A family is appealing for help to return son back home after he called to say he had joined the Al Shabaab.
Sarah Khalamwa from Mwambuli village in Lugari sub-county claims her 19-year-old son called last weekend to inform her that he had crossed over to Somalia and joined the militia group.
“I could not believe my ears when he told me that he had already signed a contract with the Al Shabaab, and that he would not be coming home anytime soon,” the mother of five told journalists at her home.
According to the woman, her son left home for Nairobi last February in search of a job. He later informed the family that he had landed a farmhand’s job in Westlands, Nairobi. “He would send me some cash for upkeep until he broke the news that he had joined the group,” she said.
The family has been making frantic efforts to reach their son in the last one week. Then he was not reachable again. “Now our calls are going unanswered,” said the mother. They now fear their son, who they describe as responsible and disciplined, may have been radicalised before recruitment.
Before calls to his phone went unanswered, his elder brothers had tried to talk him out of the idea of joining the terrorist group. The family now wants security agencies to help track down and return him back home. “We are worried about his safety. It is possible Al Shabaab might have taken advantage of his young age to lure him into joining the group,” she said.
The family is optimistic the Kenya Defence Forces currently deployed to fight the militants in Somalia can trace and return the youth home. “I have struggled to raise him, I hope the Government will hear me and come to my aid,” said his mother.
A UN-backed peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which faces attacks by an Al-Qaeda affiliate, received unanimous Security Council backing Tuesday until July 31.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), with about 21,600 troops, operates with the approval of the UN and relies on international funding.
By extending Amisom’s mandate to the end of July, the United Nations Security Council allowed for a review of recommendations expected in a “joint assessment” report on Somalia to be presented by June 15.
In its resolution, the Security Council recalled that it authorized the African Union to reduce Amisom to roughly 20,600 personnel by October 30, after 1,000 troops were pulled out last year.
There are plans for a full withdrawal of foreign troops by December 2020, but heads of state and ministers from the main troop contributors — including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda — in March warned the timeframe for the drawdown was “not realistic and would lead to a reversal of the gains made by Amisom.”
The mission was deployed in 2007 to defend the internationally-backed government against attacks by the Shabaab, a Somali-led Al-Qaeda affiliate.
Somalia is slowly gaining its foothold as the forces liberate most regions and citizens.
In recent months Al Shabaab militia capabilities in South Somalia region have been quashed to an extent of desperation with some of the militia desperate to quit the group before it is too late.
They have been under sustained ground and aerial attacks from the security forces significantly weakening them. These has been happening with the assistance of US and other international partners. The militia group is losing fighters daily, a situation which is prompting them to decamp.
The ongoing rains in Somalia which is causing floods further compounds their misery as their camps in Middle and Lower Shabelle have been washed away leaving them with no place to stay.
In addition to that they have no place to train or hide from security forces.
New recruits have been abandoned and left in a state of confusion not knowing what to do or where to go. Their only viable option is to surrender to security forces so that they can get assistance to leave the flooded areas.
The rains are a blessing in disguise as those who have surrendered are willing to work with the officials by giving them information on the operations of the militants.
Ramadan has witnessed a stunning rise in attacks relative to other months in recent years, an increase attributed to terrorist groups, and its attempts to transform the month of prayer and atonement to one of bloodshed and violence.
Ramadan is of such a high status; acts of good deeds during the month are of immense virtue and earn a greatly multiplied reward, this has been misinterpreted and twisted by terrorist groups to include attacks on non-Muslims.
Calls for violence were covered in Islamic language, such as when ISIS and Al Shabaab officials claimed that the heightened religiosity of the ramadhan season meant spiritual rewards for terrorist acts and that and it would be greater than normal days.
To validate themselves, jihadists often evoke the Battle of Badr, a key moment in early Muslim history that occurred during the month of Ramadan in the year 624 CE. During the battle, Muslim forces overwhelmed their enemies despite being massively outnumbered. Against all odds, their victory ensured the survival of the fledgling community of believers. It’s no surprise that jihadists like to draw attention to this example, manipulating it to their political ends.
The truth is, just as one receives multiplied rewards for good deeds in ramadhan, terrorist groups receive multiplied bad deeds for spending the sacred month of ramadhan oppressing people and killing the innocents.
For Muslims globally, these attacks during ramadhan are perhaps the clearest evidence that organizations like Al Shabaab are un-Islamic and distort the core message of their faith. That is why in Kenyan Muslim scholars have come out in numbers to denounce these evil minded terrorist groups who claim to be Muslims but do the exact opposite of what Islam teaches.
Al-Shabaab militia group is at its weakest point. It has been weakened financially, militarily and politically in recent days. Somali’s harsh climatically conditions and the country’s devastating drought has forced Al Shabaab militants to live on strained finances as funders continue to disown the militia group. This is because many local communities now lack the resources to meet the militant group’s tax demands.
They have been put on the back foot following the stepped-up tempo by AMISOM and international communities on ground operations conducted in conjunction with Somali government troops.
Somali people no longer have faith in Al-Shabaab. They no longer enjoy political support from these people especially because of the bombing in Somalia that killed hundreds of civilians. This does more damage to their reputation than anything else. They don’t even want to be protected by them. They claim that the so called protection comes with a hefty cost.
Al-Shabaab is also facing another challenge of drawing new recruits. Youths in Somalia have become aware of the misuse and ill-treatment one goes through in the hands of the militia once he joins. They are no longer falling into the enticing tactics the Al-Shabaab used to entice youths with. Youths have become aware that there is no “money-factor” as Al-Shabaab claims. Their number has drastically reduced to an extent that they are actually abducting children from communities that are unable to make protection payments.
They coaxed the locals by telling them that if they can’t give them resources, then they should give them their kids.
The defections from the terror group are also posing a threat to its diminishing. Of late, there have been mass defections from the group. The Somali government is helping those who are voluntarily leaving the group to integrate with the society. The Kenyan government is also playing a key role into this.
Shady was a fourteen year old male from Kahawa west a bright, quiet and reserved boy who loved playing video games. He often found consolation when playing online games, but an experience with online gaming changed him within a year.
Every day after school, Shady used to go to the cyber cafe that was near his home in the heart of Kahawa west. Shady was also learning French and Arabic in school so he used to ask his parents for money to go and do research on the internet.
He was really good in the two languages and that reflected in the grades he got in school, so his parents never suspected that he would spend hours in the cyber playing games.
With time he became good in the games so he started playing games that were rated PG 18 because they involved the use of guns and most had graphic content that appealed to boys his age, the unique feature of these games was they had chat rooms where players got to communicate with each other.
One time as Shady was playing a game called Salil al-Sawarem (The Clanging of the Swords) he got a chance to play with an opponent who was Arabian and created a friendship, which was enhanced especially when they used Arabic to communicate. Shady was excited that he could get a chance to practice the language with his new friend. His friend’s name was Mahmud Abbasand he was from Syria. Shady’s curiosity increased and his interest in Abbas’ culture grew, he wanted to learn more about his culture and country so they exchanged contacts.
Abbas asked Shady only to text him on Telegram since it was the only social media platform allowed in their country. The friendship grew for a year, then Shady’s behaviour started changing, he started becoming violent in school. One day got into a confrontation with one of the students and stabbed him with a fork.
This started raising concerns to both his parents and teachers and they even took him to a counsellor but they still did not understand why his behaviour had changed drastically.
One evening his parents received a call from the police who told them that their son had been caught with three other teenage boys trying to cross the border to Somalia to join Al shabaab.
During interrogation, Shady confessed of how he was given directions of how to get to Somalia where he would fight using real guns and would even be known as a hero, instead of playing video games using fake guns.
Five ‘Most wanted’ ISIS commanders have been captured, including a top aide to Abu Bakr al-baghdadi the group’s leader. The militants were hunted down in a complex cross-border sting carried out by Iraqi and American intelligence.
The five include four Iraqis and one Syrian whose responsibilities included governing ISIS’ territory around Deir el-Zour, Syria, directing internal security and running the administrative body that oversees religious rulings.
The three-month operation, which tracked a group of senior ISIS leaders who had been hiding in Syria and Turkey, represents a significant intelligence victory for the US-led coalition fighting the extremist.
An Iraqi intelligence unit responsible for undercover missions had tracked Ismail Alwaan al-Ithawi, an Iraqi known by the ‘nom de guerre’ Abu Zeid al-Iraqi, from Syria to the Turkish city of Sakarya, about 160km east of Istanbul.
Ithawi, described by the Iraqis as a top aide to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had been living in Turkey according to officials