Somalia militants break ties with US jihadist

Updated 17 December 2012
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Somalia militants break ties with US jihadist

NAIROBI, Kenya: Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shabab militants said Monday they had broken ties with a US extremist who rose to fame for his rap videos urging fellow Americans to join him to fight.
Omar Hamami — better known as Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki (the American) — was once viewed as a key foreign leader within the Shabab, and was placed last month on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.
But the Shabab on Monday accused Amriki of “spreading discord and disunity” among the insurgents, following video release and statements from the 28-year-old alleging he had been threatened by fellow fighters.
“Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki does not, in any way, shape or form, represent the views of the mujahedeen in Somalia,” a statement posted via a link on the Shabab’s Twitter site read.

The “superficial allegations” made in the videos and statements are “the results of personal grievances that stem purely from a narcissistic pursuit of fame,” the statement added.

Amriki, who grew up in the town of Daphne in Alabama, was raised by a southern Baptist mother with Irish roots and a Muslim father with a Syrian background.
Reportedly based in anarchic Somalia since late 2006, he has issued previous videos calling for foreign recruits, including singing rap songs praising jihad, despite the fact that the Shabab ban music under their strict interpretation of Islam.
Amriki had previously been seen as a leader for foreign fighters in the Shabab, alongside top Somali commanders Muktar Robow and Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys.
But the Shabab, while saying they still welcomed foreign fighters, dismissed Amriki’s importance.
“The jihadi theater nevertheless accommodates people of all sorts. Some, above others, occasionally rise to prominence often with little merit save for their uniqueness,” the statement read.
“Contrary to portraits of the grand strategist, recruiter and fundraiser portrayed by the Western media, Abu Mansur Al-Amriki does not hold any position of authority.”
The Shabab are on the back foot having lost a string of key towns in recent months to African Union forces, Somali troops and Ethiopian soldiers.


US builds drone base in Niger, crossroads of extremism fight

Updated 3 min 56 sec ago
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US builds drone base in Niger, crossroads of extremism fight

AGADEZ: On the scorching edge of the Sahara Desert, the US Air Force is building a base for armed drones, the newest front in America’s battle against the growing extremist threat in Africa’s vast Sahel region.
Three hangars and the first layers of a runway command a sandy, barren field. Niger Air Base 201 is expected to be functional early next year. The base, a few miles outside Agadez and built at the request of Niger’s government, will eventually house fighter jets and MQ-9 drones transferred from the capital Niamey. The drones, with surveillance and added striking capabilities, will have a range enabling them to reach a number of West and North African countries.
Few knew of the American military’s presence in this desperately poor, remote West African country until October, when an ambush by Daesh group-linked extremists killed four US soldiers and five Nigeriens.
The $110 million project is the largest troop labor construction project in US history, according to Air Force officials. It will cost $15 million annually to operate.
Citing security reasons, no official will say how many drones will be housed at the base or whether more US personnel will be brought to the region. Already the US military presence here is the second largest in Africa behind the sole permanent US base on the continent, in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti.
The drones at the base are expected to target several different Al-Qaeda and Daesh group-affiliated fighters in countries throughout the Sahel, a sprawling region just south of the Sahara, including the area around Lake Chad, where the Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgency has spread.
As the US puts drones at the forefront of the fight against extremists, some worry that civilians will be mistaken for fighters.
“We are afraid of falling back into the same situation as in Afghanistan, with many mistakes made by American soldiers who did not always know the difference between a wedding ceremony and a training of terrorist groups,” said Amadou Roufai, a Nigerien administration official.
Civic leader Nouhou Mahamadou also expressed concerns.
“The presence of foreign bases in general and American in particular is a serious surrender of our sovereignty and a serious attack on the morale of the Nigerien military,” he said.
The number of US military personnel in Niger has risen over the past few years from 100 to 800, the second largest concentration in Africa after the 4,000 in Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. About 500 personnel are working on the new air and drone base and the base camp is marked with an American and Nigerien flag.
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are crucial in the fight against extremism, US Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho said.
“The location in Agadez will improve US Africa Command’s capability to facilitate intelligence-sharing that better supports Niger and other partner nations, such as Nigeria, Chad, Mali and other neighbors in the region and will improve our capability to respond to regional security issues,” Reho said.
The intelligence gathered by the drones can be used by Niger and other US partners for prosecuting extremists, said Commander Brad Harbaugh, who is in charge of the new base.
Some in Niger welcome the growing US military presence in the face of a growing extremist threat in the region.
“Northern Mali has become a no man’s land, southern Libya is an incubator for terrorists and northeastern Nigeria is fertile ground for Boko Haram’s activities ... Can Niger alone ensure its own security? I think not. No country in the world can today alone fight terrorism,” said Souleymane Abdourahmane, a restaurant promoter in the capital, Niamey.
Threats include Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Mali and Burkina Faso, Daesh group-affiliated fighters in Niger, Mali and Nigeria and the Nigeria-based Boko Haram. They take advantage of the vast region’s widespread poverty and countries’ often poorly equipped security forces.
Foreigners, including a German aid worker kidnapped this month in Niger, have been targeted as well.
The US military’s use of armed drones comes as its special forces pull back from the front lines of the fight. The focus is changing to advising and assisting local partners higher up the chain of command, said US Special Command Africa commander Maj. Gen. Marcus Hicks.
Ibrahim Maiga, a Mali-based researcher for the Institute for Security Studies, said more needs to be known about the US military presence in the region.
“The US military footprint in the Sahel is difficult to grasp, just as it is not easy to assess its effectiveness,” he said. “There isn’t nearly enough information in the public space on this presence.”
Mud homes line the barbed wire fence at the edge of the main airport in Agadez. Residents watch the US forces come and go with curiosity.
Shebu Issa, an assistant at a Qur’anic school, stood in one doorway as goats and children roamed the sandy roads.
“It’s no big deal to us, they come and they don’t bother us. We appreciate they want to help in the fight,” he said. “We live a hard life, and don’t make much money, so we hope maybe this will help us get more.”