Kenya’s high stakes Shabaab offensive
Kenyan soldiers pursue Islamic militants near Liboi, Somalia, on October 18.
October 24th, 2011
07:49 AM ET

Kenya’s high stakes Shabaab offensive

By Paul Cruickshank, CNN Terrorism Analyst, and Zain Verjee

While the world's attention has been focused on events in north Africa, events thousands of miles away on the coastline of the Indian Ocean could have just as great an impact on the continent's security.

Kenyan troops have now advanced deep into Somalia, along rutted tracks and pot-holed roads leading north from the border toward the port of Kismayo, a stronghold of al Shabaab, the Islamist militant group affiliated to al Qaeda.

The Kenyans sense an opportunity to deliver a knock-out blow against Shabaab, which has already been driven from most of the capital, Mogadishu.

The operation was launched a week ago followed a string of kidnappings of Westerners in northern Kenya, which Kenyan authorities blame on al Shabaab.

Though held up by heavy rains, the Kenyan military claimed Saturday that Kenyan forces had advanced beyond Oddo, a town ten miles up from the border, and had met little resistance so far. Kismayo is a further 90 miles north; Kenyan military sources say they plan to occupy the town before Christmas.

The ultimate goal, they said, was to work with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for no less than the complete elimination of Al Shabaab from all of Somalia. FULL POST

June 13th, 2011
10:38 AM ET

Killing of embassy bombings mastermind deprives al Qaeda of key figure

By Tim Lister and Zain Verjee

At midnight last Tuesday, two men were traveling in a black four-wheel drive through the Somali capital, Mogadishu. One was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the most wanted terrorist in Africa. Mohammed had survived more than a decade on the run, at least one attempt on his life, and a $5 million price on his head for planning the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

But his luck was about to run out in the chaos of Mogadishu, where the frontlines in the battle between the weak transitional government and al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab shift almost weekly. His vehicle headed toward a government checkpoint, possibly after taking a wrong turn. According to several accounts it tried to speed through, setting off a firefight with police.

Mohammed was killed, but to begin with the Somali security forces had no idea who he was. Only when they discovered cell phones, a South African passport, a substantial amount of cash and a laptop did they realize this was someone of significance. So his body - which had been rapidly buried - was exhumed, according to Somali military officials. A sample of his DNA was sent to Nairobi, where U.S. officials confirmed it was Mohammed. They had taken DNA samples from his wife and children some years ago.

The other man in the vehicle may also have been a senior al-Shabaab figure by the name of Musa Dheere, according to Kenyan officials. Somali officials have not publicly announced the identity of the second man. FULL POST

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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Somalia