Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Al-Shabaab Takes ‘Last Gasps’ in Ethiopia « Afronline – The Voice Of Africa


Addis Ababa – The explosion went off at 2:40 on a Sunday afternoon, on a tree-lined side street in Ethiopia’s capital city of Addis Ababa. The area was a quiet one – home to foreign diplomats, domestic civil servants and several embassies – and the blast was strong enough to kill two men, startle the neighbours, and demolish a small home.
But if the government’s current theory is correct, the carnage could have been much worse.
Sunday, Oct. 13, was the day of a big football match – a rare shot at the World Cup playoffs for Ethiopia, which ultimately lost against Nigeria in Addis Ababa. Given the debris found at the site of the explosion, including suicide belts and an Ethiopian team jersey, investigators think the men may have been planning to detonate near the football stadium in central Addis, where thousands of fans and security workers had gathered.
But something went wrong, and the two suspects – Somali nationals, according to the government – never made it out of the house before their explosives went off.
Al-Shabaab, a militant group based in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack on its Twitter account, but its details were off. “We Claim Responsibility for Today’s Bomb Blast in #AddisAbaba, #Ethiopia, that Left Nearly 10 Kuffar [disbelievers] Dead,” said the Monday tweet, which greatly exaggerated the number of casualties and was not posted until the day after the actual explosion.
“It is a plausible assumption that Al-Shabaab may be connected to the crime,” Kjetil Tronvoll, an Ethiopia expert and senior partner at the International Law and Policy Institute, told IPS, noting that Al-Shabaab has repeatedly denounced Ethiopia and threatened to carry out attacks.
“Ethiopia has a standing high-alert security vis-a-vis Somalia,” he added. “[The recent explosion] gives justification to such alertness.”
The Ethiopian government is adamant about clamping down on extremism in all its forms, said Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn at a press conference this month. “Extremism often degenerates into terrorism, so we have to fight extremism as much as we can, and that has no compromise at all.” This approach has garnered criticism from some Ethiopian Muslims – including ethnic Somalis – who claim their communities are unfairly targeted.
“The terrorist incident, if connected to Al-Shabaab, may sadly contribute to a possible stigmatisation of the Somali population at large in Ethiopia,” said Tronvoll.
The Ethiopian government said it would not change its approach to national security on its own soil, and would focus instead on its borders, since the two suspects in the Sunday explosion arrived illegally.
“We will not make any changes to domestic security – that situation is already intact,” government spokesman Redwan Hussein told IPS. “We will only make sure we are more secure when it comes to people getting into the country in the first place.”
In Somalia, Al-Shabaab has positioned itself as a bulwark against Ethiopian and Western influence ever since its inception as the military wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist governing body that rose to power in Somalia in early 2006. In its early days, it garnered some public support as a counterweight to the Ethiopian troops that effectively ousted the ICU from Mogadishu in late 2006 with backing from the United States.
Over the next few years, Al-Shabaab set up a governing system based on Shariah, or Islamic law. Its territory expanded across most of southern Somalia and the group forged closer bonds with Al-Qaeda, formally linking with it in 2012. But that process wrought some discord between those Al-Shabaab leaders who envisioned a global Islamist movement and those who sought to focus on domestic issues first and foremost.
The cracks began to show after 2011, when Ethiopian and Kenyan troops moved in to bolster troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). At the same time, Al-Shabaab’s refusal of humanitarian aid during a devastating famine was already eroding its public support. In the two years since, Al-Shabaab has been pushed out of its former strongholds in the capital city of Mogadishu and the port city of Kismayo, and vicious leadership scuffles have become a threat to cohesion. More and more, the organisation has struggled to conscript voluntary fighters, relying instead on forced recruitment.
Some analysts see the attacks Al-Shabaab has taken credit for – including the Addis Ababa bomb this week and the massacre that killed 67 at a Nairobi mall last month – as last gasps rather than shows of power. The organisation remains a very real threat, but it no longer enjoys the level of support it once did.
“There might be some fringe elements here and there on both sides, who could use [the Addis Ababa attack] to air some grievances,” Alula Alex Iyasu, an Ethiopia-based analyst at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies, told IPS.
“But Muslims and Christians have been living side-by-side in Ethiopia, and in Somalia the vast majority despise Al-Shabaab and affiliated groups. So I’d imagine they’d condemn the Addis bomb wholeheartedly just as if it had happened on their own soil.”
Somalia has lately been making strides in its effort to end two decades of failed statehood. A new constitution and federal government were established last year, with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud at the helm.
The international community has pledged billions of dollars to rebuild the war-torn country, and the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called this week for AMISOM to bolster its troops in Somalia, already numbering about 18,000, with another 4,400.
As Somalia struggles toward order, peace reigns around the explosion site on Rwanda Street in Addis Ababa’s Bole neighbourhood, where a high concentration of ethnic Somalis live side-by-side with Ethiopians, and where children of both ethnicities used to play together in the very compound where the perpetrators of Sunday’s bomb lived and died.
In the days following the blast, police tape was stretched across the gate and a few federal policemen guarded the site. But other than that, life along the leafy street was progressing largely as normal, with ethnic Somali and Ethiopian residents mingling at small shops and stopping to chat on street corners.
If the perpetrators hoped to stir up divisions between Somalis and Ethiopians, as Al-Shabaab once did to rally support for its cause, it would appear they missed the mark — and lost their lives into the process. The Ethiopian national security apparatus, meanwhile, has gained one more reason to keep up its controversial tactics.
“Ethiopia takes these kinds of threats seriously,” said Iyasu. “Somalia has been in this precarious situation for the past 20 years, so in a way this is nothing new for the Ethiopian government.”
By Jacey Fortin – Ips Africa

Monday, October 14, 2013

Ethiopia: Bombing Kills 2 in Ethiopian Capital

Ethiopian state media have reported that a bomb blast in the capital city Addis Ababa has killed at least two people.
The attack took place Sunday in the city's Bole district, which is home to a large Somali population. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Ethiopia says it has thwarted plots of attacks in the past two years and blames rebel groups based in the south and southeast, as well as Somalia's al-Shabab insurgents.
Ethiopian troops have been fighting al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants in Somalia since 2011, alongside African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi and Kenya.
Last month, al-Shabab led an attack on a shopping mall in Kenya in which at least 67 people were killed. The al-Qaida-linked group said the attack was retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ethiopia's Red Terror takes center stage in Denver immigration trial - The Denver Post

By Tom McGhee

UPDATED:   10/09/2013 12:01:18 AM MDT

The children of Habteab Berhe Temanu on Tuesday explained in a Denver courtroom the stark choice they faced when they recruited a man to act as their father in order to come to the United States.
If they stayed in Nairobi, Kenya, where they were living illegally after fleeing Ethiopia, they could be deported to Eritrea, their father's original home, and pressed into military service and killed.
They said they didn't know anything about the past of the man they recruited, Kefelgn Alemu Worku, who is now on trial on immigration-fraud charges. He is accused of being a notorious prison guard in Ethiopia who killed and brutalized inmates.
The siblings needed a head of household to emigrate, but their father suffered dementia.
"He kept forgetting our names," said Amanuel Habteab Berhe, 29.
So they found a broker who would enlist another Ethiopian refugee to act as their father. That man, whom they knew as "Tufa," was Alemu Worku.
The government has granted Amanuel and his siblings immunity from prosecution to testify about their part in Alemu Worku's immigration.
Prosecutors say Alemu Worku was a guard at "Higher 15," a prison operated by the Marxist military dictatorship that initiated a bloodbath known as the Red Terror in Ethiopia in the late 1970s.
Another witness, Kiflu Ketema, 58, who spent 18 months at the "Higher 15" prison in Addis Ababa, said Alemu Worku was the most feared man in the prison, where guards routinely tortured and murdered political prisoners. "He was a big fish, he was the most feared person in 'Higher 15,' " he said under questioning by Alemu Worku's lawyer, Matthew Golla.
Through tears, he described watching as prisoners were beaten on the soles of their feet and burned with cigarettes.
"It was horrible," he said.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

US forces raid Somalia, nab al-Qaida leader in Libya in missions against E. Africa terrorism

ByKimberly Dozier and Abdi Guled and Jason Straziuso
MOGADISHU, Somalia - In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. military forces on Saturday struck out against Islamic extremists who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a man allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but missing a man linked to last month's attack on a Nairobi shopping mall.
A U.S. Navy SEAL team slipped ashore near a southern Somalia town before the al-Qaida-linked militants rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific al-Qaida suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid publicly.
Within hours of the Somalia attack, relatives of a Libyan al-Qaida leader wanted for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania said he was kidnapped outside his house Saturday in Tripoli, Libya. A U.S. official said it was American forces who captured Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Libi, who has been wanted by the U.S. for more than a decade.
The U.S. official says there have been no U.S. casualties in the Libya operation. The official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
Saturday's raid in Somalia occurred 20 years after the famous "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu in which a mission to capture Somali warlords went awry after Somali militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters. Eighteen 18 U.S. forces were killed in the battle, and it marked the beginning of the end of that U.S. military mission to bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation. Since then, U.S. military intervention has been limited to missile attacks and lightning operations by special forces.
A resident of Barawe — a seaside town 240 kilometres (150 miles) south of Mogadishu — said by telephone that heavy gunfire woke up residents before dawn prayers.
The U.S. forces attacked a two-story beachside house in Barawe where foreign fighters lived, battling their way inside, said an al-Shabab fighter who gave his name as Abu Mohamed and who said he had visited the scene. Al-Shabab has a formal alliance with al-Qaida, and hundreds of men from the U.S., Britain and Middle Eastern countries fight alongside Somali members of al-Shabab.
A separate U.S. official described the action in Barawe as a capture operation against a high-value target. The official said U.S. forces engaged al-Shabab militants and sought to avoid civilian casualties. The U.S. forces disengaged target after inflicting some casualties on fighters, said the official, who was not authorized to speak by name and insisted on anonymity.
The leader of the al-Qaida-linked Somali militant group al-Shabab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Ahmed Godane, claimed responsibility for the attack on the upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a four-day terrorist siege that began on Sept. 21 and killed at least 67 people. A Somali intelligence official said the al-Shabab leader was the target of Saturday's raid.
An al-Shabab official, Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Musab, said in an audio message that the raid failed to achieve its goals.
Al-Shabab and al-Qaida have flourished in Somalia for years. Some of the plotters of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania hid out there.
Barawe has seen Navy SEALs before. In September 2009 a daylight commando raid in Barawe killed six people, including Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the most-wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region and an alleged plotter in the 1998 embassy bombings that killed more than 220 people.
The Libyan al-Qaida leader also wanted for the bombings, al-Libi, is believed to have returned to Libya during the 2011 civil war that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
His brother, Nabih, said al-Libi was parking outside his house early Saturday after dawn prayers when three vehicles encircled him, smashed the car's window and seized his gun before grabbing him and taking him away. The brother said el-Libi's wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed "commandos."
Al-Libi is on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head.
A resident of Barawe who gave his name as Mohamed Bile said militants in Barawe closed down the town in the hours after the assault, and that all traffic and movements have been restricted. Militants were carrying out house-to-house searches, likely to find evidence that a spy had given intelligence to a foreign power used to launch the attack, he said.
"We woke up to find al-Shabab fighters had sealed off the area and their hospital is also inaccessible," Bile told The Associated Press by phone. "The town is in a tense mood."
Al-Shabab later posted pictures on the Internet of what it said was U.S. military gear left behind in the raid. Two former U.S. military officers identified the gear as the kind U.S. troops carry. Pictures showed items including bullets, an ammunition magazine, a military GPS device and a smoke and flash-bang grenade used to clear rooms. The officials could not confirm if those items had come from the raid.
In Kenya, military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir on Saturday gave the names of four fighters implicated in the Westgate Mall attack as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, names that were first broadcast by a local Kenyan television station.
Matt Bryden, the former head of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, said via email that al-Kene and Umayr are known members of al-Hijra, the Kenyan arm of al-Shabab. He added that Nabhan may be a relative of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the target of the 2009 Navy SEALs raid in Barawe.
The identities of the four men from the mall attack came as a Nairobi station obtained and broadcast the closed circuit television footage from Westgate. The footage shows four attackers calmly walking through a storeroom inside the complex, holding machine-guns. One of the men's pant legs appears to be stained with blood, though he is not limping. It is unclear if the blood is his, or that of his victims'.
Government statements shortly after the four-day siege began on Sept. 21 indicated between 10 to 15 attackers were involved, but indications since then are that fewer attackers took part, though the footage may not show all of the assailants.
The Associated Press

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Kerry: rebel fighters can "run but they can't hide"

An Ethiopian and other 3 Al Shabaab terror cell members stripped of British citizenship | Business Standard

Members of an alleged  cell of the Al Shabaab terrorist group, behind the recent shopping mall siege in , have secretly been stripped of British citizenship. 

At least four men with links to the group behind the Nairobi massacre have had their British passports removed by  Home Secretary Theresa May on national security grounds. 

A fifth man from London with terrorist links is using human rights legislation to block his deportation to his native Ethiopia, the 'Sunday Times' reported here today. 

Those stripped of British citizenship rights include Bilal al-Berjawi, who first travelled to Somalia - the base of Al Shabaab - in 2007 and rose up the ranks to become briefly Al Shabaab's second-in-command. 

Berjawi, who was born in Lebanon, also raised funds in  for the terrorist group. 

His neighbour in west London and a childhood friend was Mohamed Sakr, who also joined Al Shabaab. 

Berjawi and Sakr, a dual British-Egyptian national, controversially lost their citizenship in 2010 while they were abroad. 

Sakr's parents were told by the Home Office that the decision was based on their son's involvement in "terrorism- related activity", the report claims. 

Last year Berjawi, 27, and Sakr, 26, were killed within a month of each other by American drone strikes in Somalia. 

A third friend, Walla Rahman, 31, also from west London, has been linked by the Ugandan media to bombings claimed by Al Shabaab in Kampala in July 2010. 

A total of 74 people died in the attacks as they watched the World Cup final at two bars. 

Rahman's father, Ismat, told 'The Sunday Times' that his son had also been stripped of his British citizenship. But he denied that Rahman, who came to the UK from Sudan aged 10, had ever travelled to Somalia or had joined Al Shabaab. 

"He has never been involved in such a thing," he said. 

Rahman's father claimed his son had moved back to Sudan five years ago and was appealing against the decision to remove his British passport. 

The fourth Londoner to be stripped of British nationality is Somalia-born Mahdi Hashi, 24, a former community worker. Hashi vanished in Somalia last summer and later resurfaced in US custody. 

He faces trial in New York, where he is accused of being a member of "an elite Al Shabaab suicide bombing unit" who had knowledge of the group's chemical weapons capability. 

Hashi's family believe he was tortured and illegally handed over to the Americans. 

A fifth man, who is alleged to have provided support to Berjawi, Sakr and Rahman, avoided being returned to Ethiopia earlier this year after appeal court judges ruled he could face ill treatment there. The Home Office has recommenced deportation proceedings against him.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Was deadly force necessary in Capitol shooting?

Exclusive video from Alhurrah Television Network shows the car chase in Washington D.C. that led to the shooting near the U.S. Capitol.

A former criminal investigator says officers should have tried another means to stop the car.

WASHINGTON — After a car chase through the heart of the nation's capital ended with police shooting to death a 34-year-old Connecticut woman, security experts are wondering whether that was their only option.
D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said the first shots were fired Thursday after the woman rammed a Secret Service vehicle near the Capitol building. The second, fatal round of shots was fired several blocks away when the woman crashed near a barrier to the Capitol complex.
Michael Lyman, a former criminal investigator who has studied use-of-force guidelines for police, said the woman's inability to penetrate barriers around the White House downgraded the situation from a national security concern to an "old-fashioned pursuit." From that point on, he said, officers should have tried to use other means to stop the car.
"Shooting at a moving vehicle is against all nationally recognized protocols," said Lyman, a criminal justice professor at Columbia College of Missouri.
Lyman said the possibility of accidentally striking innocent bystanders is just too high when trying to shoot at a moving car.
"Cops get rattled," he said. "And when they get rattled, police don't always shoot straight."
Geoffrey Alpert, a criminology professor at the University of South Carolina, said that Washington's unfortunate history as a target of terrorist attacks cannot lower the threshold for officers deciding to open fire in a crowded area.
"Does it increase the level of risk? Yes. But it's still the same standard as any other use of force," Alpert said. "The officers need to explain why each one pulled the trigger and each bullet expended."
Even if police were trying to shoot out the tires of the car in an effort to disable it — something people see in movies and TV shows all the time — experts say that's an incredibly difficult feat to actually pull off. Dan Kennedy, a forensic criminologist, said police are instructed not to attempt that, because bullets end up ricocheting off the pavement or the vehicle and potentially striking bystanders.
"There's been a real disconnect between reality and expectations on the part of civilians based largely on what they've seen on TV and in the movies," Kennedy said. "It's generally a bad idea to fire at a moving vehicle and most police departments don't allow it."
But this wasn't just a car chase down a desolated highway. The woman struck and injured an officer with her car when the chase began near the White House, she rammed a police car while evading police by the Capitol building, and the car was careening through an area filled with embassies, federal buildings and throngs of tourists.
"The officers felt their lives were in ... jeopardy, or other citizens' lives could've been in fear as well," Ed Clarke, a security expert, told WUSA-9. "It's very quick how they have to make a critical decision. In a matter of milliseconds."
Lanier said Thursday that the officers who reacted to the pursuit acted "heroically" under intense pressure. Given the route of the pursuit — from the White House to streets all around the Capitol building — officers did not know the intentions of the driver and had to respond assuming the worst.
"There were multiple vehicles that were rammed," Lanier said. "There were officers that were struck. And two security perimeters that were attempted to be breached, so it does not appear in any way this was an accident."
Lyman said officers could have tried to place tire-deflation devices on the road ahead of the driver. They could have used more cars to try and box her in.
Most important, Lyman said, Thursday's shooting should prompt D.C. law enforcement agencies to consider installing more pop-up vehicle barriers throughout the area. There are several such barriers — metal gates that can be raised up from the road — next to many federal buildings. But Lyman said Thursday's chase shows how they could be used along other streets in the capital region.
"These would not only stop a vehicle, they would give law enforcement officers the opportunity to apprehend without resorting to deadly force," he said. "That should be a conversation that law enforcement should have in D.C."
Alpert said the shooting should also prompt D.C. law enforcement to consider bolstering approaches to the White House, Capitol and other critical buildings.
After the driver rammed into the White House barriers, she was able to evade police and escape, starting the high-speed chase. Alpert said law enforcement should at least consider military-style entrances that include a wall that can be erected behind an approaching car to prevent it from getting a away.
"You drive up into a guard post. Once you get into that area, you're talking to the guard and if you're suspicious at all, they put up a huge barricade behind you," Alpert said. "You're absolutely blocked in and have nowhere to go."
Retired New York City police officer Valarie Carey, who is also the sister of shooting victim Miriam Carey, said late Friday that there was "no need for a gun" or deadly force to be used.
Contributing: Associated Press

Same old Iran: Ayatollah leads 'Death to Israel' and 'Death to America' ...