The government has thwarted planned attacks by al-Shabaab during the Holy Month of Ramadhan, which would have seen a number of abductions and hijacking of government vehicles, a confidential security brief seen by the Sunday Nation shows.
It was made possible by the collaboration of the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) and the National Intelligence Service (NIS).
“Al-Shabaab terror group has upscaled targeted attacks both in Kenya and Somalia. The group has established parallel operational administrative structures in five of the seven Federal member states (FMS) including the capital city, Mogadishu. The terrorist group has also infiltrated the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) where they occupy key positions, receive financial support and influence decision making.
“Al-Shabaab’s gains both in FMS and FGS are part of its plans to ascend to political power in Somalia and in the long-term create an Islamic caliphate in the Eastern Africa region. The militants have also taken advantage of the negative propaganda by Somali citizens and their diaspora community in the mainstream media in denting the images of Amisom contributing countries and Kenya in particular following the maritime dispute,” it reads.
The attacks by the Somalia-based militant group are part of the campaign to force President Uhuru Kenyatta to withdraw KDF troops from Somalia where they’re battling the terror group as part of the effort to pacify the troubled nation.
Equally, since Shabaab like any other terror group likes to hog the limelight, the dominance of the news on the coronavirus outbreak has also generally meant they scale down their operations.
The minimal movement of people occasioned by the dusk to dawn curfew as well as the concerted campaign by the government to have the citizens stay at home to beat the pandemic has also meant that they can’t get huge crowds to target.
A government source familiar with the operations said that the numerous roadblocks mounted across the country to enforce curfew and the fact that no one is allowed to come to Nairobi metropolitan area from the other parts of the country has been effective in stopping the movement of the militants and their agents.
Weeks before the world’s attention shifted to fight Covid-19, Interior ministry as well as the United States of America (US) warned airlines against overflying parts of the Kenyan airspace, citing possible terror threats.
In an advisory, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) urged all US-registered airlines to be cautious while overflying the Kenyan airspace.
“Those persons are advised to exercise caution when flying into, out of, within, or over the territory and airspace of Kenya East of 40 degrees East longitude at altitudes below fl260 due to the possibility of extremist/militant activity,” the FAA noted.
In penetrating, the group, the brief notes, has compromised and manipulated key sectors of the society in Somalia responsible for the daily operations of the government.
Another worrying trend is the infiltration of Somalia parliament through the clan system. That way, they are not only in charge of the lawmaking process directly but also to an extent, over policy formulation, making the outfit to thrive.
“The terrorist group has been threatening elders to select candidates who are friendly and accommodative to their ideology. Through this, the group has managed to have close links with members of the parliament in the National Assembly, senate and regional states. They use such MPs to lobby for the appointment of sympathisers and financiers into the Cabinet so as to influence policies and decisions at the national level.”
A sizeable number of Shabaab leaders and Somali government political leaders were part of the defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), hence they relate well and influence decisions on either sides.
In Mogadishu and other towns, the Shabaab militants have been forcefully collecting zakat (taxes) both in urban and rural areas within the five regional states especially in the South Central Somalia and Benadir where FGS does not have full control.
The group has deployed agents who instil fear and coercion on FGS and regional government tax collectors in these areas forcing them to work closely. They have also erected roadblocks in major supply routes in areas where there is limited FGS presence to collect taxes.
At the same time, a Forum for National Parties in Somalia has written to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asking him to clean up The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) which they allege is entertaining the outlawed group.
“The Forum for National Parties is very concerned about the information and reports which have increased these days and are about relations and co-operation between the NISA and al-Shabaab. This information has raised doubts and fear for the Somali people,” the parties said in a letter dated April 11 intercepted by the Kenya security agencies.
The forum is demanding radical changes at NISA to restore its credibility.
“We want an independent and immediate investigation into the attack at the Benadir regional capital. We also want communications on social media between two commanders, who are NISA and Al-Shabaab commanders, and to conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation about this communication. So that the veracity is presented to the people,” they said in a letter to president Farmajo.