Al-Shabaab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Written by George Ogola (1)
Walking into any of Nairobi’s shopping malls, hotels and supermarkets today, one is now frisked by anxious security guards with metal detectors. The city appears trapped in a suspended sense of foreboding about a big unknown. It is a city very much on edge. Kenya’s war against Al-Shabaab in Somalia passed its 100th day in January 2012, but very few know when or how it will end. The port city of Kismayu, a main target for the Kenya Defence Force (KDF), remains in Al-Shabaab’s hands. The growing sense of uncertainly over the war, coupled with militant rhetoric by Al-Shabaab about retributive action within Kenya’s territory, is increasingly unsettling nerves in the country. Many are now resigned to the fact that this is a war that will not be won militarily.
Kenya’s military intervention came following the kidnapping of a number of aid workers and foreign nationals within its territory by suspected Al-Shabaab militants in 2011. The military intervention was, however, unusual. Kenya has generally avoided open military confrontation with its neighbours despite the fact that a number of these nations have been characterised by political instability since the 1970s having a significant political, social and economic impact on Kenya. For instance, the country hosts the Dadaab refugee camp, considered the largest refugee camp in the world.(2) The camp has nearly half a million refugees, mainly of Somali origin who have escaped hunger as well as lawlessness and clan wars in their country. Other camps in the country have previously hosted refugees mainly from South Sudan.
This paper assesses the implications of Kenya’s involvement in the war against Al-Shabaab. It argues that while the Kenyan Government wanted to make an unambiguous statement of intent about the seriousness of the country’s commitment to protecting its borders, it did not foresee the war evolving into a broader international ideological conflict. The involvement of international jihadists in the conflict has raised the stakes in the war. Kenya must now fight a military and an ideological war. It must also fight Al-Shabaab not only outside the country but within it; a challenging prospect with no end in sight.
‘Statelessness’ in Somalia and the politics of oil in northern Kenya
The continued situation of ‘statelessness’ in Somalia and the increasing militarisation of clanist and religious militia in the country have raised the stakes regarding the Somalia problem. There are fears that the country has become an incubator for international jihadists, which has forced the hand of the United States (US) to intervene, albeit indirectly. The US has offered support for the war in the form of military training and equipment to Kenyan forces. They have also been involved in drone attacks against Al-Shabaab in Somalia.(3) This intervention has had two effects. One, it has animated fundamentalist rhetoric against the ‘invaders’, seen to include the African Union’s (AU) interventionist force, the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), meant to support the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Two, the countries involved in protecting the TFG, which include Uganda, Burundi and Ethiopia, have also received substantial military support from the US, which has raised regional anxieties.
The latter point, although less talked about, is likely to be the subject of future debate as it is silently reshaping the geopolitics of the region. The countries involved in AMISON have now significantly increased their military spending prompting talk of an arms race in the region. Indeed, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri), in 2012 Uganda’s military budget for the first time surpassed Kenya’s despite the fact that the former has a much smaller economy. The country is said to have spent US$ 1.02 billion while Kenya spent US$ 735 million on military hardware in 2012.(4) If this trend continues, it will no doubt encourage a regional arms race as Kenya’s involvement in Somalia now all but legitimises increased military spending.
How the most extreme adherents of radical Islam are getting with the times.
BY OLIVIER ROY | APRIL 16, 2012
The following is an excerpt from the book The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are, which will be released on April 18 by the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
The longstanding debate over whether Islam and democracy can coexist has reached a stunning turning point. Since the Arab uprisings began in late 2010, political Islam and democracy have become increasingly interdependent. The debate over whether they are compatible is now virtually obsolete. Neither can now survive without the other.
In Middle Eastern countries undergoing political transitions, the only way for Islamists to maintain their legitimacy is through elections. Their own political culture may still not be democratic, but they are now defined by the new political landscape and forced in turn to redefine themselves — much as the Roman Catholic Churchended up accepting democratic institutions even as its own practices remained oligarchic.
At the same time, democracy will not set down roots in Arab countries in transition without including mainstream Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ennahda in Tunisia, or Islah in Yemen. The so-called Arab Spring cleared the way for the Islamists. And even if many Islamists do not share the democratic culture of the demonstrators, the Islamists have to take into account the new playing field the demonstrations created.
The debate over Islam and democracy used to be a chicken-and-egg issue: Which came first? Democracy has certainly not been at the core of Islamist ideology. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has historically been strictly centralized and obedient to a supreme guide, who rules for life. And Islam has certainly not been factored into promotion of secular democracy. Indeed, skeptics long argued that the two forces were even anathema to each other.
Logo Muslim Brotherhood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Egyptian media outlet Ahram Online has published a profile of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat El-Shater titled “Meet the Brotherhood’s enforcer: Khairat El-Shater.” The article begins:
The name and face of the Muslim Brotherhood leader, businessman Khairat El-Shater, has dominated the political sphere for weeks now, and for good reason.The multimillionaire has unrivaled leverage within the organisation and its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, and enjoys enormous influence over the Brotherhood’s Guidance Bureau and Shura Council, the two highest bodies within the group. But what has really gripped the attention of pundits and the media have been the slew of leaks from the Brotherhood that El-Shater may be the organisations’ candidate for president, despite earlier promises that it would not be fielding a nominee. The obsesion is justified. At 62 it is El-Shater, and not the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badei, who really runs the Muslim Brotherhood. Ask anyone in the organisation why the leadership is at war with Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, one of the group’s most popular figures until he broke rank, announced his candidacy for the presidency and was immediately expelled, and the answer is El-Shater. Why did the Brotherhood punish Abul-Fotouh’s supporters within the organisation and expel those who joined his presidential campaign? Because of El-Shater. Who has been the driving force behind the Brotherhood’s tactics and public discourse since Mubarak’s ouster? It is El-muhandis – the engineer – as El-Shater likes to be called. He was, after all, once an assistant professor at El-Mansoura University’s Faculty of Engineering.
A recently freed Islamist thinker has long advocated small-scale, independent acts of anti-Western terror
Mohamed Merah, the 23-year-old Islamist gunman who hunted down three Jewish children and a rabbi after murdering three French paratroopers in Toulouse last month, didn’t act alone. In his journey from the slums of Toulouse, to the local mosques, to the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan that he described to French police, to filming his murder of the terrified children in order to post video clips on the web, Mr. Merah was following a path marked out years earlier by the coldblooded jihadist theoretician Abu Musab al-Suri.
Abu Musab al-Suri, in an undated photo released by the U.S. government’s Rewards for Justice program around 2004. He’s been called ‘the most dangerous terrorist you’ve never heard of.
What is perhaps more disturbing, Mr. al-Suri was recently set free from prison in Damascus, Syria, and his current whereabouts are unknown. Turned over to Syria after his capture by the CIA in late 2005, Mr. al-Suri was released sometime in December (according to intelligence sources and jihadist websites) by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad—a move apparently intended to warn the West of the consequences for opposing his rule.
Barely noticed in the midst of Mr. Assad’s own brutal assaults on civilians, Mr. al-Suri’s release may well contribute to the emergence of more attackers like Mr. Merah in the West. “His videos are already being reuploaded. His audios, reposted,” wrote Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst and the former director of West Point’s Center for Combating Terrorism, in a blog post after the news of Mr. al-Suri’s release first appeared on jihadist sites.
Terrorism Timeline (Photo credit: juggernautco)
Vol 6, No 1 (2012) > James J.F. Forest
Many kinds of entities—including terrorists and insurgents—seek to influence perceptions and behavior among various target audiences, and have become increasingly reliant on the Internet in their efforts, incorporating social media, blogging, public video sharing and other online tools. This article is focused on the ideological messages that terrorist groups use to convey with these tools. Drawing from a study of Al-Qaeda, this discussion illustrates how ideologies of violence have certain vulnerabilities that can be exploited in order to degrade a terrorist group’s ability to achieve its objectives. While crafting and disseminating counter-narratives can be a critical part of a counterterrorism strategy, it is also important to identify ways in which terrorists undermine their own central narratives and exacerbate pre-existing “influence warfare” challenges
ENHANCING SECURITY THROUGH COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH
Posted By admin On 11 Feb 2012.
What many have suspected for a long time seems to be official. Harakat Al-Shabaab and al Qaeda, in a video this week, formally announced their merger. The merger raises concern in the horn of Africa and the United States. The announcement also lends some crediance to the suspicion that al-Qaeda, through its north African partners, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have similar linkage with Nigeria’s jihadist, terrorist group Boko Haram.
In a video message released Thursday, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir, the recognized leader of al-Shabaab confirmed his allegiance to al-Qaeda and its cells around the globe. In the same video, Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s chief, gave his blessings and salams to al-Shabaab as he welcomed them into the international cause.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 3, 2012, 9:19 AM (GMT+02:00)
Monday night, Jan. 2, Al Qaeda claimed to have established its first Jerusalem operational cell calling it the “Sunni Youth Movement Cell in Greater Jerusalem.” Bulletin No. 1 with details of the organization and its targets was promised in the next few days. According to debkafile’s counter-terror sources, Israeli intelligence has advised the government and security services to treat the announced appearance of al Qaeda, and its aim to reach out from Jerusalem to the West Bank, very seriously.
They believe it may have been triggered by Palestinian plans to launch a “popular resistance” campaign from the West Bank. As disclosed earlier by debkafile, the Palestinian Authority and Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah are getting set for mass demonstrators to crash their way across barriers into Israel, whereas Hamas and Jihad Islami aim to use the resulting commotion for terrorist attacks.
Those intelligence sources also tie the rise of the first Al Qaeda cell in greater Jerusalem with the mushrooming of Palestinian Islamist Salafite organizations in the Palestinian centers of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. These organizations are either linked directly to Al Qaeda or deeply influenced by its jihadist ideology and ready to act on it.
Such organizations as Fatah al-Islam, Ansar al Sunna and Jund al Sham, for instance, are catching on like wildfire in the Palestinian enclave of Al Hilwa near the south Lebanese port of Sidon. Al Qaeda and its extremist offspring are already in control of parts of the camp. Armed Fatah groups have been battling those organizations in unsuccessful efforts to cut down their spreading influence. Read more »