8 May 2011

Kenya: Al-Shabab Forms Elite Anti-Terror Units, Vowing to Avenge Osama

Nairobi — Al Shabaab has, for the first time, reacted to the killing of Osama bin Laden, vowing to avenge their "role model and hero".

A statement was issued by the Somalia-based militia soon after al Qaeda confirmed the death of its leader.

Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Raghe alias Sheikh Ali Dhere, the top al Shabaab spokesman, appeared before the media in Mogadishu on Saturday. He reiterated that Osama's killing would not affect the operations of the group.

"The killing of our brother, Osama bin Laden, will not weaken us," he said.

With the Quran in front of him and al Shabaab's black banner in the background, the spokesman vowed that the group would avenge last week's killing of Osama by US forces.

"The blood of our brother was not worthless. We are going to take revenge for him," Sheikh Dhere said. "The defence of Islam will go on."

The spokesman foresaw the confrontations between his fighters and the pro-government forces continuing until what he called "the non-Muslim invaders" (a clear reference to the peacekeepers of the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom) leave the country.

Sheikh Ali Dhere called upon all jihadists around the world not be dejected by the death of Osama.

Many groups in Somalia, however, welcomed the death of Osama bin Laden. These included the Transitional Federal Government, Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea (a moderate Islamist group allied to the government), and Somaliland and Puntland authorities.

Public rallies were held to show jubilation that the man blamed for most of the problems in Somalia was gone.

The police in Mogadishu declared a state of high alert, predicting desperate measures from al Shabaab militants, including suicide missions.

In Kenya, elite units have been formed within various security agencies as part of efforts to intensify the war against terrorism.

According to a US counterterrorism report, Kenya's anti-terrorism units include those within the regular and Administration police, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Army.

These units have been tasked with dealing with the increasing threats of terrorism from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militia based in Somalia.

Recent reports of border kidnappings, arms smuggling, and extremists recruiting within refugee camps and Kenyan towns show that the country remains vulnerable to terror attacks.

According to the report, the US has helped the Kenyan army to train and equip two infantry battalions and one ranger strike force company tasked with providing border security.

The US State Department's Anti-terrorism Assistance (ATA) programme has also helped establish, equip and train the Maritime Police Unit as well as personnel from KWS.

"Security along Kenya's land and maritime borders remained a primary focus of these efforts," the report says.

The US Department of Justice, through the offices of the Resident Legal Advisor and Senior Law Enforcement Advisor, has also conducted a number of training sessions for the police and prosecutors.

"Courses included trial advocacy, witness protection, trafficking in persons, forensic and digital evidence, cyber crimes, and piracy."

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also provided training and equipment to the police and KWS. Training included crime scene investigation as well as probing terrorist finance and money laundering.

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