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Al-Shabaab attempts to terrorise Kenyans with online magazine
Sabahi Online
Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Al-Shabaab is using its new online magazine to instil fear among Kenyans and motivate its demoralised fighters after suffering a string of defeats and defections, Kenyan security officials and analysts say.

Gaidi Mtaani, or "Terrorist on the Street" in Swahili, was introduced in April and has published two issues in Swahili and English. The magazine's editorial says it drew inspiration from Inspire, an English-language online magazine published by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In its first issue, Gaidi Mtaani mocked the Kenya Defence Forces' (KDF) Operation Linda Nchi, which means "Protect the Country", by coining its own Operation Linda Uislamu, which means "Protect Islam".

The group vowed to triumph over Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, placing on the cover of its first issue an image of a man overlooking the Kenyatta International Conference Centre in Nairobi, holding two grenades behind his back.

Security officials told Sabahi they are monitoring the magazine and will communicate through local media to dispel any lies the group publishes.

The government has asked civilians to be extra vigilant and work with security forces to counter the threats, said Dadaab District Officer Bernard ole Kipury.

There is nothing new in the online magazine's content, he said, as al-Shabaab is recycling threats to attack government installations and civilians. "After three or four issues, they will run out of ideas and they will regurgitate the same message over and over," he said.

Kipury told Sabahi that al-Shabaab is not only seeking to gain new recruits and sympathisers, but also to terrorise people in Swahili-speaking countries, such as Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and parts of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

He said the magazine indicates al-Shabaab has been cornered and is resorting to desperate measures to save face.

Al-Shabaab is publishing in Swahili to appeal to a wider audience after suffering a string of defeats in Somalia, Kipury said.

Al-Shabaab has lost many strongholds in Somalia over the past few months, including Beledweyne, Baidoa, Hudur, Afgoye and Balad. In addition, the Somali government's offer of amnesty to former fighters has spurred many defections from al-Shabaab's forces.

Al-Shabaab preparing fighters for loss of Kismayo

The cover of the magazine's most recent issue shows a desolate road with the headline, "The long road to Kismayo".

Somali and AMISOM forces expect to seize the strategic port city Kismayo sometime in August.

"The capture of Kismayo would not spell the end of al-Shabaab's mujahedeen, but instead it would be the beginning of a protracted jihadi war against Kenya," the magazine said.

Analysts say al-Shabaab's decision to dedicate most of the second issue to the impending loss of their last major stronghold indicates the group is feeling intense pressure.

David Ochami, a Mombasa-based journalist who covers the activities of militant groups in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa for The Standard, said al-Shabaab cannot believe it is being edged out of its strongholds by troops it previously dismissed with contempt.

"Kismayo is its only remaining base and the group is trying to deflect attention. [Kismayo] is where [al-Shabaab] gets its supply of weapons and if it is captured, [al-Shabaab] is paralysed," he told Sabahi.

Internal divisions have undermined the group as has the loss of many fighters who defected for safety or because of weakening financial incentives, Ochami said.

The military offensive against al-Shabaab should not stop now, despite the group's attacks on civilians, he said.

In recent months, al-Shabaab has targeted civilians in a series of landmine and grenade attacks, including attacks on two churches in Garissa on July 1st that killed 17 people and wounded more than 60. On July 18th, al-Shabaab attacked a barbershop and a hotel in Wajir, wounding four.

Ochami said Kenyans should not allow al-Shabaab to stop them from their daily activities.

"By now, Kenyans are well aware of the consequences of such wars, but the grenade and landmine attacks on civilians and worshippers are clear indications that al-Shabaab is a spent force," he said.

Al-Shabaab claims false religious jihad

Retired KDF Major Bashir Hajji Abdullahi said al-Shabaab is using the magazine to try to save face and prepare its demoralised fighters for the eventual loss of Kismayo.

"The world knows that KDF has [helped] liberate Afmadow and the Somali armed forces and AMISOM troops have liberated more towns and cities. The group is just cornered and is trying to raise morale," he said.

Abdullahi told Sabahi that the group is misleading the public by claiming to be fighting in the name of religion. He said the group should be dismissed with contempt.

In the first issue of Gaidi Mtaani, al-Shabaab said Kenya became an enemy of Islam the moment it decided to send troops to Somalia.

But Abdullahi said al-Shabaab militants cannot claim to be true Muslims when they kill innocent civilians and fellow Muslims.

He said Somali political leaders, the Somali armed forces and the citizens the militants target include Muslims who are united against their heinous activities. The KDF also includes Muslims in its ranks, he added.

Western Provincial Commissioner James ole Seriani said al-Shabaab cannot claim to defend Somalia from foreign incursions since it includes foreigners in its ranks who kill innocent Somalis.

Somalis welcome the AMISOM intervention after suffering for so long, he said. "If [al-Shabaab is] defending Islam against infidels as they claim, we would not see scenes of jubilation by Somalis in cities and towns liberated from their terror grip," he said.


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