putting a $5 million bounty on his head. Not that Hammami -- also known as al-Amriki, or "the American" -- is letting bother him.|
On Thursday he joked on Twitter, "As I'm a bit low on cash, how much is my left leg going for? I figure Shamil Basayev [leader of the Chechen rebel movement] did the one-leg jihad thing."
Hammami, 28, went to Somalia to join al-Shabaab in 2006 and the State Department said he began recruiting for the jihadi cause through his English-language rap songs and videos. His voice has been described as "a deep Barry White growl".
But it is not just his music that has upset US authorities. Hammami is believed to have fought for al-Shabaab in Somalia against the government. He was added to the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists in November last year.
In 2007, he was charged in Alabama with providing material support to terrorists. Two years later new charges were filed against him for leaving the US to join al-Shabaab, listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the state department in 2008.
Earlier this year Hammami released his autobiography, The Story of an American Jihadi, which, like his music, received poor reviews. The Christian Science Monitor described it as a "strange mixture of childish humour (he writes "ha ha" a lot to indicate something he found funny) and deadly serious description of his life with al-Shabaab".
Hammami spilt with al-Shabaab last year, and they denounced his statements and actions as motivated by the "narcissistic pursuit of fame and ... far removed from the reality on the ground".
Al-Shabaab now wants to kill him, but Hammami seems calm about the prospect of having groups on both sides of the war on terror after him. On Friday he joked on Twitter, "If being wanted dead by both US and Shabaab has something to do [with] my patchy beard, fake beards are something negotiable."
|Mother of US-born militant confronts al-Shabaab threat: 'It's in God's hands'|
|Omar Hammami, who left Alabama to join the Somali group, has been given Saturday deadline to turn himself in|
Debra Hammami is hoping for a miracle to save her son from the al-Qaeda-linked Somali he left his hometown in Alabama to fight alongside.
"It's in God's hands," she said Friday, on the eve of a deadline set by a
... the personification of Somali state failure...
for their former adherent's surrender or death. The threat comes after a public falling-out between 28-year-old Omar Hammami and the leaders of the terrorist group.
Having already lost her son to ideology, his family back in the town of Daphne, Alabama, may now face the prospect of never seeing him alive again.
But they, as well as the American authorities, have been able to track his rise and subsequent falling-out with homegrown in the strife-torn African country through his appearance in recruitment videos and his own online outbursts.
The American-born fighter become a major leader in the Islamist group, and is said to have helped organise a deadly 2008 attack which left some 20 people dead in Somalia. Among those who took part in that assault was Shirwa Ahmed, a 26-year-old from Minneapolis, who became the first known American in the process.
By the time of that co-ordinated attack, Omar Hammami was already a rising star in al-Shabaab's ranks. Computer savvy and charismatic, he had helped the terrorist organization recruit other American-born Islamists, it is claimed.
In October 2007, under the nom de guerre Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki (the American) he gave an interview to al-Jazeera in which he implored other Americans to join him in Somalia.
But his high profile seems to have led to a rift with other Somali fighters, especially after he used his online presence to air grievances against other al-Shabaab members.
"War booty is eaten by the top dogs, but the guys who won it are for touching it. A gun, bullets, some beans is their lot," read one tweet from the abumamerican account, thought to be updated by Omar Hammami or one of his associates.
Many of his grievances were aired in an online video he posted in March, during which he expressed fears for his life.
He was publicly slapped down by al-Shabaab in a statement released last month, in which the Islamist group accused him of a "narcissistic pursuit of fame". It added that they were morally obligated to put out his "obstinacy".
The spat has culminated in an apparent demand that Omar Hammami surrender to his former comrades, or be killed.
"Shabaab make off announcement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on," a post on his apparent Twitter feed read on 4 January. That deadline will pass on Saturday.
Watching on in anguish from some 8,500 miles away are Omar's parents, Debra and Shafik Hammami.
"The last time I saw my son was in 2006, in Egypt," Debra told the Guardian. "We now follow him via the internet, Twitter and newspaper reports."
"He was just so full of life. Always into something, very smart in school, always wanting to be the first to hand in his term paper, very popular. He was just a normal kid," Debra said.
But at around the age of 16 or 17 he started to change.
"I did not notice anything radical. He just wanted to get deeper and deeper into religion," his mother said.
Having been originally brought up as Southern Baptist, the religion of his mother, he had already turned to Islam. But whereas his father followed the mainstream beliefs of the religion, Omar turned to extremism.
"I never give up hope. Even if I make 100 years old, I'll still be waiting for him."
Speaking from her home in Alabama, Debra explained that she still talks to him at home as if he is still there and can hear her.
"We do not agree with his philosophy. But we still love him as the son we had, we still love him," she added.
But the threat from al-Shabaab has put in jeopardy any chance she has of seeing her son alive again.
Debra doesn't expect her son to hand himself in to authorities -- he is wanted back in the US on terrorism charges. She said the best hope she has is that he can get out of Somalia and live the rest of his life in peace.
Experts suggest that such an eventuality may be his only option, and even then his chances of survival may be slim.
Clint Watts, a former executive officer at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center said that even if al-Shabaab's death threat isn't carried out on Saturday, it will be pursued by the ruthless al-Qaeda-linked cell.
"He's always going to be looking over his shoulder in Somalia. They're not going to forget and eventually they're going to come after him," said Watts, now a senior fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
"And I think he still ends up being killed in the long run," he added.
Meanwhile his parents have turned to prayer -- his father at the local mosque, his mother at the town's church.
"It is in God's hands," Debra told the Guardian, adding: "We are just praying that God can perform a miracle."
|Home Front: WoT|
|2 Ala. men arrested on federal terrorism charges|
| Two Alabama men who federal investigators say wanted to wage violent jihad overseas have been arrested in Georgia on terrorism charges, and one has close ties to another man previously identified as an Islamic terror leader, authorities said Tuesday.|
Mohammad Abdul Rahman Abukhdair and Randy "Rasheed" Wilson, both 25 and from Mobile, were named in terrorism charges filed Monday, according to Kenyen R. Brown, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama.
Prosecutors said Abukhdair was arrested at a bus terminal in Augusta, Ga., and Wilson was stopped in Atlanta while attempting to board a flight for the first leg of a trip to Morocco.
A sworn statement from an FBI agent said Wilson is a close friend and former roommate of Alabama native Omar Hammami, who was recently added to the list of the FBI's most-wanted terror suspects.
"The law enforcement actions of today should send a clear warning to those who would consider engaging in violent jihad, either at home or abroad, that their future is bleak: they may end up in a U.S. prison cell or a casualty on a foreign battlefield," Brown said in a statement.
Court records did not indicate whether Abukhdair or Wilson has an attorney.
|7 Shabaab leaders added to Rewards for Justice most wanted list|
|The US State department has added seven senior leaders of Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, to the Rewards for Justice list.|
The rewards, which were first reported by Reuters, range from $7 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Shabaab's emir, to $3 million for other senior figures in the terror group.
The top reward, at $7 million, is offered for Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed, Shabaab's senior leader and co-founder. Mohamed, better known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr and Godane, was in direct contact with Osama bin Laden before his death, and brokered Shabaab's official merger with al Qaeda in February.
Rewards of $5 million are being offered for Sheikh Abu Mukhtar Robow, a senior military commander and propagandist; Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, a military commander and al Qaeda leader; Ibrahim Haji Jama, the co-founder of Shabaab; and Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, a senior financier and military commander.
The US will pay rewards of $3 million for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sheikh Hassan "Turki" Abdullahi Hersi (Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi), a military commander and Shabaab's intelligence chief who is closely tied to al Qaeda; and Abdullahi Yare, a senior Shabaab leader.
Zubayr's reward of $7 million puts him at number six on the Rewards for Justice list of wanted terrorists. Only al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri (at $25 million), and al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Du'a, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed, and senior al Qaeda leader Yasin al-Suri (all at $10 million) have a higher bounty.
The reward of $5 million for each of Robow, Mahamoud, Khalaf, and Jama matches the rewards offered for a host of other terrorist leaders, including Pakistani Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, senior al Qaeda leaders Adnan G. el Shukrijumah and Saif al Adel, Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddun Haqqani, and Islamic Caucasus Emirate leader Doku Umarov.
Today's addition of the seven Shabaab leaders to the Rewards for Justice list is not the first time that the US has targeted the group. Both Godane and Robow were added to the US' list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists back in November 2008. Also added to the list at that time was Issa Osman Issa, a member of al Qaeda's East Africa cell that was responsible for the simultaneous attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salam in 1998. He served as an al Qaeda recruiter and directed attacks in East Africa. And in 2011, the US added Omar Hammami, an American citizen, to the terrorism list for serving as a Shabaab military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist, as well as for his ties to al Qaeda.
Additionally, the State Department added Shabaab itself to the Specially Designated Global Terrorist list in February 2008. State said that Shabaab "has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States."
Background on Shabaab leaders added to the Rewards for Justice list