When Sheikh Aboud Rogo told his congregants that Kenya lacks the “intellectual capacity” and “military capacity” to win a war against Islamists[1], many overlooked the fact that the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is not a strong military. To ordinary Kenyans, this fact was made painfully clear in January 2016 and January 2017 when hundreds of Kenyan soldiers were killed in Jubaland when al-Shabaab raided and overran KDF‘s combat bases in el-Adde and Kulbiyow. This realization had already frightened Kenyan journalists who avoided being embedded in Kenyan military convoys. Expectedly, this state of affairs has raised questions. What value does Kenya get from Kenyan soldiers risking their lives in Somalia? Is the deployment of KDF in Somalia a net benefit or a net loss to the Kenyan taxpayer? Does KDF in Somalia protect smuggling rings, including human trafficking rings, run by Ogaden Somalis – much to the disadvantage of law-abiding Kenyans? Are the parochial interests of these Ogaden Somalis paramount to the well-being of Kenya? Why should Kenyan soldiers be forced to suffer the effects of disastrous strategies against Somali Mujahideen including complex (chronic) post-traumatic stress disorder? Who should be held accountable for the adoption and implementation of an ill-thought, credulous, and anemic grand military strategy?

Gerishon Wasike al-Shabaab geopolitics-press
Kenyan soldier, Sergeant Gerishon Wanyonyi Wasike – Service Number 64809 – of the 9th Kenya Rifles (Infantry) Battalion was captured by al-Shabaab in el-Adde on January 15, 2016. In the background are 2 al-Shabaab fighters and bodies of dead Kenyan soldiers. HSM also released an audio recording of 2 other PoW named, Isaac Balewa – a Luhya aged 50 years during the recording, and Lawrence Rinui Kamau – a Kikuyu aged 30 years. CREDIT: AKFMP.

Also, what is the fate of Kenyan soldiers taken as prisoners of war (PoW) by al-Shabaab? What would happen if al-Shabaab decides to publicly execute them (either by shooting or beheading them)? Will the execution videos ignite public anger against KDF deployment in Somalia? Will it force the Government of Kenya (GoK) to recall Kenyan troops from Somalia? What if al-Shabaab deploys assassination units to kill Christian (Kenyan) politicians when they are campaigning? What would happen if al-Shabaab uses violence during the (July) campaign and (August) election period to force Kenyans to question what value they get from KDF’s deployment in Somalia? If al-Shabaab can force Kenya to withdraw troops from Somalia, can it force Uganda to do the same? Will it launch attacks against Ugandans in Uganda? Can al-Shabaab cause violent conflicts between Christians and Muslims in Kenya?

Most importantly, can al-Shabaab defeat Kenya in the long war of Islamist insurgency? Can Kenya win the war? How can Kenya win the war? Does Kenya need to abandon the failed American counter-terrorism strategies (which have completely failed in Afghanistan and Iraq) and be like Egypt, China, Algeria, Israel, and Russia that fought Islamic terrorists without seeking American or European validation? Will Kenyans realize that these American counter-terrorism strategies are facile, academic, and rewarding to terrorist populations while victimizing the terrorized communities?

Bodies of Christian students who were killed by Somali terrorists in Garissa in 2015. 142 students, 3 policemen, and 3 soldiers were killed by al-Shabaab in this attack on Garissa University College. American and British governments advocated for a Somali to be appointed as administrator of North-East Kenya so as to placate Somalis. PHOTO CREDIT: Orato World Media.

When Kenya proposed in 2019 that al-Shabaab should be listed as an international terrorist organization to be sanctioned under the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1267, it was met with strong opposition from USG, GUK, and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) that was known to be working with al-Shabaab to attack AMISOM soldiers. “When you go to the United Nations Security Council and say we need Alshabaab listed under 1267 UNSC resolution, then you get push back”, explained Ambassador Monica Juma who then served as Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It was Somali analyst, Rashid Abdi, who came out in public and stated that this pushback was from the West/Occident.

This severe sanctioning would have added al-Shabaab to the UNSC Consolidated List which prevents governments (including FGS, GUK, and USG) from providing funds – even through the so-called humanitarian organizations (which are usually fronts for money laundering) – to al-Shabaab. Why did American and European diplomats defend al-Shabaab in the UNSC against sanctions being proposed by Kenya? Rasna Warah inferred that the American and British governments put up a determined and tenacious fight against this attempt by GoK to severely proscribe al-Shabaab because American and British entities do fund al-Shabaab. It was then revealed in 2020 that the Italian government paid a ransom of €4 million (about US$4.22 million) to al-Shabaab to secure the release of “Aisha” Silvia Romano.

The US-based Somali Islamist, Abukar Arman, severely criticized the Kenyan move to have the Somali terrorist organization sanctioned to the same extent as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. For Arman, his unwritten fear is that listing Somali terrorists under UNSCR 1267 will allow for the confiscation of their properties in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and South Africa, which would cripple Islamist operations in Africa. Kenyans were later shocked to learn that Americans were secretly negotiating with al-Shabaab behind their back. Tricia Bacon, writing for Lawfare, defended this stance of negotiating with al-Shabaab. Others who have been calling for negotiation with al-Shabaab – after it has killed thousands of Kenyans and its secret deals with the Americans were exposed – are Abdullahi Boru Halakhe writing for The Elephant, Jason Hartwig writing for War on the Rocks, Akinola Olojo writing for the Institute for Security Studies, and Helen Epstein writing for the Atlantic.

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A captured Kenyan soldier, Eliakim Omega, is assisted by an al-Shabaab fighter to lie down so that he can plead with GoK to negotiate with al-Shabaab. He explains that he was deployed to el-Adde FOB from Kenyatta Barracks. Al-Shabaab allowed him to send a message to Bela Famba, Zilba Famba, Beatrice Magak, and his daughter, Chantel. Unlike the Italian Government that secretly negotiated with al-Shabaab and paid a ransom, GoK never came to their rescue. CREDIT: AKFMP.

Relatedly, despite Kenyan soldiers risking their lives to defend American soldiers who had taken into hiding in Camp Simba on January 5, 2020, American commanders derogatorily described Kenyan soldiers as cowards, even blaming them for facilitating the al-Shabaab attack on the Americans. So, do American commanders despise Africans who uncritically adopt policies that the Americans provide? What value does Kenya get from this American CTS?

In Mali and Burkina Faso, it is the failed American CTS and not al-Qaeda per se, that forced infuriated soldiers to mutiny and overthrow their governments hence proving to al-Qaeda that the adoption of failing American CTS and a fierce Islamist terror campaign can force a regime change. In Burkina Faso, soldiers were infuriated by the fact that their President was promoting an American-approved CTS strategy that was causing avoidable fatalities and casualties on the battlefield during engagements with armed Salafi jihadists. As expected, Americans and Europeans criticized the new regime in Burkina Faso and Mali for adopting an “unapproved and unprofessional CTS” that involved arming the local populations to fight the jihadis, e.g in Mali, the new regime arms and trains the Dogon people to fight Fulani jihadis. Expectedly, USG has sanctioned the Government of Mali, even blaming them for victimizing violent Fulani pastoralists due to Islamophobic-driven anti-Nomadism. Malians believe that Western governments (particularly the French government) and non-governmental organizations (acting on behalf of their home governments) are working to ensure that Jihadis gain a permanent presence in that nation so that Mali can be partitioned. Interestingly, Christopher Elliott of King’s College London, predicts that Mali will cease to be a nation by 2031 or thereabout. To worsen matters, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also sanctioned Mali, and this has aggravated its economic crisis.

CREDIT: Twitter.

A nation that the Occident was sure would collapse circa 2012 was Syria but committed support by Iran and Russia, and brutal suppression of violent Sunni jihadism saved Syria. This greatly angered NATO, which had also failed to incite mass killings of Han Chinese in Xinjiang by their Uyghur Islamist proxies. In both cases, neither Syria nor China sought validation from the EU or USG, but simply fought the violent Jihadis in the correct way – by simply destroying them and their supporting communities. American CTS is tailored to preserve and prosper these Jihadi-supporting communities, hence it can be stated safely that the American counter-terrorism strategy that is exported to Africa is purposely designed to fail. It can even be argued that Americans purposefully provide flawed CTS so as to allow Jihadis to establish a strong permanent presence that gives American leverage over the attacked state because it will be institutionally weakened by the American CTS while the jihadi communities will be empowered, even infiltrating the government, thus pushing the nation towards state collapse with only American “benevolent” support being the only thing that averts state fragmentation. This strategy was used against Iraqis but the government realized it and voted to expel the Americans out of Iraq after USG aided them to suppress the Islamic State.

Equally, France is agitated that Africans are not condemning the successful counter-terrorism campaigns conducted in Syria and China. So, will the Americans and their European counterparts blame Africans for lionizing successful counter-terrorism campaigns in Xinjiang, Chechnya, and Syria? Should Kenya consider working with China and Russia to combat terrorism inside Kenya?

In both cases, neither Syria nor China sought validation from the EU or USG, but simply fought the violent Jihadis in the correct way – by simply destroying them and their supporting communities. American CTS is tailored to preserve and prosper these Jihadi-supporting communities, hence it can be stated safely that the American counter-terrorism strategy that is exported to Africa is purposely designed to fail.

Threat Assessment

Al-Shabaab (known officially as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen [HSM]) is currently conducting a prolific terrorist campaign against Kenya, both inside Kenya and outside Kenya (i.e Somalia). This terror campaign is facilitated and made possible by existing internal and external dynamics that enable HSM to foment a security crisis in Kenya. These dynamics are concisely described hereafter.


Geo-strategic Location and External Interference

Remains of a vehicle that has been blown up by Al-Shabaab in Khorhara area of Wajir. PHOTO CREDIT.

Al-Shabaab maintains its operational and command-and-control (C2) bases in Somalia. Kenya’s proximity to Somalia – both territorially and politically – coupled with its porous Kenya-Somalia border allows terrorists to infiltrate the country and establish patrol bases from where they can conduct attacks on Kenyans, as well as destroy vulnerable national infrastructure. This explains why most attacks are concentrated in Lamu, Garissa, Mandera, and Wajir counties.

Presently, Kenya is the political, military, and economic powerhouse of East and Central Africa; and its vanguard role in the war on terror makes the nation a valuable target for terrorists. Al-Shabaab understands that crippling the economic lifeline of Kenya – as well as destabilizing its frontier regions – will significantly dent the current counter-terrorism campaign in Somalia, thus ensuring the survival of their Islamist insurgency.

Furthermore, Kenya’s location as the gateway into East and Central Africa has tempted external powers and interested foreign parties to attempt to subvert the nation besides sabotaging its national economy. Some of these powers, especially Gulf Arab Nations such as Qatar have propped up HSM to serve as their proxy. Sudan is also suspect because its National Islamic Front (NIF) seeks to subvert land-locked South Sudan by denying it access to a trade infrastructure that is currently wholly dependent on Kenya.  Moreover, Sudan has an interest in seeing South Sudan unable to transport its oil through Kenya (via Mombasa Port) onto the international market.

Media Publicity

Closely tied to Kenya’s geostrategic advantage is the large concentration of multinational (commercial) conglomerates alongside transnational organizations that have established their regional headquarters in Nairobi.

In Nairobi, films of the Westgate Mall attack featuring the White Widow – Samantha Lewthwaite – and the politician (then a journalist) Mohammad Ali were sold publicly. PHOTO CREDIT: US News.

The relatively advanced state of Kenya (politically, socially, and economically) in relation to other regional nations has led all major international media corporations to establish their regional headquarters in Nairobi. Therefore, an Al-Shabaab attack in Nairobi will definitely get international coverage as proved by the 2013 Westgate Mall siege and the Dusit D2 complex attack. HSM starves for media publicity, and this sole fact procures a bias that they will continue to conduct terrorist attacks in Kenya. To HSM, the international media provides the “oxygen of publicity“.

Upsurge of Islamism

There exists a significant Muslim minority in Kenya, about 11% of the total population according to the 2019 Kenyan census. Just like in China where the Uyghur constitute only 0.9% of the total population, this minority has proved to be a security burden to the nation, though the Chinese effectively defeated Uyghur Salafi terrorism in Xinjiang.

In Kenya, the emergence of takfiri ideology as a rival to the traditional Sufi Sunni Islam portends a risk as the Sunni community splits and dissident factions adopt Salafi Jihadism as a vector for dominance within the Sunni fraternity. Eloquent Islamic ideologues have been assisted by radical Muslim clerics to spread violent Salafi doctrines, as well as nurture domestic Islamic militancy. One such ideologue is Somali Salafist, Hassan Mahad Omar, who has been assisted by radical Sheikhs to rationalize, sanitize and justify the actions of al-Shabaab.

Muslim clerics opposed to Islamist teachings have been targeted and killed by Al-Shabaab or its sympathizers. A case in point is the astute and firmly moderate Sheikh Mohammed Idriss who led a counter-radicalization campaign to oppose jihadist teachings in Mosques, Madrassas, and Islamic seminars. He was killed in June 2014 by Mohamed Sudi Mohamed.

The ambivalence of the domestic Muslim leadership to Kenya’s counter-radicalization and counter-terrorism efforts coupled with the pervasive distrust of the government among Muslims have greatly hampered effective counter-terrorism. To worsen matters, the government of Kenya has been infiltrated by Islamists who leak the identities of Sunni personalities who aid the security services to unmask, arrest, or kill Islamist terrorists.

Islamist ideologues have also managed to create masses of followers thus providing HSM with a cushion and fallback position during periods of active counter-terrorism offensives, as these populations can conceal, feed, and take care of them. Moreover, such populations serve as a reserve for terror recruits.

Remains of 2 Kenyan soldiers who were lynched and set ablaze by Somali civilians in el-Adde, Gedo region in January 2016. These soldiers had escaped el-Adde FOB before they were intercepted by a group of Somali women who alerted the Somali villagers who killed them. CREDIT: AKFMP.

A woman walks past a portrait of President Xi Jinping in Kashgar, Xinjiang. Xi ordered an iron fist policy against Islamist terrorists and communities that harbored them. Vulnerable Uyghur adults were taken for re-education so that they can learn the values of patriotism and nationalism. PHOTO CREDIT: The Guardian.

Unlike terror-infested North-East Kenya where Kenyans are killed with reckless abandon, Xinjiang is so safe and prosperous that it now produces 8% of the global Ketchup output as well as large amounts of cotton to an extent that USG and EU are sanctioning products made using Xinjiang’s raw materials. To American academics and counter-terrorism experts, this is “the wrong way to fight ethnic-based Islamic terrorism”, but their “right way of fighting terrorism” led to Americans leaving Afghanistan and Iraq in the hands of Sunni Taliban and Shiite victors. Likewise, the Chinese saw through the designed-to-fail American CTS.

Practical Salafism

The Muslim leadership in Kenya is sclerotic and corrupt, and much fearful of radical legitimate reforms – even conspiring with GoK to stifle the voices of reforms as Hawa Noor explained in her article, Al-Shabaab Mobilization and Muslim Leadership in Kenya. Still, this Islamic clergy fears a revolution more than (they fear) radical reforms. Revolution – the scary word that sends shivers down the spine of the corrupt and uneducated elite, the defenders of superstitions, and the guardians of social backwardness. Didn’t the imagery of a sex worker ignite a revolution in France that overthrew the monarchy and led to the collapse of Church authority over the masses? This was the French revolution that resulted in the closing down of churches and public confessions by bishops that they are charlatans[2].

Revolution to this Muslim leadership means not only loss of influence over the community, but the potential loss of wealth and even loss of lives as happened during the Zanzibar revolution. This explains their toleration of Salafism. Salafism provides a rigid dogma that anesthetizes the Muslim youth to their poverty, suffering, and lack of opportunities. Most importantly, Salafism serves as an ideological vaccine against revolutionary secular ideologies such as socialism and protestant materialism.

Also, some conservative Salafist ideas do enjoy support from the Christian clergy. Both Abrahamic faiths are vexed by the concept of Darwinian evolution which they consider a threat to their control over the masses. As I have been rhetorically asked by a Christian Bishop: “Have you seen pottery making the potter or the Iron making the blacksmith? So, how can the simple create the complex? How can man make God as ideological Darwinism proposes? Can machines create man?” These questions remained answered. Didn’t the Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, ask of Darwin: “Is it from his grandmother’s or grandfather’s side that he claims descent from a monkey?”. Basically, revolutionary ideas are not welcome by the orthodox religious establishment. One of these unwelcome ideas is the one described by George Jacob Holyoake as a belief system based on science and rationality that he designated as secularism. To the secular psychoanalyst, Salafism serves to promise post-dated wish fulfillment to the perplexed suffering Sunni masses.

Ethno-Political and Religious Factionalism

The Coastal region of Kenya has witnessed ethnoreligious conflicts and clashes as competing rival groups have been fighting over resources and ethnic (as well as political) interests. This has been compounded by the invasion of Somali pastoralists into Kitui and Taita Taveta which extends the conflicts from the Kenya-Somalia border to the Kenya-Tanzania border. Additionally, this has intensified the existing polarizing Islamist political advocacy in the Coast, Upper Eastern, and North-Eastern regions. This advocacy has empowered Islamist interests to seek to displace the accepted political and socio-religious ethos.

KDF-alShabaab criminal enterprise jubaland geopolitics-press
CREDIT: Business Daily Africa, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group.

HSM has targeted churches and other Christian establishments in Kenya in an attempt to stoke religious conflicts. So far, HSM has refrained from attacking any major Christian congregation in Nairobi, possibly to give dialogue with GoK a chance. There are also popular rumors in Kenya that the Presidency pays protection fees to HSM to avert attacks against the President, his family, and popular churches because such attacks would expose the weakness of GoK. Aside from these rumors, the Kenyan Government has been implicated in collaborative ventures with al-Shabaab to run smuggling and charcoal export operations in Jubbaland. In like manner, this vice of trading with al-Shabaab is not limited to the Kenyan contingent of AMISOM (now ATMIS), but also involves the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) as explained by the witty Charles Onyango Obbo who revealed that UPDF soldiers do sell weapons to al-Shabaab fighters:

There are some Al Shabaab and Amisom roadblocks that are only a few kilometres apart. The soldiers on two sides have reached an understanding on how to tax goods. If a trader arrives with his truck at an Amisom roadblock first, he will pay the boys…The soldiers will shoot in the air in a coded pattern, to alert the Shabaab roadblock that they have already taken their cut. Shabaab then will know how much to extract. If the goods truck arrives at an Al Shabaab roadblock first, the militants will take their bit, and shoot in the air to report to Amisom, who will know how much has been left for them.

Charles Onyango-Obbo – No Talking to Shabaab, Say Leaders; Little Do They Know. Published by The East African, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group.

Regarding ethnic nationalism, ethnonationalism in the Coast region has spawned a secessionist movement, the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC), a movement whose objectives reveal strong Islamist dynamics. Moreover, MRC feels aggrieved because other violent Islamist populations have been rewarded by GoK. The best example is President Kenyatta appointing a Somali, Mohamud Ali Saleh, as the Regional Commissioner for North Eastern Kenya immediately after al-Shabaab killed 148 Kenyans. This placed all security personnel in the region under the command of a Somali, possibly because GoK was scared of a Somali Islamist uprising that would wrestle the region away from government control. This proves the words of Sheikh Aboud Rogo – who was assassinated (probably by state operatives) in August 2012 – that Kenyans will be frightened to surrender to the will of the Mujahideen only if they are attacked and killed. This leads to the following questions: How many Kenyan soldiers have HSM killed so far? Has HSM killed more Kenyan soldiers than the number of mujahideen that have been killed by KDF? Has HSM successfully turned North Eastern Kenyan into the death fields of Kenyan soldiers? What explains the cowardice of GoK to fight HSM and its supporters inside GoK?

President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya has been criticized for cowardice, cluelessness, and incompetence in managing the al-Shabaab threat. CREDIT: France 24.
Mohamud Ali Saleh was appointed by President Kenyatta in May 2015 as the top administrator of the terror-plagued North-Eastern region. Al-Shabaab killed hundreds of Kenyans in April 2015. PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter.
On September 16, 2019, Ibrahim Mohamed, a Somali who had been appointed by Uhuru Kenyatta as Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Defence took over from the outgoing Major General (Retired) Dr. Gordon Kihalangwa. Somali Jihadis have taken advantage of Kenyatta’s regime to kill thousands of Kenyans. CREDIT: KDF via Twitter.
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Dr.Leonard Maingi Kiiyo, 41, of the 9th Kenya Rifles Battalion was among the trio of captured Kenyan soldiers that al-Shabab threatened to execute in 2017. The other 2 KDF PoW are David Ngugi and Alfred Darryl Kilasi who are still in HSM’s captivity. Dr.Kiiyo asked GoK to open negotiations with HSM so that his life can be spared
CREDIT: Twitter via @Terror_Monitor.
The Italian Government negotiated with HSM to secure the release of Silvia Romano, something that would have brought happiness to Kiiyo’s sister, Teresia Ndunge (LEFT), and his mother, Christine Nzilani (RIGHT), had GoK taken the same approach. However, the 2 complained of being frustrated by KDF despite pleading with an uncooperative GoK to save Dr.Maingi.
PHOTO CREDIT: Nation Media Group.

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Out of respect to the family, the body of the slain Dr.Maingi will not be shown. Before his execution, Dr. Kiiyo cursed President Kenyatta for wasting the lives of Kenyans. CREDIT: Twitter via @Terror_Monitor.

HSM has also exploited historical animosities among different tribes and religious communities in the nation to create a security crisis (in order to thin out the security forces) as well as turn communities against the government thus allowing HSM to entrench itself within these (local) communities. In Mpeketoni, HSM pragmatically exploited local politics and historical animosities to conduct a brutal terrorist operation, a fact clearly depicted in their video documentary “No Protection Except by Emaan or Amaan 1Mpeketoni: Reclaiming Back Muslim Lands”.

Adoption of Failed Imported Counter-Terrorism Strategies (CTS)

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Former US Army Special Forces Staff Sergeant, Luke Denman (CIRCLED LEFT) and former Sergeant Airan Berry (CIRCLED RIGHT) are paraded before cameras after he was captured in May 2020. The 2 were among the mercenaries tasked by Silvercorp USA with overthrowing the Government of Nicolás Maduro Moros in Venezuela. PHOTO CREDIT: Daily Mail Online.

Across the world, the Biden administration has been struggling to impose or consolidate American influence. In South America, its allies in Colombia have lately lost the elections just as had happened in Venezuela in 1999 when Hugo Chavez came to power. Even attempts to overthrow the democratically-elected Venezuelan government in 2002, 2019, and later in 2020 in the ill-fated Operation Gideon (Gedeón) organized by Silvercorp USA ended up in failure (despite the support provided by the then USG-allied Colombian Government led by Iván Duque Márquez).

In 2020, America launched a trade war with China that it lost, even inadvertently helping to consolidate Chinese trade inroads into Washington’s backyard of Central America via RCEP.

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American and British governments operated through the Dubai-based, Analysis Research Knowledge (ARK), to soften the image of Jihadis in Syria. CREDIT.

As mentioned already, America’s war on Islamists in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in the Taliban taking over Afghanistan and anti-Washington Shiite politicians gaining power in Iraq. In Syria, America’s attempt to empower the al-Qaeda-laced Syrian rebels and wage comprehensive information warfare on their behalf has ironically resulted in the victory of Bashar al-Assad. Coming to recent events, in Ukraine, the war will be won by Russia despite the coordinated hostile campaign by USG, EU, and NATO to undermine the Russian Federation and its vital interests. Even in Ethiopia, TPLF has been unable to marshall committed American support, and this has caused them to pay a very heavy price in their war against the Government of Abiy Ahmed.

As mentioned earlier, the disastrous American counter-terrorism strategies (CTS) in West Africa – where the people face an intense violent jihadi campaign – have worked to the benefit of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, which have indirectly triggered regime change in Mali and Burkina Faso. Apart from being facile and overly academic in nature, this CTS benefits the Islamist population. When Aboud Rogo told his congregants that Kenya lacks the “intellectual capacity” to win a war against Islamists, he understood that GoK lacks the will to adopt harsh counter-terrorism strategies (CTS) to destroy Somali terrorists, despite successfully defeating them in an earlier war in the 1960s – the Shifta war. Instead, GoK relies on failed CTS exported by USG despite these strategies having failed completely in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Somalia, KDF will ultimately be defeated by al-Shabaab which has brought the war into Kenya. China, Egypt, Iraq, and Algeria declined American CTS when fighting their Islamist insurgencies. This American CTS can be described as facile, academic, and rewarding to Islamist populations that need to be punished severely, even destroyed if possible. Instead, American CTS forces the victimized populations to bear the cost of war while cajoling the hostile populations. Al-Shabaab has prolifically exploited this disastrous CTS to entrench itself inside Kenya.

To understand just how disastrous the Anglo-American counter-terrorism strategy is in Kenya, consider the fact that Kenyan security agencies are pressured to focus on publicizing non-Somalis in al-Shabaab despite Somalis making the clear majority in the group. This explains why the Kenyan National Intelligence Service (NIS) publicly lied that the 2014 Mpeketoni raids were led by a non-Somali, while the victims state that most of the attackers and their leaders were Somalis and Arabs. As explained earlier, this strategy is designed to confuse the public and allow Islamists to root themselves in the region, which is what has happened in Lamu county where hundreds of Kenyan soldiers have been killed since the 2014 Mpeketoni attacks. Kenya may need to abandon this strategy before it loses Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, and Isiolo counties to Islamists.

GoK functionaries in their naivety do not understand why Ethiopia had to seek Soviet assistance to fight the American-backed Somalia government that had invaded Ethiopia (due to Egyptian pressure) in July 1977. If Ethiopia had relied on American help during the Ogaden war, it would have paid a very heavy price. Despite criticism from the deposed monarchy that Ethiopians should have been allied with America, the alliance with the Soviet Union saved Ethiopia. It is the Russians who saved Bashar al-Assad from being overthrown and it is America that let the government of Ashraf Ghani fall to the Taliban. This does not mean that USG is incapable, but it reveals that it is indecisive (as was explained in this previous post).

Domestic Counter-terrorism Strategy

AlShabaab was able to uncover planted assets within its ranks by exploiting its competitive advantage over Kenya’s NIS. CREDIT: Activist Boniface Mwangi via Twitter.

Related to the afore-discussed strategy is the inadequacy of the domestic counter-terrorism strategy as formulated, adopted, and implemented by GoK and its security establishment. This strategy overlooks the fact that Jihadis are waging a war of civilizations, not a local insurgency (though GoK has been blinded by parochial interests, naive policymakers, and the need to guard its corrupt allied Sunni elite).

The domestic counter-terrorism strategy is plagued by poor intelligence, poor coordination across the different security departments, and lax implementation of its better counterterrorism measures. Kenya presently has a largely incompetent intelligence community – made up of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) – that is peculiarly concerned with tangentials. Moreover, it creates and delivers vague reports, an issue that has even vexed the Kenyan police. Moreover, their poorly conceived intelligence reports have been ignored thus hindering the pre-emption of (a small measure of) terror threats. As expected, NIS blames partner security agencies for the failure to prevent terror attacks.

Poor intelligence and lax enforcement of security measures have allowed HSM to successfully deploy entire fighting units into Kenyan soil where they have been able to conduct surprise attacks, and thereafter retreat. This has been exemplified by the recent takeover of entire villages in Garissa and Mandera Counties, as well as the Camp Simba raid that destroyed American aerial assets in Lamu county.

Strangely, GoK and KDF maintain a policy of silence about their losses and stonily reject any attempts to involve the affected Christian communities in counter-terrorism operations. If the martial majority-Christian pastoralist communities such as the Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana were organized into popular counter-terrorism regiments instead of GoK mismanaging resources on ill-conceived anti-stock theft initiatives, Somali terrorism in Northern Kenya could have been contained. These communities do enjoy a youth bulge of committed fighters who are forced into cattle rustling due to hostile government initiatives. It would be better for these youth and the government (and Kenyans in general) if they were organized into voluntary anti-terrorism paramilitary units and then deployed to Isiolo, Wajir, Mandera, and Garissa to fight the Somali terrorists with their payment, incentives, and rewards being the flock captured from the Islamist community and expansive land to graze their animals. Will GoK ever be bold and smart enough to adopt this Bingtuan-like strategy, or are Kenyans doomed to suffer from a naive, inane, and wimpish national elite?

National Politics

The fractious nature of the political process in Kenya, alongside ethnopolitical partisanship among national politicians and political parties, has enabled HSM to exploit the existing ethnic fissures and political wrangles to their advantage.

The ruling political party has prioritized political survival and political cronyism over national security and has thus staffed key security establishments with (largely incompetent) political appointees as well as used the prevailing security crisis to crack down on perceived political opposition by harassing political opponents and dissident voices. Furthermore, the government has ignored valuable intelligence reports provided by partner nations e.g the British had publicly warned in August 2016 that al-Shabaab had deployed units that will threaten aviation assets in Kenya, and in December 2019, the Americans warned (even issued a Notice to Airmen [NOTAM]) that al-Shabaab plans to attack aerial assets in Kenya. These warnings did not trouble HSM which continued to plan and eventually launch their attack on Camp Simba in Lamu on the 5th of January 2020 where they destroyed targeted aerial assets.

Regarding national political parties, none of them is bold enough to confront Islamists within their ranks. This explains why Farah Maalim, a Somali politician who was identified by the Minister of Foreign Affairs as an al-Shabaab supporter, managed to be the Deputy Speaker of the Kenyan parliament – having been sponsored to that post by the Orange Democratic Movement. It was Raila Odinga – working with politicians from the Coastal region – who prevented Farah Maalim from becoming the Speaker of the Senate of Kenya, a position that was clinched by Ekwee David Ethuro. Another prominent Somali lawyer, Ahmednasir Abdullahi – who is a close ally of William Samoei Ruto and has been touted as a potential Attorney General of Kenya – has been accused by activist Boniface Mwangi and lawyer Donald Kipkorir of managing money laundering operations for Somali pirates, bribing Kenyan judges, and offering legal protection to al-Shabaab Mujahideen and other captured Islamist terrorists. Also, pundit Abraham Mutai has called on the Somali politician Aden Duale to provide the list of known terrorists and implored Somalis to stop harboring terrorists within their midst.

On a related issue, prominent Muslim politicians have consistently complained that the national political process is dominated by a strong Protestant Christian ethos that obscures the understanding of Islamic politics. Such pronouncements are made in bad faith and their intent is to manipulate the national political discourse to their (Islamist) advantage.

Equally, GoK is unable to accept that its war against HSM in al-Shabaab is not faring well and that Somalis in those regions rarely reciprocate good deeds as was evidenced in Gherille where 10 Kenyan soldiers were killed and 5 injured. Professor James ole Kiyiapi ended up publicly castigating KDF for desiring for the fatalities to die incognito. GoK needs to be open about who the enemies of Kenyans are, even if it agitates a few naive and corrupt officials within the government.

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KDF provides relief food to starving Somalis in Gherille on May 11, 2021. PHOTO CREDIT: KDF via Twitter.
Gherille KDF alshabaab geopolitics-press
Kenyan Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) tactical vehicle that ran over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and killed Kenyan soldiers in Gherille in March 2022. PHOTO CREDIT: Abuga Makori.
Former presidential candidate, James Ole Kiyiapi, complains about the KDF concealing details of its fatalities in the war against Islamism. His brother was killed in the IED attack in Gherille in March 2022. CREDIT: Twitter.


Corruption has played a significant role in ensuring that HSM survives economically in Kenya besides hindering the dismantlement of its infrastructure in the nation. Kenya Police Service (KPS) officers and Border Patrol Unit officers have been implicated in instances of corruption that have allowed HSM agents to infiltrate the nation as well as gain territorial depth.

The existence of espionage cells within Kenya’s security forces cannot be discounted as it is a well-known fact that HSM has used its money to buy the allegiance of several security officers as well as compromise critical terror-related investigations besides gaining vital intelligence concerning the state of Kenya’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Al-Shabaab has repeatedly conducted successful counter-intelligence operations among its ranks, sympathizers, and subjects; and they have been able to untangle espionage cells as well as disrupt the flow of intelligence to counter-terrorism forces.  It is quite probable that double agents within Kenya assisted HSM in the disentanglement of these espionage cells. This was quite important for al-Shabaab as it helped it simultaneously fight against the counter-terrorism alliance and Islamic State in Somalia.

In the last quarter of 2015, Abū Maysarah Ash-Shāmi, an emissary of the Islamic State to Somalia, and later chief editor of Dabiq magazine, issued a stern warning to HSM via Ansar al-Khilafah Media, to stop its assassination campaign against ISIS members in Somalia. By January 2016, al-Shabaab had killed over 40 ISIS mujahideen including Abu Nu’man Al-Yintari, Hussein Abdi Gedi, Muhammad Makawi, and Abdulahi Yusuf.

Economics and Poverty

Radicalization of the Muslim youth has largely been facilitated by poverty and unemployment. Unemployed poor youth are plagued by idleness and have lots of free time that allows them to attend Islamist lectures where they are indoctrinated in violent Wahabbi or takfiri ideologies. Moreover, radical clerics and Islamist politicians have exploited the existing poverty and paid young men to conduct surveillance and terror attacks as proxies.

In the North-Eastern region, economic competition and toxic business practices have seen clans and businesspeople cooperate with al-Shabaab to counter business competition as well as sustain their smuggling networks. In Mandera, businesspeople have hired al-Shabaab militants to ruin their business rivals as well as safeguard their market monopolies.

Constitutional Constraints

The constitution of Kenya limits the effectiveness of intelligence collection and utilization. Bureaucracy has also slowed the flow and sharing of intelligence information among security services. Furthermore, poor handling of terror-related cases has allowed shrewd lawyers to secure the release of most terror suspects.

Hassan Mahad Omar showed defiance in Court in April 2015 after 148 Kenyans were killed by al-Shabaab. He was sanctioned by the UN as a transnational terrorist on July 28, 2011, but still continued to operate freely in Kenya, lending credence to claims that al-Shabaab has deeply infiltrated KPS and NIS to the level that it can openly protect its assets under GoK noses. PHOTO CREDIT: The Nation, a subsidiary of Nation Media Group.

The constitution has legal loopholes that have been exploited by HSM and most importantly by its ideologues to spread their takfiri ideology. Hassan Mahad Omar of Masjid-ul-Axmar has been arrested several times but has always managed to secure his freedom by exploiting legal loopholes. He was freed to continue spreading Salafi-Wahhabi doctrines as well as foment intra-Islamic squabbles despite the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) corroborating that he was involved in the Garissa University College attack that killed 148 Kenyans. In 2019, GoK tried to ban some Somali clerics known for promoting the Salafi-Takfiri creed including the aforementioned Sheikh Hassan Mahad Omar (Mahat) and Sheikh Hassan Hussein Adam. These two clerics were among the extremists sanctioned in September 2019 and subject to assets freeze by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Three other notable Salafists that were sanctioned are 2 Egyptians based in Kenya – Moustafa Ali Elbishy and Abd Al Wakil, along with Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi, a Somali from Somalia who is based in Mombasa. They joined Waleed Ahmed Zein and Halima Adan Ali on the OFAC sanction list. Also, sanctioned was Al-Haramain “Humanitarian” Foundation. The fact that Mahad Omar continued to operate freely after the Garissa University College attack reveals the impotence of GoK.

Regional Instability

An unstable Somalia allows HSM to regroup, reorganize and re-strategize. The Somali National Army (SNA) is weak and non-committal to regional security. HSM is qualitatively more powerful and better organized than SNA, and this fact has allowed it (HSM) to establish operational bases in areas under SNA administration. KDF’s raw incompetence in Somalia has also allowed HSM to establish bases in the Gedo region from where they ambush and kill Kenyan soldiers.

Al-Shabaab Military Capabilities and Strategies

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War Flag of HSM. CREDIT: Wikipedia.

This section warrants an entire post, but provided hereunder is a synopsis of the combat capacity of al-Shabaab.

The core combat strength of Al-Shabaab is estimated to be between 8,000 to 15,000 fighters, most of them being Somali mujahideen. HSM has intelligence and media arms that assist the core combat units to project power besides conducting information warfare. The group has also received reinforcements from Ansar al Mujahideen – a legion of foreign fighters originating (mostly) from Kenya, Tanzania, the Comoros Islands, and the Somali diaspora. There also exist Afghan, Arab and European fighters in the rank and file of the terror group. Its military strategies are strongly grounded on Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, and Afghani mujahedeen insurgency doctrines.

Its leadership is increasingly decentralized as the current emir, Ahmad Umar (alias Abu Ubaidah), seeks to conserve the group’s manpower through pre-empting internal conflicts, as well as allowing regional commanders to utilize their own initiative to manage local operations. This decentralization of power has served as an effective pressure valve against internal factionalism, intra-leadership wrangles, and defections and desertions that would have otherwise fundamentally eroded its inherent military capabilities. Additionally, HSM always strives to constantly reinvent itself so as to demonstrate its lethality in Somalia and Kenya, and sometimes in Tanzania.

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Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, head of Amniyaat and deputy leader of HSM, in an interview with Jamal Osman in Jilib, Somalia. CREDIT: Channel 4 News via YouTube.

The latest documentary titled, Inside Al Shabaab: The Extremist Group Trying to Seize Somalia – which is attributed to Jamal Osman of Channel 4 News – confirms that al-Shabaab seeks military victory in Somalia akin to the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan. Moreover, the head of Amniyaat (the intelligence arm of HSM), Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame aka Mahad Karate, confirmed that HSM seeks a non-democratic, Sharia-ruled Somalia. Interestingly, he did not unflinchingly reject negotiations to end the current violence in Somalia, though he justified civilian casualties in al-Shabaab attacks.

HSM Campaign against Kenya.

The fall of Kismayo to KDF led to the stalling of the counter-terrorism offensive as AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) troops and KDF sought to consolidate their gains in light of constant Al-Shabaab retaliatory raids, ambushes, and conventional counter-offensives. The stalling of the operations allowed Al-Shabaab to regroup, conduct post-combat damage assessments, reorganize and thereafter realign their strategies as per the available resources and opportunities. This proved critical to the insurgents because in 2013, they were able to successfully mount bold offensives against AMISOM troops. KDF offensives against Al-Shabaab in Lower and Middle Juba regions achieved limited success as HSM still maintained military bases in the region. In fact, Jilib in Middle Juba is only 98 kilometers away from Kismayo by air, and it serves as HSM’s de facto capital. To keep Jilib, al-Shabaab has defeated KDF in several battle engagements. In October 2016, KDF publicly stated that it will capture Jilib, but it was defeated and later suffered a devastating blow in January 2017 when al-Shabaab overran the KDF combat base in Kulbiyow. To date, KDF soldiers and Kenyan policemen who have been taken captive by al-Shabaab are kept in Jilib.

In 2013, Al-Shabaab’s internal purge eliminated several pragmatic and experienced fighters from HSM ranks thus exposing the group’s core to ruination. Leading jihadists such as Abdul Hamid Hashi Olhayi and Ibrahim al-Afghani were killed alongside 200 Amniyaat operatives whose nationalist persuasion proved a liability to the Islamist group. Although the purge left HSM as a smaller fighting unit, it nonetheless left it more unified and resolute, as well as less vulnerable to espionage. Moreover, its revenue stream was unaffected thus assuring HSM of greater financial and operational flexibility. Most importantly, the purge allowed the more extreme elements to dominate the leadership and decision-making bodies of HSM, and the resulting change of Concept of Operations (ConOps) brought forth brutal and ruthless terror tactics that would see HSM kill both Muslims and non-Muslims with abandon. Its most devastating attack occurred on October 14, 2017, at Soobe junction when a truck that had been partly financed for by Hormuud Telecom carried a lethal cargo of explosives that were to be blown at either an AMISOM, FGS, or SNA target. However, the driver detonated the bomb prematurely at a busy road intersection that is near the building housing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and ended up killing 587 people and injuring more than 1,000. The name of the junction was later changed to October 14 Junction to commemorate this attack.

In the aftermath of the bomb blast in Mogadishu on October 14, 2017, Al-Shabaab refused to claim credit for this attack, and neither did the Islamic State (claim the credit). PHOTO CREDIT: The Guardian.

In mid-2013, Western Intelligence agencies warned Kenya that HSM planned to intensify its terror campaign against the country. Their assessment proved right as in September 2013, HSM operatives executed the infamous Westgate Mall attack. The Westgate Mall attack alongside the April 2015 Garissa University College Attack did expose Kenya’s security agencies to international ridicule besides revealing the poor security posture of the country. This was to worsen in 2020 when al-Shabaab successfully breached a supposedly secure facility in Camp Simba in Lamu and killed several of its American personnel.

Al-Shabaab has presently refocused its attention on Kenya as evidenced by the consistent release of audio-visual content geared toward the Kenyan UmmahIn March 2013, Ahmed Abdi Godane urged Kenyan Muslims (in an audio message) to boycott the elections and in turn wage war against KDF. In May 2014, HSM declared that its external focus was fully on Kenya. Days later, on June 10, 2014, Al-Shabaab-affiliated gunmen assassinated Sheikh Mohammed Idriss, the then chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), thus helping advance the takfiri discourse in mainstream Islam in the Coast region. In North-East Kenya, al-Shabaab has killed hundreds of non-Somalis as it seeks to cleanse them from the area and purify the region as Dar-al-Islam. It has gotten help from cowardly approaches by GoK which sought to placate the Somali community.

Al-Shabaab fighters showcase a campaign vehicle they commandeered from Mandera. This vehicle was paraded in Jilib which falls under the area of responsibility of the KDF contingent of ATMIS. CREDIT: AKFMP.

Al-Qaeda Central (AQC) has also assisted HSM in its operations in the country, usually through al Muhajiroun. Both al-Qaeda and HSM seek to prolong the lifespan of the Islamist insurgency in Kenya, as well as enable al-Qaeda to project its power deeper into East Africa. This strategy serves AQC well as it thins out the security forces thus limiting concerted and dedicated counter-terrorism operations in Somalia. Equally, AQC is losing influence in Yemen to the Shia Houthi militants.

Al-Shabaab ’s Media Front.

HSM conducts its public relations through a competent media front spearheaded by the Al-Kataib Foundation for Media Productions (AKFMP) and the website SomaliMemo. Other media websites owned by al-Shabaab are Calamada and Radio Al-Furqaan, but these two websites are targeted toward a Somali-speaking audience, though Calamada mirrors content published in SomaliMemo. Additionally, its slick magazines – Gaidi Mtaani (Terrorist in the Estate) and Amka (Arise) – have proved useful in the dissemination of jihadist ideology. These magazines are visually powerful, professionally edited, and their content feature well-argued commentaries, as well as eloquent denunciations of Kenya’s security policies. To top it up, they include comedy sections that ridicule the Kenyan electoral system, GoK, and the establishment clerics.

Gaidi Mtaani in particular had adept writers well versed in Kenya’s history and its polito-religious dynamics, as well as a commendable grasp on regional geopolitics as evidenced by their commentaries and assessments of Kenya’s national security policies along with the nation’s foreign policies. Its writers have even described Kenya as a “rented state” where foreign powers use the political elite as their proxies to exploit the native population. The magazine also featured essays that argued that Al-Shabaab’s terrorist campaign in Kenya is a modern equivalent of Kenya’s struggle for independence from colonialists. This viewpoint resonates well with MRC which considers the Kenyan government as an occupier colonial entity. Moreover, the magazine writers have eloquently fused domestic issues, “historical injustices”, ethnopolitical animosities, and transnational jihad into a single cohesive and lively creed that can be presented in a nuanced form to its audience. HSM has proved itself adept at formatting an international message into a palatable piece of information for the local audience. This has enabled it to broadcast the message of al-Qaeda to a naive local audience. At times, Al-Qaeda’s media arm, the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), can co-publish video, audio, and text content with Al-Shabaab’s media outlets, or republish their content for reach optimization. Another Arabic language website that republishes content is al-Somal al-Yaum.

Gaidi Mtaani, 9th edition.
Pages 6 and 7 of Gaidi Mtaani 5th Edition show the outcomes of HSM’s ambushes on AMISOM troops and the support it receives from the Somali civilian population. This magazine can be downloaded from the Somalia Newsroom website.

During the Tet Offensive, the Viet Cong (VC) irregulars attacked the American Embassy and engaged elite American fighters in a 6-hour gunfight that the VC lost despite inflicting fatalities on the Americans. However, this incident paved the way to victory for the VC and their North Vietnamese allies, thus bringing an end to the 20-year-long Vietnam war. This strange outcome was underpinned by the role of the visual media i.e television and photojournalism in broadcasting images and video feeds of live fighting inside the American Embassy. These images roused the American public to oppose the war in South Vietnam, which worked in favor of the VC and its allies. As mentioned previously, “Small asymmetric wars are lost by Democracies at Home and rarely on the Battlefield“, and the American political defeat in Vietnam exemplifies this. Will this happen to Kenya?

5 alShabaab killed in manda camp simba geopolitics-press
The bodies of 5 al-Shabaab fighters who were killed on January 5, 2020, after they raided Camp Simba in Manda Bay. CREDIT: CTNSIS.

AlShabaab does understand the power of the media but it fails to harness it well. Attacking civilian targets attracts condemnation, but attacking fortified military targets such as Camp Simba attracts praise and admiration, even from its rivals and nemeses. In Camp Simba in Manda Bay, about 30 al-Shabaab fighters engaged over 100 American combat personnel, along with Kenyan soldiers and special forces, in a pre-dawn gunfight that led to al-Shabaab losing 5 fighters while the Americans lost 3 personnel and aerial assets worth millions of dollars. What was missing was the media to live-stream the raid, because this would have given HSM the combat credo that the Taliban enjoyed after they raided the American-run Bagram Air Base on December 11, 2019 (just 25 days before al-Shabaab raided Camp Simba). If al-Shabaab had live-streamed the attack, the outcomes would be different depending on how the news was received by the Kenyan and American audiences.

Equally, there exists the possibility that al-Shabaab can record and broadcast phone calls made by Kenyan PoW(s) to their family members where they ask their families in Kenya to call for the withdrawal of KDF from Somalia in order for their lives to be spared. To top it up, al-Shabaab can clarify that KDF will eventually withdraw and thus the lives of the executed PoW would be wasted in vain.

Key Al-Shabaab Figures and Targets Related to the Islamist Insurgency in Kenya

There are 5 key figures who command, organize, and appraise al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya. They are:

Ahmad Iman Ali in 2015 in Somalia. CREDIT: AKFMP.
  1. Ahmed Iman Ali: He was appointed as head of Al-Hijra, Al-Shabaab’s official affiliate in Kenya. He cut his teeth as the head of the Muslim Youth Center (MYC) which ran a rudimentary media arm composed of a weekly newsletter called al-Misbah, a defunct Twitter account @MYC_Press, and a free host-managed blog at themovingcaravan.wordpress.com. He was also an active member of the radical wing of youth who had taken control of the Pumwani Riyadha Mosque. He later emigrated to Somalia as part of al-Hijra fighters who wanted to engage in the kinetic war. In Somalia, he quickly rose up in the rank of al-Shabaab and was even touted as one of the future deputy leaders of HSM. He was born in Nairobi in 1974 and graduated as an engineer from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and was a notable pietist.
  2. Sheikh Hassan Mahad Omar: He continues to advocate for Somalis to pursue Jihad and fight against secularism. He holds Kenyan citizenship.
  3. Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame: He was born in Xarardheere, Somalia, but he cut his teeth in jihadi advocacy in Nairobi alongside Ahmed Iman Ali. He currently leads Amniyaat and is expected to inherit the mantle of leadership of HSM from Ahmed “Diriye” Umar. In February 2016, KDF claimed to have killed him, but this was proven false.
  4. Ahmad “Abu Ubaidah” Umar: He is the current leader of HSM, having been elected to the position by the Somali ulema after the assassination of Ahmed Abdi Godane, alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair, on September 1, 2014, following a successful targetted assassination.
  5. Maalim Salman Ali: He was born in 1980 in Nairobi, Kenya, and has headed the African foreign fighters department of HSM since he was appointed to that post by Ahmed Abdi Godane. The American security establishment regards him as one of the key trainers of muhajiroun fighters who are tasked with attacking targets outside Somalia, particularly Kenya. He is considered as one of the key figures in Jaysh Ayman, an al-Shabaab detachment that operates in Lamu, Garissa, Wajir, Mandera, and Tana River.
Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame with newly graduated fighters donning combat fatigues and loaded magazine pouches. CREDIT: AKFMP.
Ahmed Umar Diriye Abu Ubaidah geopolitics-press
Ahmad Umar. CREDIT: AKFMP.
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Newly graduated al-Shabaab fighters. In the background is the war flag of HSM. CREDIT: AKFMP.

Al-Shabaab’s Targets

They can be divided into civilian and non-civilian targets.

Civilian targets

Madrid train bombings killed 193 people and led to the electoral defeat of the incumbent José María Aznar 3 days later. PHOTO CREDIT: Reddit.
  • Transport Resources such as buses and trains. They are also likely to use vehicle-bound improvised explosive devices (VBIED) or individual suicide bombers to blow up bus stages particularly when such areas are congested with passengers. They can also lob grenades into passenger vehicles, which has happened in the Eastleigh estate of Kamukunji, Nairobi. Al-Shabaab will seek to disrupt passenger and freight transport on Madaraka Express, which is Kenya’s flagship railway project. Bomb attacks and mass shootings will target passenger DMU (diesel mobile unit) carriages, while ambushes along the standard gauge railway (SGR) will target trains in transit. Moreover, like the Fulani jihadis (described as herdsmen bandits by the Nigerian government) who conducted the Abuja–Kaduna train attack on March 28, 2022; al-Shabaab can blow up SGR tracks, ambush stalled trains, and kidnap their passengers. In Nairobi, al-Shabaab can target the commuter rail service that plies between the City Centre and Syokimau. Didn’t al-Qaeda’s coordinated and well-timed attacks against the commuter rail system of Cercanías Madrid rouse the Spanish electorate to vote for a government that would withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq? The attack happened just 3 days before the March 14, 2004, Spanish general elections, and it killed 193 people and led to the defeat of the incumbent José María Aznar by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. This defeat can aptly be described as an “unprecedented electoral upset” because Aznar was projected to win just before the al-Qaeda attacks. Can a similar attack happen in Kenya and cause an unprecedented electoral upset in the August 2022 polls?
  • Government assets, including large buildings, oil facilities, telecommunication, and aviation assets.
  • Commercial assets such as malls, shopping centers, restaurants, clubs, and fuel filling stations. Westgate Mall and Dusit D2 were both commercial assets targetted by HSM, and their cumulative death toll is 90 dead.
  • Churches especially those located along the Coastal strip of Kenya and those bordering the North-Eastern region. The few churches in Garissa have been victims of HSM and local Somali allies.
  • Education centers, especially faith-based (Christian) schools, state-owned tertiary institutions, and privately-owned (by non-Muslim) educational institutions. Garissa University College attack targetted a state-owned tertiary education facility.
  • Prominent personalities are also a priority target. HSM had already expressed its intention to assassinate the President and prominent politicians. It is fathomable that HSM may order its suicide bombers to drive VBIEDs into packed campaign rallies to maximize the human death toll of such attacks.
  • Public gatherings are considered legitimate targets by HSM. It is possible that it can detonate a fuel truck in a crowded area in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, or any major Kenyan town in order to devastate the area and shock the populace.

So far, HSM has not attempted to conduct mass poisoning in hotels, schools, and hospitals, though it has been implicated in smuggling expired drugs and processed packaged food into Kenya.

Non-civilian Targets

  • Police stations.
  • Military patrols.
  • Military bases.

HSM Tactics

This deserves a full post of its own, but this section will summarize the combat tactics used by al-Shabaab. HSM has evolved various tactics and adapted them to specific environments and situations as listed below:

A car bomb that was used by a Somali terrorist is inspected outside Pangani Police Station. PHOTO CREDIT: Reuters via BBC.
  • Hostage-Siege: HSM has used hostage-siege to execute mass casualty attacks as well as gain infamy. Hostage-sieges are conducted against confined built-up infrastructures that house a significant number of people.
  • Suicide Attack: This tactic is used to attack fortified military bases and police stations (for instance, the Pangani police station attack of April 2014).
  • Bombings: This is used to attack crowded places.
  • Kidnapping: HSM has conducted mass abduction campaigns in Somalia, and has extended these abduction campaigns into Kenya where they have kidnapped police officers, doctors, civilians, and government officers.
  • Ambushes: These are mainly targeted on military convoys or military-protected civilian convoys. HSM has also ambushed civilian transport resources in Mandera as well as ambushed quarry workers in the same county. HSM will continue to conduct ambushes because of its publicity value, as well as the potential to disrupt the normal way of life in a region besides creating a security crisis and an atmosphere of fear/despair.
  • Assassination: This tactic is used to eliminate prominent politicians, personalities, Christian clerics, and Muslim clerics opposed to their ideology.

Al-Shabaab Locations in Kenya.

Al-Shabaab maintains a presence, including an armed combat-ready presence, in the following counties:

dead alshabaab fighter KDF rangers geopolitics-press
Somali jihadi dressed in SNA uniform killed in Boni Forest in Lamu by troops from the Joint Task Force drawn from the Rapid Deployment Unit and the Border Patrol Unit. PHOTO CREDIT: Twitter.
  • Lamu: This is the most kinetic theater of operation where HSM has established a permanent foothold in Boni Forest. From its stronghold in Northern Lamu, al-Shabaab jihadis have been able to attack Mpeketoni, Witu, Pandanguo, Hindi, and Kiunga in Lamu, as well as launch raids into Tana River county where they are usually supported by Somali and Orma pastoralists who desire to evict Christian populations from the area. Among the suspected terrorist kingpins in Lamu are former Governor Issa Timmamy, Mohammed Omar Ali, and Abdalla Mohammed Adalla. Several Arab and Somali ranch owners in Lamu are known for hosting, feeding, and aiding al-Shabaab jihadis in their attacks.
  • Mombasa: HSM operatives and supporters are majorly concentrated in Majengo, Kisauni and Bondeni areas; and specifically in areas neighboring Masjid Musa, Masjid Guraya, Masjid Shuhadaa, and Masjid Mlango wa Papa.
  • Nairobi: They are mainly concentrated in Eastleigh and Majengo areas. HSM also maintains terror cells in Hurlingham, South B, and South C, and has recently strived to establish cells in Fedha and Utawala, as well as Athi River in neighboring Machakos County. Moreover, Eastleigh and Majengo areas are home to many ex-fighters who defected from HSM in Somalia. Most of them are still unemployed and they may be exploited – due to their combat experience and training – to conduct proxy attacks on behalf of Islamists (not necessarily HSM). They can consider this a way of securing a halal source of income. Additionally, HSM runs successful real estate businesses in Nairobi through proxies, which allows them to easily provide safe houses to Jihadis plotting attacks in the city.
  • Garissa: HSM runs several businesses in the town as well as uses proxies to conduct espionage of KDF and Kenyan security forces’ activities in the area. HSM is also involved in local politics.
  • Mandera: Mandera has many HSM sympathizers, and local influential leaders have used HSM to conduct attacks on their competitors, thus inevitably allowing HSM to infiltrate the body politic of the county. Governor Ali Roba has been implicated in assisting HSM to destroy Safaricom assets in the county, mainly masts and base transceiver stations.
  • Wajir: The town has suffered Islamist attacks which indicate the presence of active HSM operatives (and their allies) in the town and surrounding areas.
  • South Coast regions: HSM maintains sleeper cells and agent provocateurs in areas plagued with MRC activities, including Kwale, Malindi, and Kilifi counties. Also, with the recent invasion of Kitui and Taita Taveta by Somali pastoralists, al-Shabaab attacks are to be expected soon.


This deserves an entire post, but what follows are some practical recommendations in point form.

  • Protect the homeland by degrading known terrorist infrastructure in the country.
  • Confiscate properties of known terrorists, their supporters, and benefactors so as to disrupt illicit financing of terrorism and burst the financial infrastructure that keeps HSM alive in Kenyan urban centers.
  • Enhance security vigilance in crowded soft targets such as shopping malls, churches, restaurants, outdoor events, bus parks, and political rallies.
  • There is an urgent need to review the national counter-terrorism strategy with a view to implementing pragmatic security measures. The security measures must be as tough as possible for the populations that host HSM. The best template for national counter-terrorism strategies can be found in Chinese and Israeli CTS. Chinese CTS is the best because it is the most successful, especially its re-education policy which even the Americans grudgingly admit that it has been exceptionally successful in destroying the Uyghur Islamist concept of a state inside a state.
  • Kenya needs to understand that Anglo-American CTS are purposely designed to fail while increasing the social, economic, and security costs/burden to the host nations and terrorized population. For this reason, alternative CTS must be studied with the goal of creating a bespoke CTS to pacify the disturbed regions.
  • Mobilize popular support for counterterrorism efforts and security initiatives, as well as create security awareness among civilians.
  • Tackle corruption, especially among the security forces.
  • Reform the Kenya Police, KDF, and the intelligence agencies – including overhauling entire departments staffed by unskilled, incompetent, and inept officers. If these inept officials must be kept due to political expediency, then there should be a system to bypass them in decision-making and policy-making processes.
  • Strengthening enforcement of relevant legislations alongside consolidating the National Intelligence Service Act, besides conducting efficient surveillance on terror suspects and their associates and benefactors.
  • Change the demography of North-Eastern Kenya. In the early 2000s, Uyghurs wanted to evict Han Chinese from Xinjiang which forced the Chinese government to arm the Han farmers in the region and resettle new armed Han farmers by rewarding them with large land grants. In return, the farmers formed an armed popular militia to fight terrorists in the region. This concept is called the Bingtuan System, and it has served to reduce the burden on the PLA stationed in Xinjiang while simultaneously destroying the Islamist terrorist infrastructure and making the region socio-economically productive. Basically, this Bingtuan System is the only profitable CTS concept ever conceived i.e the nation gains an exponentially high return on investment. As mentioned previously, resettling armed Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana pastoralists in North Eastern Kenya serves the dual purpose of ending conflicts among these tribes while providing GoK with a reliable militia force that pacifies the region. Basically, this strategy will cement peace among these 3 tribes thus reducing the security cost in Rift Valley, while making these united communities a patriotic counter-Islamist frontier population just like the Russian Empire used the warlike Cossacks as its frontier population by awarding them land grants in troubled border regions with the Ottoman Caliphate. This Russian policy effectively stopped Muslim slave raids that were depopulating Southern Russia and devastating its Christian communities.
  • For this aforementioned recommended policy to work, GoK needs to weed out Islamists within its bureaucracy and moles inside KDF, NPS, and NIS. If GoK lacks the boldness, then a constitutional mechanism must be availed to remove that government through a motion of No Confidence.
  • Enhance border security through increased patrols and the use of access-control barriers in areas used by terrorists to infiltrate the country.


[1] Sheikh Abu-Yahya Al-Libi Raid – Storming the Kenyan Crusaders’ Base, El-Adde – The Islamic Wilayah of Gedo.

[2] Tallett, Frank, and Nicholas Atkin, eds. Religion, Society and Politics in France since 1789. A&C Black, 1991.

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  1. This is my report. Why I am I being exploited and paid peanuts and this report entails every information that I wrote. Whoever is doing this is not fair. The only thing you have removed is my contact details.