Kenya: Al-Shabaab Crafts New Ways to Replenish Funds

A police escort vehicle which was attacked by suspected Al-Shabaab militants at Nyongoro (file photo).

Local Al-Shabaab terrorists are leading a vicious extortion ring for the Somali-based terror organisation within Kenyan borders, a security report seen by the Sunday Nation indicates.

The Kenyans were recruited by the group and trained in Somalia before being deployed in the northern counties of Wajir, Mandera and Garissa to lead in the extortion of locals through which they fund Al-Shabaab activities across the border in Somalia.

The report reveals how the terror organisation, which has lost considerable territory in Somalia, is finding new ways to make vast sums of money, something that could boost its capacity to carry out more terror attacks.

The terror group's activities appear to have intensified in Kenya's coastal and northeastern regions, where it has deployed local recruits to collect millions of shillings through extortion, illegal taxation and even robbery.

According to the report, the changing tactic is fuelled by the financial mess in Somalia, following the widening gap between Al-Shabaab's de facto leader Ahmed Diriye, aka Abu Ubeyda, and the head of finance Mahad Karate.

LEADERSHIP ROW

Karate, the terror commander who maintains a tight hold on Al-Shabaab's coffers, has reportedly refused to share the money with Diriye, who is now unable to pay fighters.

"In turn, Diriye has started a purge against Karate's men and slowly exterminating his Habagedir-ayr clansmen and other perceived allies," the report reads.

"In revenge, Karate is planning an onslaught against Diriye's clansmen and the Rahawein who he believes are Diriye's biggest strength."

Without pay, the Somali militants have intensified their extortion and illegal taxation racket in several towns in Kenya with the help of Kenyans said to have joined Al-Shabaab.

They have also teamed up with Marehan clansmen along the border to share in the illegal activities, the report says.

Some of the Kenyans named in the report spearheading the extortion rackets, and who are wanted by the police, include Maalim Yusuf Hassan Abdullahi, Abdirashid Ibrahim, aka Osman Noor, Ahmed Dabar, Issack Okolla and Mohamed Bilal Olow. These men are believed to be operating in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties.

"So vicious are these extortionists that they have been planning to ambush any one resisting the taxation, and they have exploited various methods at their disposals including laying improvised explosive devices, kidnapping for ransom and assassinating any dissenting voice hoping to instil more fear among the residents," the report says.

SUSPECTED AGENTS

Maalim Yusuf Hassan Abdullahi, formerly a madrassa teacher in Konton, Wajir County, has been accused of recruiting children from the county to join Al-Shabaab.

Security reports indicate that Abdullahi, who operates in the areas of the Somalia town of Osqurun and Wajir East in Kenya, was trained as a militia in various places within Somalia after which he was deployed back to Wajir to lead the racketeering.

His assistant in Wajir is known by the alias Osman Noor, who used to run a mobile money outlet in Kotulo. Noor is said to have joined Al Shabaab in 2015.

The report says the two are also suspected to be working with another wanted Al-Shabaab member, Ahmed Dabar, who also left Wajir and joined the group in Somalia before returning.

Notably, the report says the men have turned against their clan in Kenya, whom they are now extorting on behalf of Al-Shabaab.

"They have been promised a handsome cut by their backers, the Marehan clansmen in Somalia, from the money they extort from the locals," the report reads.

The security report further identifies another wanted Al-Shabaab suspect Sharif Linekulul from the Degodia clan who enforces illegal taxation.

The Degodias are found in Somalia's State of Jubaland, in northeastern Kenya and in parts of Ethiopia.

MANHUNT

Sharif Linekulul and his associates are said to keep part of the money while remitting the rest to Al Shabaab in Somalia.

In Mandera, the report says, the wanted Al-Shabaab suspect leading the extortion ring is identified as Isaack, alias Mohamed Intallo, alias Okolla, alias Issack Okolla, from Dabasiti.

In February 2018, the National Police Service launched a manhunt for Isaack Okolla for terrorising northern Kenya and the coastal regions.

The improvised explosive devices (IED) expert and his associates are deployed to extort from residents within the border areas of Kenya and Somalia.

Isaac Okolla is believed to be working closely with Luqman Abdullahi, from the Somali tribe known as Galjeel, and Jamah Nuh Abdille, from Puntland.

In areas bordering Garissa County, the extortion ring is led by a former madrassa teacher identified as Mohamed Bilal Olow, according to the report.

Olow's extortion ring targets areas in the expansive Fafi sub-county in Garissa County.

"He (Olow) carefully and tactfully avoids extending his operations to an area where his mother lives," the report says.

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