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Al-Shabaab threats attempt to distract from loss of Kismayo

Thursday, November 01, 2012
By Bosire Boniface

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Al-Shabaab is trying to rally international support for its demoralised fighters after losing the port city stronghold of Kismayo by issuing threats to a number of countries, security officials and analysts say.

Al-Shabaab has been updating its Twitter account regularly since the loss in an attempt to remain relevant and incite its followers to defend themselves against what it calls war and brutality against innocent Muslims.

The militant group has threatened to attack Britain as well as neighbouring countries to Somalia.

In a series of 15 Twitter posts on October 22nd, al-Shabaab said Britain would "pay the heftiest price for its brazen role in the war against Islam and endless brutality against innocent Muslims".

"The nightmare that surreptitiously looms on British shores is bound to eclipse the horrors of 7/7 and 21/7 combined," al-Shabaab said.

The London bombings on July 7, 2005, were a series of co-ordinated suicide attacks on the city's public transport system that killed 52 civilians and the four bombers. Two weeks later, four attempted bomb attacks disrupted part of the city's public transport system.

Al-Shabaab also pledged retaliation for a decision by the High Court in London to extradite radical cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, better known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, to the United States on October 5th. Mustafa is charged with setting up a training camp in Oregon, which he denied October 9th in a New York court.

On Sunday (October 28th), the militant group renewed its threats against Kenya, whose military has been fighting al-Shabaab in Somalia for over a year.

"The enemies we are facing have made historic miscalculation when they sent Kenya to invade the Muslim land of Somalia," said one tweet attributed to al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, also known as Ahmed Godane. "Kenya will soon regret having embarked on this particular course of action, Insha Allaah [God willing]."

Threats are rallying calls to boost morale
Analysts and security officials told Sabahi that the threats are attempts by the al-Qaeda-allied group to divert attention from the loss of Kismayo.

Retired army Major Bashir Hajji Abdullahi, a Nairobi based security analyst and consultant, said the group's leadership hopes the threats to conduct operations on foreign soil will not only make al-Shabaab relevant internationally, but also inspire its own fighters who he said feel demoralised after being misled into thinking they were invincible in Kismayo.

David Ochami, a Mombasa-based journalist who follows militant groups in the Middle East and Horn of Africa for Kenya's The Standard, told Sabahi that al-Shabaab's threats should not be underestimated despite their recent losses.

"With foreign jihadists among its ranks, even a lone militant is dangerous," Ochami said. "They may lack an area from which to form, but they will desperately resort to guerrilla tactics to remain relevant."

The threats can be seen as rallying calls to boost the morale of al-Shabaab fighters who have fled and joined civilian populations, according to Ochami.

He said al-Shabaab's threats against Britain may not mean an attack on British soil, adding that more vigilance is needed to protect British and other foreign nationals in Kenya and elsewhere.

Still, Ochami downplayed al-Shabaab's ability to launch large scale attacks, even closer to home.

"Nobody loses sleep these days when they issue threats because they have no capacity to commit a large scale attack in the short term," he said.

Kenyan Defence Minister Yusuf Haji said the government takes the threats seriously and is working with embassies of foreign countries daily to review the threats and work out the best way to respond to them.

"We are committed to the war on the militants," he told Sabahi. "It will be long one, but good has always prevailed over evil."

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