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AU troops ambushed in Somalia, al Shabaab says 39 killed

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Jul. 30, 2017, 3:00 pm
Civilians run from the scene of an explosion in Maka al Mukaram road in Mogadishu, Somalia, July 30, 2017. REUTERS

Somalia's al Shabaab insurgents and troops from the African Union peacekeeping mission clashed on Sunday, a senior military officer said, while the group said it had killed 39 soldiers.
The incident took place in Bulamareer district in Lower Shabelle region about 140 km southwest of Mogadishu.
The al Shabaab fighters ambushed a convoy carrying troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Col. Hassan Mohamed told Reuters.
"The ambush turned into a fierce fight between al Shabaab and AMISOM. We understand fighting is still going on but we do not have the figure of casualties," he told Reuters.
Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, said: "We have in hand 39 dead bodies of AU soldiers including their commander."
The casualty figure could not be immediately independently verified.
Government officials were not available for immediate comment.
Al Shabaab, which wants to force out the peacekeepers, oust the Western-backed government and impose its strict interpretation of Islam in Somalia, has targeted the peacekeepers in the past.

Terror suspects arrested in Eastleigh in 2010 found guilty

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Saturday July 29, 2017

Two terror suspects arrested in Eastleigh in September 2012 are guilty of being in possession of explosive chemicals, hand grenades, four riffles and several rounds of ammunition hence did not mean good for the country.
This comes even after the third suspect initially pleaded guilty to the charges.

Omar Abdi Aden alias Salman Abdi, Mushararaf Abdalla alias Shukri alias Sharif Abdalla Maalim alias Alex Shikanda, and Rashid Shwaitan alias Ali alias Bonny alias Blacky, could not escape from the wrath of the law even after their accomplice, Abdi Majid Yasin Mohammed alias Ali Hussein alias Brownny, sacrificed himself in 2012 to save them by pleading guilty to all the criminal charges they faced.

The court took note of the fact that Blacky had rented several houses in Nairobi including Lang’ata, Umoja, Embakasi and Eastleigh area within the short time he arrived in the Nairobi from Busia, before he was arrested at a Malindi hotel despite the fact that he also had rented another house in which he did not leave in.

“What causes even more suspicion against the second accused person is the fact that he never demanded for the much money he placed as deposit in all the houses he rented and never lived in for long, according to the house owners who testified before this court, it emerged that the accused person was always in a hurry to travel,” read the Magistrate.

On the other hand, the first accused person, Omar Abdi Aden, in his testimony, told the court that he was arrested and taken to Browny’s house in Eastleigh at 8 pm contrary to Browny’s testimony that the police arrived with Omar in his house between 1 am and 2 am on that particular day, the testimony which the court could not buy.

Professor Nandwa and Miss Gikonyo advocates for the accused asked the court to postpone mitigation before they are sentenced. The case will be mentioned on Wednesday, August 2, 2017 for mitigation and sentencing.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos – briefly – becomes world's richest man

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Friday July 28, 2017

Share price jump of 40% in 2017 made founder worth $91bn – for a short while leapfrogging the fortune of Microsoft founder Bill Gates

The founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos briefly overtook Microsoft’s Bill Gates to become the world’s richest person.

Bezos leapfrogged Gates, who has been the richest man on the planet since 2013, after a rise in the share price of Amazon ahead of its latest results due Thursday night.

According to a real-time billionaires index compiled by Forbes, the rise pushed the value of Bezos’s fortune to $91bn (£69bn) – compared with Gates’ wealth of $90bn. Their riches are calculated on the share prices of their respective companies and at the current values Bezos’s stake is twice as big as carmaker Ford.

But the Amazon share price fell back leaving Gates on top, but with less than $1bn separating them.

Bezos – born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1964 – keeps a relatively low profile, but has used some of the wealth he has amassed to buy the Washington Post and invest in space travel through Blue Origin, a company he founded in 2000.

He began Amazon in 1994 when he sold books from his garage in Seattle before expanding into a huge range of other products and capturing the global rush to online shopping.

Amazon now accounts for 43% of everything sold online in the US and 64 million people have signed up for its Prime service – which gives access to free deliveries and video streaming.
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Amazon shares have soared this year – making the company worth more than $500bn.
At the start of 2017, Bezos was ranked fourth-richest in the world, behind Gates, the investor Warren Buffett and Amancio Ortega, who founded Inditex, the company behind retailer Zara.

The share price rally comes despite accusations by Donald Trump, during the US election campaign, that Amazon was “getting away with murder, tax-wise”. He said Bezos was using the Washington Post for “political influence”.

In January, Bezos pledged the full legal resources of his company to fight the travel ban instituted by the new US president against seven Muslim-majority nations.
Amazon floated on the stock market in 1997. Every year Bezos reprints the letter he sent to shareholders that year, insisting it is only Day 1 for the company and pledging to focus on the long-term and be the market leader.

He has not joined the club of billionaires who pledge to hand over the majority of fortunes to charity – started by Gates and his wife, along with Buffett – but recently tweeted to ask for philanthropic ideas to help in the short term, which he said was in contrast to his long-term approach to running the business.

“I want much of my philanthropic activity to be helping people in the here and now – short term – at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

Forbes started tracking billionaires in 1987 and Bezos is the seventh person to hold the title of the world’s richest person. In a report on his rise to the top of the rankings, Forbes said Bezos would not be at the top if Gates had not given so much of his wealth away and has calculated that Gates has been the richest person in the world for more than half the 30 years it had been watching the wealth of billionaires.
The closing share price of Amazon and Microsoft on Thursday will determine whether Bezos cements his position at the top of the league. Microsoft’s shares were down on Thursday.

Technology stocks have been outpacing the rest of the US stock market, but wobbled last month amid concerns that the sector might run of steam. Amazon and others then started to rally again. It remains to be seen whether Bezos is able to permanently claim the top slot.

Amazon has now expanded beyond retailing. It now sells cloud computing services to thousands of businesses ranging from Netflix to the UK’s ministry of justice. It also makes TV shows and the Echo smart speaker, which allows users to speak to Alexa, an electronic personal assistant.

Al Shabaab burn houses, abduct and steal livestock in Somalia attacks

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Jul. 27, 2017, 9:00 am
By NANCY AGUTU, @nancyagutu
An illustration prohibiting weapons, broken bottles, cigarettes and military is seen on a wall of a stadium in Hodan district of Mogadishu, Somalia, June 13, 2017. /REUTERS
Al Shabaab militants burnt many homes during raids on villages in Lower Shabelle, Somalia in May 2017, Human Rights Watch has said.
"The militia abducted civilians, stole livestock, and committed arson in attacks that caused more than 15,000 people to flee their homes," HRW said in a statement on Thursday.
Based on witness accounts and satellite imagery analysis, HRW said at the start of May, al Shabaab forces raided villages in the Merka and Afgooye districts of Lower Shabelle.
Senior Africa researcher Laetitia Bader said there was no justification for al Shaabab to abduct civilians and cause the mayhem in the region.
“The militia is responsible for causing mass flight, but the government needs to address communal tensions and hold those most responsible for abuses to account," she said.
In mid-May, Bader said fighting intensified around the Biyomaal stronghold in Afgooye district known as KM-50 and was followed by al Shabaab raids.
"They attacked villages after several months of calling on their residents to leave their homes, " she said.
Residents said al Shabaab stole large numbers of cows, goats and camels – critical for survival in the face of ongoing drought.
Local elders said hundreds of livestock were stolen, many died, and only a fraction have been returned to the community.
A man identified as Abdi told the Watch that he fled his village, Ceel Waregow after al Shabaab accused them of being murtads (infidels).
"They accused us of joining the government. Some of our elders have talked to al Shabaab and told them that those without guns should be spared," he said.
Abdi said the al Shabaab initially used to tax them and take livestock and money from them, "but now they are burning our homes.”
A woman from Bullo Mudey, whose father was killed and home burned in an attack said: “How can you stay in a place where there are constant attacks and where children are burned in the houses?”
Bader said those who commit war crimes in Somalia should eventually be brought to justice.
“However, the government and its backers need to immediately assist the people who escaped the violence," she said.
The United Nations reported that al Shabab abducted approximately 70 people, including women and children, from KM-50 village during fighting between May 21 and 23.
The UN found that about 100 houses were torched at the height of the attacks in the Merka district and that homes were also burned down in the village of Muuri and KM-50 in the Afgooye district on May 23.
According to the UN, 15,240 people were displaced at the height of the raids from May 21 to 24.
HRW spoke to 25 people in person in Mogadishu and by phone who fled from the two districts to Mogadishu and to Lower Shabelle, as well as to local elders and area experts, and analysed satellite imagery of 30 villages from the Merka district.
Inter-clan conflict, primarily between the Habar Gidir and Biyomaal clans, has increased in Lower Shabelle since 2013.
Both clans have fought with and against Somali government forces and al Shabaab.
Throughout this violence, civilians have been repeatedly targeted in retaliatory attacks.
Human Rights Watch analysed satellite imagery showing changes over time recorded between May 8 and July 12, 2017, and found evidence of widespread building destruction in 18 of 32 villages assessed in Merka district.
An open source data collection site reported fighting between the militia and Biyomaal clan militia and government forces in two of the 18 villages in which Human Rights Watch identified property destruction.
Somalia's economy is still picking up slowly after a combined force of the army and an African Union peacekeeping force helped drive the militia out of Mogadishu and other strongholds.
Al Shabaab wants to topple the western backed government and rule according to its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
The group remains formidable and lethal, with its campaign of frequent bombings and killings a key source of significant security risk for most businesses and regular life.

US-Somalia mission detains suspected al-Shabab associate

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Wednesday July 26, 2017
MOGADISHU, Somalia — The U.S. military says a mission in Somalia has detained a suspected associate of the al-Shabab extremist group who once lived in the United States.

A U.S. Africa Command spokeswoman said Wednesday that Abdirizak Tahlil is accused of “facilitating the use of improvised explosive devices in Somalia” and is detained by Somalia’s government.

The Trump administration recently approved stepped-up military efforts against al-Shabab, which is Africa’s deadliest Islamic extremist group.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Dyrcz says the mission that captured Tahlil was led by Somalia’s military with “limited tactical advisory support” from U.S. forces on Sunday morning.

Dyrcz says Tahlil reportedly was granted status as a lawful U.S. permanent resident and lived in the United States between 2006 and 2009.

Shabaab gains in Somalia due to ‘lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations’

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Sunday July 23, 2017

The US State Department said that al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa has prospered over the past year “due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016.” Additionally, State noted that Somali security forces “remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently,” and while not explicitly stated, hinted that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is failing.

State documented the dire situation in Somalia in its newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2016. State’s analysis Somalia mirrors that of FDD’s Long War Journal, which has warned that Shabaab has maintained its safe havens and retaken ground in the south, forced poorly resourced African Union forces to cede territory after spectacular complex assaults, and continues to plot against the US and the West.

“In 2016, terrorists used under-governed areas in northern, central, and southern Somalia as safe havens from where they conducted, planned, and facilitated operations with little resistance, State noted in its opening paragraph. “Despite having made significant progress toward formally federating its member states in the latter part of 2016, Somalia continued to struggle with the provision of security, justice, and governance capacity at all levels needed to limit terrorists’ freedom of movement, access to resources, and capacity to operate.”

Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia and East Africa, retained its safe haven in the Jubba River Valley, controls “several villages and towns throughout Jubaland region, including Janaale, Jilib, and Kunyo Barow,” and “exploited the porous border regions further south between Kenya and Somalia to launch cross-border attacks.”

State’s assessment that counterterrorism operations were insufficient to battle Shabaab explains the March 30 directive by the US Department of Defense that it would intensify operations in Somalia. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, US military to actively target Shabaab in Somalia.]

The State report said that the Somali military “as a whole, remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently.” The country has “chronically low capacity and human capital” and remains “heavily dependent on regional and international partners.”

Most disturbingly, State noted that African Union forces have suffered major setbacks and ceded ground to al Qaeda’s affiliate. Shabaab now threatens “previously liberated towns in Bakool, Hiiraan, and other regions” in Central Somalia after “Ethiopian forces largely withdrew.” Additionally, the report notes that Kenya forces have been unable to stop Shabaab fighters from raiding across the border.

Ethiopian forces weren’t the only African Union contingent to withdrawal from areas it previously held. Kenyan forces abandoned several bases in the south after Shabaab launched major assaults and overran the facilities.

Shabaab has successfully overrun Somali and African Union bases in the past and inflicted a large number of casualties on troops based there. In Jan. 2016, Shabaab fighters assaulted a base in Al Ade in the south and killed at least 100 Kenyan soldiers. In June 2015, Shabaab killed an estimated 60 Ethiopian soldiers in the south. Also, that same month, Shabaab fighters killed more than 50 Burundi soldiers in Leego.

The US government has elevated the threat that Shabaab poses after the group used a sophisticated laptop bomb in an attempt to down a Somali airliner in 2016. This attack was cited by the US government as one of the reasons that electronics have been banned in the cabins of airplanes departing from 10 airports in the Middle East. [See What’s really behind Trump’s laptop ban.]

No, al-Shabab is not deadlier than Boko Haram. Here are better numbers

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Friday July 21, 2017

Somali soldiers stand guard at the scene of a car bomb explosion near Mogadishu, Somalia, on July 12, 2017. Media outlets report that at least two people were killed when the car bomb went off at a checkpoint outside the Somali capital. (Said Yusuf Warsame/European Pressphoto Agency)

In May, a U.S. Navy SEAL was killed and two other U.S. service members were wounded on Somali soil. It was the first U.S. combat death in the East African country since 1993 — and it came amid ramped-up efforts to fight the deadly extremist group al-Shabab.
For years, Boko Haram has carried the dubious distinction of being Africa’s deadliest terrorist group. But a multinational task force has weakened the group. It has been crippled so badly that al-Shabab has emerged as Africa’s deadliest extremist group.

That is according to a report by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies published in April. Based on that report, Quartz and Newsweek ran stories last month exploring exactly how al-Shabab surpassed Boko Haram in lethality.

But is al-Shabab really more lethal than Boko Haram? We disagree.

A closer look at the data suggests, however, that it might be too early to pass the “deadliest group” mantle to al-Shabab.
Here’s what ACSS concluded:

Al Shabaab grew more lethal in 2016, with fatalities increasing by a third — from 3,046 in 2015 to 4,281 in 2016. Al Shabaab has now surpassed Boko Haram as Africa’s most deadly militant Islamic group.

ACSS based its conclusions on data from ACLED, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. But on the basis of the same data set, our analysis found that Boko Haram remains Africa’s deadliest terrorist group — and that al-Shabab killed a fraction of the victims reported by ACSS.
How could our conclusions be so different?

To understand how such a discrepancy might arise, it is important to consider what ACLED does and does not do. ACLED tracks incidents of violence across Africa and Asia. It draws its data from reports from news organizations, governments, nongovernmental organizations and published research.

ACLED codes entries by type (for example, battles, riots, protests and violence against civilians). It also identifies primary and secondary actors. It does not, however, label actors as terrorists or events as terrorism incidents. Here is how ACLED describes its approach in an overview of its methodology:

ACLED does not categorize clusters or campaigns of events, largely because political violence, protest and conflict are aggregations of multiple actors, attacks, goals, etc. To classify events as discrete acts in an ‘insurgency’ or ‘terrorism’, ‘civil war’ or ‘livelihood conflict’ is often a reductive choice, leaving out the complex ways in which conflict creates multiple scales of violence and intended outcomes within a territory.

Since ACLED declines to decide which incidents count as terrorism, those who use its data must interpret that data to draw conclusions about terrorism trends. ACSS decided to tally fatalities in which al-Shabab is listed either as the first or second actor. We decided to include only cases in which it is the first actor.
Here is why we counted the way we did

Which approach is best? Obviously, that is a judgment call. We believe that counting first and second actors significantly overestimates the deaths caused by al-Shabab and other terrorist groups.

Most incidents in which al-Shabab is the second actor — 73 percent — are battles with military forces, usually the African Union Mission in Somalia. That raises two questions:

Is a battle between a terrorist group and a military unit an incident of terrorism?
How many of the reported fatalities tied to the incident were of al-Shabab forces?
By counting only incidents in which al-Shabab is the first actor, our analysis greatly de-emphasizes military altercations.

In our tally, al-Shabab killed 432 people last year. In contrast, Boko Haram killed nearly twice as many — 790 — in incidents of violence against civilians. Considering all types of attacks, including battles, Boko Haram killed nearly three times as many people.

In its guide for the media, ACLED cautions against using its data to determine how many people a particular group has killed, because it does not specify which group suffered casualties in an incident with two actors — except in cases of violence against civilians.
Our analysis emphasizes this kind of attack. Violence against civilians counts for 81 percent of the deaths in our tally. In ACSS’s analysis, violence against civilians makes up just 8 percent.