Al-Shabaab woos Coast youth as noose tightens
The UN has accused Al-Shabaab of wooing youths from the Kenya Coast and other countries to join it amid fears that it could be preparing large-scale attacks in the country.
In a confidential report seen by the Nation, the UN says that the militants, who have carried out a series of terrorist attacks in Kenya, have been wooing Muslim youths to join its ranks following reports that African Union forces could be preparing a major offensive against the terror group in Somalia.
The UN said that in one of Al-Shabaab’s Swahili video recordings titled “Mjuahideen Moments 3” — which was released in February — four uniformed and equipped fighters from Kenya are seen encouraging Muslims to join the militants in Somalia to fight against the African Union forces who have been seeking to restore peace in the troubled nation.
The video has English sub-titles.
A male identified as Abu Salim Al-Muhajir from Mombasa, says in a message to (former President) Mwai Kibaki and (President) Uhuru Kenyatta: “Do not forget Westgate and there’s a bigger one on the way which will eclipse the horrors of Westgate.” In a separate message addressed to Cord leader Raila Odinga and former Defence minister Yusuf Haji, the militant warns that, just like Ethiopia, Burundi and Uganda which have deployed forces to Somalia, Kenya deserves “neither sympathy nor peace”.
In the report dated March 17, the UN has said that the videos “are clearly aimed at recruiting foreign fighters, in particular young radicals from Mombasa” ahead of the forthcoming major Amisom offensive against Al-Shabaab in Somalia. (READ: My two years as an Al-Shabaab hostage)
MOVEMENT OF OPERATIVES
The report says that military pressure against Al-Shabaab could also increase the movement and dispersion of skilled operatives from Somalia to countries like Kenya, a trend that could increase terrorism threats to the region.
But the report also notes that the ongoing security operations in Kenya have thwarted major terror attacks planned by the Islamic group.
“As the conventional military pressure has mounted, as predicted, Al-Shabaab has increasingly moved towards asymmetric tactics, as demonstrated in the escalation in large-scale attacks seen in Mogadishu at the start of 2014,” the report says.
According to the UN, the videos indicate that Al-Shabaab is likely to continue with small-scale terrorist attacks in Kenya, with the targets being broadened to include areas frequented by tourists.
“Recent information continues to confirm Al-Shabaab retains the intent and capability to conduct large-scale attacks in Kenya, subject to host country’s ability to disrupt them,” the report says.
It says that it is likely that following internal wrangles within the terrorist group, including a public spat between key foreign fighters and the group’s leaders in Somalia and subsequent killing of Al-Shabaab leader Godane, foreign recruitment had decreased.
“This decrease has probably been compounded by the increased competition from and popularity of other theatres, in particular Syria, which is reportedly attracting an unprecedented number of foreign fighters,” the report says, adding that Kenyan youths are among the fighters trooping to Syria where thousands have been killed in fighting between government and rebel forces.
As part of its changing tactics, the UN warns, Al-Shabaab could disguise themselves in military uniforms, NGO or UN badged clothing or diplomatic plated cars.
The most likely targets at the Coast are hotels, shopping outlets, restaurants and bars, the Likoni Ferry, Moi International Airport in Mombasa, public transport hubs, government and security buildings and other public places.
The report further expresses concern over increased criminal attacks against its staff.
Since the UN Security Council boosted Amisom troop numbers in Somalia to over 22,000, the forces who are working closely with the Somalia National Army have been expanding to new areas and have helped the Somali government by providing a secure environment and recovering more territory, as well as ensuring law, order and justice.