Kenya approves harsh anti-terrorism law
Kenya's parliament on Dec. 18 passed a sweeping new anti-terrorism law after some of its members engaged in a shoving match that led to blows being exchanged. Those opposed to the law, citing violations of free speech and other civil liberties, shouted, threw water, and even threw books at the Speaker in protest of the bill. The law allows security services to detain suspected criminals without charging them for up to 360 days, allows media members to be persecuted for publishing material that is likely to cause fear or alarm, and enables a domestic spy force to carry out secret operations. President Uhuru Kenyatta has backed the bill due to increased pressure to improve security in the country after a 2013 terrorist attack by Somali al-Shabaab rebels that killed 67 people.
ISIS in Sydney?
As readers are doubtless aware, an unknown militant is currently holding a number of hostages at a Lindt Chocolat Cafe in downtown Sydney, and forcing them to display a jihadist flag in the store's window. There is much online controversy about exactly which faction's flag it is. The Sydney Morning Herald identifies it as the banner of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and contrasts it with those flown by ISIS and the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The report says Somalia's Shabab is also now flying the ISIS flag, which may mark another affiliate for the "Islamic State"—which would make four by our count. We have noted that protesters are on trial in Lebanon for having burned the ISIS flag, ostensibly because it includes the Arabic text of the Shahada or declaration of Muslim faith. These are all variations on the "Tawhid flag" that has been adopted by Islamists throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Given the franchise model of the jihadist networks, it really doesn't make that much difference which faction the Sydney militant is associated with, or if he is just a freelancer.
Jihadist hand seen in new Congo massacres
The murders of more than 250 men, women and children in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Beni Territory in recent weeks have widely been blamed on an Islamist insurgency of Ugandan origin known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces-NALU (ADF-NALU). But several armed groups and racketeering gangs are active in the area and the culprits of these killings have not been incontrovertibly identified. The killings were carried out, in various episodes between Oct. 2 and Dec. 7, using knives, machetes and hoes, in parts of Nord Kivu province, on some occasions in close proximity to positions held by the national army (FARDC) and bases of the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUSCO). Just in the 48 hours leading up to the night of Dec. 7, 50 people were killed in two parts of Beni territory, according to Civil Society in North Kivu, a local organization. (See map.)
Somalia: women slain in spiralling reprisals
At least seven women have been killed in "barbaric" attacks in Somalia after Shabab insurgents beheaded a soldier's wife, prompting revenge executions of women close to the jihadists, village elders said Dec. 10. The solider's wife was abducted along with a cook for government troops, and both beheaded. "It was horrible, al-Shabab killed two innocent women connected with the government troops," said Aliyow Isack, an elder. In revenge, the widowed soldier and his colleagues rounded up women thought to be the wives of insurgents. "For the death of the two women, they arrested 10 women whom they said were wives of al-Shabab militants, killing five before the elders rescued and freed the rest," Isack reported. A National Security Ministry spokesman admitted to the incident, saying five women had been "arrested as suspects," and that a solider opened fire on them while marching them to a post for detention. "Can you imagine what happened? It was a completely barbaric act against humans," said Mohamed Malim, another elder. "They were innocent women, some of those killed might have been married by force to the gunmen."
UN renews resolution to fight piracy off Somalia
The UN Security Council on Nov. 12 unanimously adopted a resolution renewing its international call to fight piracy off the coast of Somalia. Working under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, resolution 2184 (2014) calls on all able states to provide military forces to repress piracy in the region. The Security Council also continued an exemption on a 1992 arms embargo imposed on Somalia and encouraged states to adopt legal framework to facilitate the prosecution of suspected pirates. Such efforts, both inland and off the coast of Africa, have slowed the frequency of pirate attacks in the area since 2012.
Somalia: Shabab leader dead in US drone strike?
US forces carried out air-strikes against Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, with casualties reported but uncertainty over the fate of the main target, Somali officials said Sept. 2. Godane was traveling in one of two vehicles hit in apparent drone strike, a member of the Islamist group said. The spokesman would not say whether Godane was among the six militants killed. The two vehicles were heading toward the coastal town of Barawe, Shabaab's main base, when they were hit. The Pentagon confirmed the US military carried out an "operation," and that it was "assessing the results." The US has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethiopia. The Pentagon quietly deployed a small team of advisers to Somalia last October to coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from Shabab.
Kenya anti-terror police group charged in abuses
Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in violation of international laws, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Aug. 18. Based on interview research conducted between November 2013 and June 2014, terrorism suspects were badly mistreated, killed, beaten, abducted and detained without access to families or lawyers. HRW called on Kenya to thoroughly investigate the allegations and urged the US to suspend donor support to the ATPU. The ATPU has previously come under criticism by other human rights groups. Last year the Kenyan human rights group Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative jointly issued a report, calling on the US and the UK to suspend financial support to the ATPU. The report followed the completion of a new ATPU headquarters in Nairobi in May, which was partially funded by international anti-terror agencies. The facility increased technological capabilities and physical space for the ATPU, whose mission is to coordinate and carry out anti-terrorism operations within Kenya in support of the global war on terror. The unit's primary focus of late is Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, as the port city has become a major recruitment target for the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, based in Somalia.
Deadly Ramadan in Somalia
Militant group al-Shabab has lived up to its promise to step up attacks in Somalia, mainly against government installations and personnel, during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29. Over 30 people have been killed in Mogadishu alone. On July 8, the presidential compound was attacked during the iftar evening meal. Assailants entered the gate using a car bomb, and then engaged in a two-hour gun battle with palace guards, killing 14 soldiers. On July 5, at least four people, including two children, were killed when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside of the parliament building. Just two days earlier, a long-time member of parliament, Mohamed Mohamud, was killed with his bodyguard when armed assailants opened fire on his car. In response, the Somali government fired the police commissioner and head of the intelligence agency. Since then however, attacks have continued daily. Local media reported that the Ministry of Defense was attacked July 14.
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