NAIROBI, Kenya-An increasingly vocal Islamist group says its leader has been
appointed to represent an al-Qaida-linked Somali militia in Kenya, a
development that underscores the dangers Kenya faces from Somalia's
The statement by the Kenya-based Muslim Youth Center came amid a flurry of
warnings from embassies about planned terror attacks in Kenya. The Somali
militant group al-Shabab has promised to attack Kenya for its decision to
send troops to Somalia in October.
The Muslim Youth Center was named in a United Nations report last year for
recruiting, fundraising, and running training and orientation events for
al-Shabab. An official al-Shabab spokesman did not answer questions about
whether the center now represents al-Shabab in Kenya, but a statement
published on the center's blog on Wednesday was unequivocal.
"There can be no doubt that Amiir Ahmad Iman Ali's elevation to become the
supreme Amiir of Kenya for al Shabaab is recognition from our Somali
brothers who have fought tirelessly against the kuffar on the importance of
the Kenyan mujahideen in Somalia," the statement said. The word kuffar
appears to be an alternative spelling of kafir, an Arabic word meaning
Ali was featured in combat fatigues giving a 50-minute lecture in a Jan. 6
video produced by al-Kataib, al-Shabab's media foundation. He referred to
wars in Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Chechnya. It was the first time an
al-Kataib video was dedicated solely to his message, according to SITE
Intelligence Group, which monitors communications from jihadi groups.
"If you are unable to reach the land of jihad ... then raise your sword
against the enemy that is closest to you," Ali said. "Jihad should be now be
waged inside Kenya, which is legally a war zone."
"You don't have to get permission from your parents," he added.
Al-Shabab threatened huge terror attacks in Kenya in October after Kenyan
troops entered Somalia over concerns that insecurity from Somalia's
21-year-old civil war was spilling over the border. The U.S. Embassy has put
extra security measures into place and last week the British Embassy warned
that a terror attack was being planned.
Ali, also known as Abdul Fatah of Kismayo, is a Kenyan who has been based in
Somalia since 2009 and commands a force of 200 to 500 fighters, according to
the July U.N. report. The report said that "he now intends to conduct
large-scale attacks in Kenya, and possibly elsewhere in East Africa."
Ali speaks fluent Swahili, English, Arabic and some Somali, according to a
security official in Kenya. He has also studied Islamic teachings
extensively and has two degrees. The official asked not to be named because
he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The official said that Ali wanted to be seen as Kenya's answer to Anwar
Al-Awlaki, an American cleric killed in Yemen last year by a U.S. missile
A post on the group's website purporting to be from Ali complained about
impunity for Kenyan army officers who have killed Muslims, set up arbitrary
police detentions and renditions -- complaints also voiced by Kenyan and
international human rights groups.
But Ali also warned in a statement rife with spelling errors: "The Muslim
lands will once again rule with Shari'ah and your kufr democracy will be
dumped in the seewage."
Two other Kenyans in Somalia -- nicknamed "Taxi Driver" and "General" have
more battlefield experience that Ali, said the official, but could not match
his religious education. They all maintained strong ties to four religious
leaders in Kenya that are linked to al-Qaida, said the same official as
So far the Muslim Youth Center is the best-known of the Kenyan jihadi
groups, said another analyst, but it remained one of several. The groups
were not very coordinated and it was unclear the extent to which they were
directed by al-Shabab. The analyst asked not be named because he was not
authorized to speak to the press.
Since its troops entered Somalia, Kenya has suffered more than a dozen
grenade attacks. Four explosive devices targeting police have been planted
in a northern refugee camp housing Somalis, and gunmen have also shot
residents in northern Kenya towns. Somali fighters also raided a Kenyan
police camp earlier this week, killing six people and kidnapping at least
But so far, there have not been any attacks causing major casualties -- a
source of some annoyance to senior al-Shabab leaders. Last year, a senior
al-Shabab official in Somalia urged sympathizers in Kenya to "stop throwing
grenades at buses" and make a "huge blast".
The center's use of its blog, the release of the al-Kataib video and a
Twitter feed to proclaim its allegiance to al-Shabab could mean it was
preparing for a big attack, the analyst said.
But, he added, it might also mean it was being used to mask the activities
of other, less visible groups.
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Received on Sun Jan 15 2012 - 10:20:10 EST