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September 23, 2013

Al Shabaab Claims Americans Took Part In Mall Attack In Kenya

Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for attacking Nairobi’s Westgate mall on Saturday, has indicated via its Twitter account that three Americans took part in the assault that has killed over 60 people and injured over 150 others thus far.al-shabaab-recruits

Al Shabaab provided the names of the Americans on its Twitter account; Ahmed Mohamed Isse of St. Paul, Minnesota, Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid of Minneapolis, and Gen Mustafe Noorudiin of Kansas City, Missouri.

Since 2007, dozens of Americans have travelled to Somalia to fight with Al Shabaab. Many of these Americans have received weapons training alongside recruits from other countries, and have used the training to fight against the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the international forces that have backed it. At least three of these American recruits have engaged in suicide bombings in Somalia.

One such recruit from Minneapolis, 22-year-old Abidsalan Hussein Ali, was one of two suicide bombers who attacked African Union troops in October 2011. The first American Al Shabaab suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, carried out a suicide bombing at the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Hargeisa in October 2009. The second, Farah Mohamad Beledi, carried out a suicide bombing in May 2011, targeting a military base outside Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Most of the American men that have trained with Al Shabaab are believed to have been radicalized in the U.S., and have been recruited by Al Shabaab both on the Internet and in person. Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama, is perhaps the most well-known American recruiter for Al Shabaab. The group disseminated online propaganda videos featuring Hammami to recruit young American men to join its insurgency.omar-hammami-twitter

Hammami was reportedly executed in Somalia last week by his former associates. Ham­mami appar­ently split with Al Shabaab over his belief that it was inter­ested only in local pol­i­tics and the fight in Soma­lia, rather than the cause of a global ”jiahd of the entire Ummah [Mus­lim nation].”

Although most of Al Shabaab’s violent acts have occurred within Somalia’s borders, it has expressed a willingness to attack outside targets. In July 2010 it committed twin bombings against targets in Uganda that killed more than 70 people, including an American aid worker. Danish intelligence officials have alleged that an attempt to kill a Danish cartoonist who printed controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 by a Somali national six months before the Uganda is linked to Al Shabaab as well.

The group has also declared an “open battle” against Israel, which it deems the “oppressing Zionist entity,” and Jewish interests in Africa. Israelis owned stores in the Westgate mall and the attack underscores Al Shabaab’s battle with Jews and Israel.

See ADL’s Report: Al Shabaab’s American Recruits

 

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February 26, 2013

Al Shabaab Highlights Global Role in New Video

Al Shabaab, the Somalia branch of Al Qaeda, released a new English-language and English-subtitled video yesterday directed at Western audiences. 

The video, “Mujahideen Moments,” highlights the role of foreign fighters in the terrorist organization, featuring statements and speeches by two Kenyans and an American, identified only as “Abu Ahmed al-Amriki.”

Abu Ahmed’s face is obscured in the video and it is impossible at this point to verify his true identity.  Abu Ahmed urges listeners to join the battlefronts “whether it’s here in Somalia, whether it’s in Mali, whether it’s in Afghanistan, whether it’s in Iraq, or whether it’s in Al-Maghrib Al-Islami [North Africa],” saying that they should fight because there are no excuses from the obligation of jihad.  He also promises victory and that “America is going down, and the Khilafah [Caliphate] is rising.”

The video encourages foreigners to join jihad, or if they cannot travel, to “fight the enemies of Allah where you find them.”

While Al Shabaab has long used foreign fighters in its propaganda to attract Western recruits, the video seems to be, in part, a response to its former American spokesperson, Omar Hammami. Hammami apparently split with the group over his belief that it was interested only in local politics and the fight in Somalia, rather than the cause of a global ”jiahd of the entire Ummah [Muslim nation].” In messages released late last year, Hammami highlighted the tensions between “the muhajireen [Arabs and foreign fighters] and the Ansar [local supporters of Al Shabaab].”

By featuring foreign fighters in the video, especially Abu Ahmed, Al Shabaab may be trying to counter Hammami’s allegations and show that it maintains a significant international support base.

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December 12, 2012

Shabaab Spokesman’s “Close Friend” Arrested

Two American citizens residing in Alabama were arrested yesterday in Georgia on suspicion of terrorism-related activity.

Randy “Rasheed” Wilson was arrested in Atlanta attempting to board a flight to Morocco. Wilson allegedly claimed to be a close friend of Omar Hammami, the Alabama native who became the public face of Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-affiliated Somali terrorist organization. His co-conspirator, Mohammad Abukhdair, was arrested at a bus station en route to Canada from where he reportedly planned to join Wilson.  Both were charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists in an Alabama federal court on Monday.

According to court documents, Wilson and Abukhdair expressed their admiration for radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and Osama bin Laden, as well as repeating their commitment to carry out violent jihad, to an undercover FBI employee.  They even turned over a cache of jihadist propaganda, including Awlaki lectures, to the undercover employee for destruction. Wilson, who is 25, apparently believed that “one way or another everyone’s gonna have to fight… there’s no deed better than jihad,” according to the transcripts of recorded conversations submitted to the court.

Wilson had previously reportedly conspired with another mutual friend of Hammami’s (who later became a confidential informant) to travel to Somalia to join Al Shabaab. Abukhdair had been detained by Egyptian authorities on suspicion of involvement in terrorist activity and was deported back to the United States.  He apparently admitted to the undercover FBI employee that he had jihadist material on his laptop at the time and believed that “Allah protected him” because Egyptian intelligence had not found it.

The two men, who met online in 2010, supposedly discussed several possible destinations, including traveling to Somalia via Sudan, where they reportedly expected special treatment because of Wilson’s relationship with Hammami. Abukhdair alternatively proposed that they carry out attacks in the United States because he feared he would not be allowed to travel internationally after being turned away from a flight to Jordan earlier this year.  According to the charges, Abukhdair allegedly suggested engaging in hostage-taking operations in the U.S. and demanding the release of Muslim terrorists being held in American prisons in exchange.

The court documents assert that Wilson and Abukhdair made definite travel arrangements to go to Mauritania via Morocco in October. The two also reportedly discussed traveling to Mali from Mauritania where Islamic militants are active in the north of the country.

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