Monday, September 16, 2013
A British terrorist suspect linked to the “white widow” fugitive Samantha Lewthwaite is believed to have been killed in a feud with the Somali terrorist organisation al-Shabaab.
Habib Ghani, also known as Osama al-Britani, is understood to have died in an ambush on Thursday in a town 200 miles west of the Somali capital Mogadishu after being in hiding since splitting from the Islamist group last year.
He was thought to have been killed with Omar al-Hammami, an American also known as both the “rapping jihadist” and al-Amriki, in what is believed to have been a targeted attack.
Ghani, 28, was originally from Hounslow, west London, but had been in east Africa for up to seven years. It is thought he was on the run with Lewthwaite, the widow of 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay. The pair were wanted by the Kenyans on terrorist charges.
Ghani, who has a Pakistani father and Kenyan mother, recently married Lewthwaite, local reports suggested.
Her whereabouts are unknown, but she is not believed to have been caught up in Thursday’s attack and it is unclear whether the pair were still together.
The two were charged alongside Jermaine Grant, from east London, whose trial
for possessing explosives and plotting bomb attacks will continue in Kenya’s
port city of Mombasa on Sept 23. Lewthwaite and Ghani are believed to have
rented an apartment for Grant in the city, paid for the purchase of
bomb-making chemicals, and were working closely with him when police
stumbled on their plots.
Grant was arrested just before Christmas 2011, but Lewthwaite and Ghani fled
and had not been heard of until Thursday.
The group to which Ghani was attached was attacked while in hiding in the town
of Shongolow. Hammami is understood to have fallen out with al-Shabaab’s
leadership, which has made attempts on his life before and which recently
repeated that he should be killed.
The men were killed on the orders of al-Shabaab’s chief commander, the
Afghanistan-trained Moktar Ali Zubeyr, sources in Somalia said.
Gunmen posing as travellers pretended to stop in the town to pray before
opening fire when they saw their targets.
Ghani was reportedly with up to eight other armed men, three of whom were
killed alongside him. Two of the others escaped and al-Shabaab fighters
captured at least two others.
“There was a gun battle between Amriki and his men and other fighters,” said
Moalim Ali, a local resident. “The reports are that Amriki is among those
Al-Shabaab did not immediately confirm the killings. On its Twitter account,
it said only that, “Mujahideen forces today ambushed a convoy of apostate
militia … killing 3 and injuring over 10”. But posts on a website supportive
of Hammami appeared to confirm his death. He has been falsely claimed to
have been killed on at least two occasions in the past, but security sources
said that yesterday’s reports were “the most credible” yet.
Ghani used the aliases Osama al-Britani and Sheikh Osama al-Muhajir and was
said to have been very close to Hammami, who is originally from Alabama.
Hammami was among the most prominent foreign militants fighting in Somalia.
Jerky videos that he posted on Youtube showed him enthusiastically promoting
al-Shabaab’s battle to overthrow the internationally backed government,
before he fell out with the leadership.
He has been on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists List since November last year.
In March, the US State Department offered a $5million (£3.1million) reward
for information leading to his killing or capture. Police have previously
described Ghani as “very dangerous” and he has been described in some news
reports as an al-Qaeda bomb maker.
Lewthwaite is still being hunted. Last year, the pair were suspected of being
part of a terrorist cell that was planning attacks in 2011 on hotels and
restaurants in Mombasa.
Her former husband Lindsay blew up an underground train at King’s Cross in
2005. She is believed to be on the run with her three children.