Al-Shabaab fighters

Al-Shabaab fighters.

| File | AFP

US sanctions Shabaab leader blamed for Kenyan attacks

Former al-Shabaab senior spokesperson Ali Mohammed Rage alias Ali Dheere’s name has been included in the United States’ Specially Designated Global Terrorists list.

He was sanctioned alongside four other militant Jihadi terrorists.

Ali Mohammed replaced Sheikh Mukhtar Robow as al-Shabaab’s top spokesman in May 2009. He is alleged to have planned several attacks in Kenya and Somalia.

Also listed on terrorists’ watch list  are al-shabaab senior leader Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Mozambique’s ISIS leader Bonomade Machude Omar and Mali’s Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) leaders Sidanag Hitta and Salem ould Breihmatt.

The designation was announced in a statement issued by the United States Secretary of States Anthony Blinken on Friday.

Consequently, any individual, group or entity that accords the five significant financial support will be liable to sanctions and risk being designated.

Additionally, all property and interests in property of these individuals will be blocked and reported to the US State Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

“I am announcing the designation of five terrorist leaders in Africa. Bonomade Machude Omar, Sidanag Hitta, Salem ould Breihmatt, Ali Mohamed Rage, and Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir are designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order 13224, as amended,” said Secretary Blinken.

According to the statement, Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir alias Ikrima is a facilitator and operational planner who has directed past attacks planned by al-shabaab.

The statement adds that as of November 2019, Abdikadir was an al-Shabaab senior leader and served as the Head of Operations and Logistics.

Bonomade Omar alias Abu Sulayfa Muhammad and Ibn Omar leads the Military and External Affairs Departments for ISIS-Mozambique and serves as the senior commander and lead coordinator for all attacks conducted by the group in northern Mozambique.

He also serves as the lead facilitator and communications conduit for the group.

“During the March 2021 attack on Palma, Omar led one group of fighters while Abu Yasir Hassan, the leader of ISIS-Mozambique, led another group of fighters, and Omar also led the attack on the Amarula Hotel in Palma.  Omar has been responsible for attacks in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique, and Mtwara Region, Tanzania.”

Sidanag Hitta alias Abu Qarwaniand Abu Abdelhakim al-Kidalin is said to be a senior leader and commander responsible for the Kidal Region in Mali within Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM).

The group was responsible for the January 20, 2019, attack on the MINUSMA base in Aguelhok, Kidal Region, Mali and the hostages in the Kidal Region.

Salem ould Breihmatt alias Abu Hamza al-Shanqitiand Hamza al-Mauritani is a JNIM senior leader and emir of Arbinda and Serma in the Mopti Region of Mali.

He is also charged with the oversight of JNIM in Burkina Faso and is an explosives expert and instructor.

“The United States is committed to disrupting the financing methods of ISIS-Mozambique, JNIM, and al-Shabaab — all of which are designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations and SDGTs — limiting their abilities to conduct further attacks against civilians and supporting our partners in efforts to disrupt terrorism finance,” said Secretary Blinken.

The designation of the five terrorists happened in the wake of Exercise Cutlass Express 2021, an annual programme that seeks to promote maritime security along the West Indian Ocean territorial waters.

Seychelles, Djibouti, Madagascar, Comoros, Georgia, India, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, United Kingdom, and the United States participated in the exercise in Mombasa from July 27. It concluded on Monday.

It is aimed at increasing participating countries' ability to suppress and counter illegal activities including terrorism, piracy, arms trafficking, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and illegal trade in wildlife.

“The Western Indian Ocean has been rife with many maritime challenges for a prolonged period of time due to the porous vast sea area,” said Brigadier Thomas Nganga, Kenya Navy base commander, Mtongwe, during the launch of the exercise in Mombasa.

In a digital briefing with journalists, RDML Jeff Spivey Vice Commander, U.S. Sixth Fleet noted that Human Trafficking is a major concern as one of the routes used to commit the crime is the high seas.

“Human trafficking can come in many forms.  It comes via the air, but on the sea it can come in the form of not necessarily a ship full of persons, but usually embedded in other illegal activity. We want to see the economy strong so that jobs are available and improve information sharing intelligence,” he said.

The exercise’s joint operation centre in Mombasa involved linking with the Kenya Port Authority in efforts to curb human trafficking in East Africa,” he added.

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