Horn of Africa

Download the Horn of Africa Daily News Summary for May 31, 2013.

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AL-SHABAAB IN KENYA

 

BLUF: Al-Shabaab has increased its activity in Kenya in recent weeks as it flees Somalia.

 

OBSERVED:  For years now, Somalia has been a threat to peace and prosperity in East Africa. Somalia is home to Al-Shabaab, a terrorist splinter group that has been hanging on for control in the war torn country of the Horn of Africa. The combined efforts of Ethiopian, Kenyan, and Ugandan troops have chased Al-Shabaab out of many Somali cities and towns. Most recently, the port city of Kismayo has returned to Somali control as many Al-Shabaab rebels have been forced further south. As the situation in Somalia continues to improve, a flare of violence has risen in neighboring Kenya.

Leaders of the rebel group are one cause of the increase in violence. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, in a statement on an Islamist website, urged Somalia’s al Shabaab insurgents to fight back against what he called “crusader invaders” after Kenyan forces forced them out of their last urban bastion. In the 3 weeks following al-Zawahri’s statement, terrorist attacks within Kenya’s borders have increased in number. Al-Zawahri also linked Kenyan forces to America, saying that America is the force behind Kenyan “crusaders”.

Earlier this month, a bomb tore through a minibus in Nairobi’s Somali-dominated Eastleigh neighborhood, killing six people in an attack highlighting the security risks Kenya faces because of its intervention in Somalia. The force of the explosion left only the charred skeleton of the minibus. The windows of a nearby cafe were shattered and two other cars were damaged. More than two dozen people were injured in the attack.

Just a few weeks ago, another attack took place in Northern Kenya. Somalia’s al-Shabaab fighters briefly took control of a small town on the border with Kenya in a battle that left at least 12 people dead. The Shabaab attacked the town from three directions and penetrated the barracks of the Somali troops after heavy fighting. They briefly took control of the town but were later forced back.

The Kenyan government has said that it will improve security to ensure that the citizens are safe. Armed cattle raiders killed at least 32 Kenyan police officers in a military-style ambush in mid November. The attack exposed how ill-equipped Kenya’s police force is as it faces challenges on several fronts, including a presidential election next March. Kenyan police say that they too will meet the security needs and work to keep Kenyans safe from further attacks.

 

ASSESMENT: 

[+] The United States has been watching the situation in East Africa closely as Somalia has become a center point in the war on terror. With the spread of violence transitioning to other nearby countries, the United States has an opportunity to form stronger alliances in the region, with countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, in order to meet the challenges coming forth from Al-Shabaab rebels. As violence spreads in the region, these countries may look to the United States for guidance, ideas, or support.

 

[-]Kenya is one of the most stable countries in the East African region. If terrorist attacks and violence begin to take their toll on Kenya’s government and people, the stability that exists may weaken and diminish.

 

[-] While their influence in Somalia is dwindling, Al-Shabaab rebels are gaining influence in other countries. The United States may have to devote more resources to the region than are currently being given. As many thought the East African conflict was coming to a close, this new spark of violence across the region may lead governments and leaders to reassess the situation, and alter the plans moving forward.

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