Twenty foreign tourists and a Tunisian policeman were been killed after gunmen targeted a museum in the Tunisian capital reports claimed on the 18 Mar 15. British, Italian, French and Spanish nationals were among those taken hostage, local radio reported. The shooting happened at the Bardo Museum, which is next to the parliament building in central Tunis. At the time of the attack deputies were discussing anti-terrorism legislation. Parliament had been evacuated. The attack involved three terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs. Most tourists were evacuated but some were able to hide inside. Concerns about security in Tunisia have increased in recent months as neighbouring Libya has become increasingly unstable. A large number of Tunisians have also left to fight in Syria and Iraq, triggering worries that returning militants could carry out attacks at home. The gunmen are said to have been trained in Libya in an area controlled by Islamic State (IS) militants. IS has said it was behind the attack on the museum, which is next to the country's parliament. There was speculation that the gunmen had links to a home-grown Islamist terrorist group, Oqba Ibn Nafaa brigade, which is based in the Chaambi Mountains near the Algerian border. But there were grim warnings from ISIS that more attacks are being planned. In an audio statement released after the Bardo Museum assault, the Islamist group hailed the gunmen as “knights”. “We tell the apostates who sit on the chest of Muslim Tunisia - wait for the glad tidings of what will harm you, impure ones, for what you have seen today is the first drop of the rain, God willing,” the message said. 361 COMMENT: This attack may have been planned for some time but there is a possibility that the date may have been moved forward due to the killing of Ahmed Rouissi, who was fighting in Libya’s ISIS ranks which was reported on the 17 Mar 15. With the threat of more attacks to come this will damage the tourist industry that the country depends on so much. The Tunisian authorities will have to pull out a number of stops in order to safe guard the country’s main industry and what’s more prove that this will not happen again. It will have to take steps similar to Egypt when 62 people were killed in Luxor by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya on the 17 Nov 1997. COMMENT ENDS
Libya/United States – The United States is increasingly concerned about the growing presence and influence of the Syria-based Islamic State movement in Libya, according to U.S. officials and a State Department report. The officials said what they called "senior" Islamic State leaders had travelled to the country, which is wrecked by civil war, to help recruit and organize militants, particularly in the cities of Derna and Sirte. Since late Jan 15, Islamic State militants have carried out attacks, including a car bombing and siege at the Corinthia, a luxury hotel in Tripoli, and an attack on the Mabruk oilfield south of Sirte, according to a report circulated this week by the State Department's Diplomatic Security Bureau. The militants also posted on the Web images of the beheading of 21 abducted Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach. The State Department document said estimates of the number of Islamic State fighters operating in Libya ranged from 1000 to 3000. Around 800 fighters were based in the Derna area alone, the report said, including up to 300 who previously fought in Syria or Iraq. U.S. officials said that because of its strategic position, Libya had become a springboard for would-be fighters from across North Africa wanting to link up with the Islamic State. They could travel from there to Syria for frontline experience. The State Department assessment, whose existence was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon website, said that the disintegration of central authority in Libya "has given ISIL an opening to establish a legitimate foothold." The report said Islamic State had only had limited success in capturing and holding territory in Libya. U.S. officials said Libya Dawn, an Islamist, but non-Jihadist, movement based in the city of Misurata, was mounting a counter-attack against Islamic State forces, a development which the United States considered encouraging. Islamic State has also endorsed, or received expressions of loyalty, from other militants around the region, including factions based in Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. U.S. agencies are evaluating evidence that appears to tie Islamic State to the militants who killed 20 foreign tourists on the 18 Mar 15 at a museum in Tunis, the capital of Libya's western neighbour Tunisia.
Morocco – Morocco says it has dismantled an ISIL cell plotting to launch attacks across the country after security forces conducted operations in a number of cities, including Marrakesh. Authorities say the men, aged between 19 and 37, were planning to kill public and military figures it was reported on the 25 Mar 15. “The cell was holding a dangerous terrorist plan and was ready to endanger the country's safety and security," Abdelhaq Khyam, head of the Central Bureau for Judicial Investigations said. In addition to the arrests on the 22 Mar 15, police say they confiscated handguns, ammunition, mobile phones and computers. "We learnt that they gave their allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) [group] and to [Abu Bakr] Baghdadi to the extent that they called their cell Wilaya of the Islamic State in the Far Maghreb," Khyam said. The group is also suspected of recruiting people to fight in Iraq and Syria for ISIL. According to authorities, 1,354 Moroccans are believed to have joined ISIL to fight in Syria and Iraq, of which 156 have returned to Morocco. The group is alleged to have obtained its weapons through the Spanish enclave of Melilla on the state's northern coast. Spanish and Moroccan security forces have been working together to dismantle smuggling networks based in their respective territories, and to dismantle ISIL recruitment cells. The men, who were mostly apprehended in the city of Agadir on Morocco’s western coast, had not trained abroad but were in “permanent” contact with ISIL leaders, according to Khyam. Part of their plan included attacking soldiers to acquire better weapons then decapitating and burning them.
North Africa 361 COMMENT: With attacks in Tunisia and Libya and now the authorities in Morocco uncovering an IS cell it is clear that the intention of the Islamic State is to cause chaos in North Africa along coastal countries. The recent attack in Tunisia and the uncovering of this cell and shows that the IS group is serious regarding the targeting of coastal nations who were caught up in the Arab Spring and are, to some degree, not correctly functioning as a cohesive nation, therefore allowing terrorist groups to exploit this weakness. Europe along with those nations across the Mediterranean Sea require to work closely together in order to stop this threat now rather than wait until it is more than just a festering sore with no cure. Those countries who are attempting to put their house in order after the Arab Spring need to do so quickly and reassess their anti-terrorism strategy. COMMENT ENDS
Kenya – Al-Shabaab death squad on a terrorist mission in Nairobi was last week intercepted and a major attack averted, according to a government intelligence report and reported on the 22 Mar 15. The terrorists, whose number is not disclosed were sent by Al-Shabaab commander Adan Garar alias Adan Ahmed Isaaq, the Westgate attack mastermind, before he was killed on the 12 Mar 15 when his vehicle was hit by a missile fired from a United States forces drone in Somalia. "Prior to his death about a week ago, Garar had dispatched operatives to carry out a fresh attack in Nairobi in retaliation for the arrests of several Al-Shabaab combatants and security agents' operations that have neutralised a number of terrorist cells. Kenyan security agents arrested Garar's death squad and their plans were once again thwarted," according to the intelligence report. It does not identify the areas that were targeted by the terrorists, but sources said an up market mall in Nairobi could have been on their radar. 361 COMMENT: Although there is only one source reporting this there could well be truth in the report. The terrorist group may well have identified another target which it could have carried out an operation on. If this is the case then the Kenyan authorities and other countries fighting al-Shabaab will need to look at their internal security a little more closely. COMMENT ENDS
Security agencies have heightened their security following reports that a group of al Shabaab returnees have managed to return into Kenya from Somalia. They are planning attacks to avenge the killing of the group's external operations boss Dan Garar. Kenyan intelligence operatives have established that the group had been holed up in the port of Kuday in Southern Somalia. They escaped into Kenya after AMISOM and Somalia National Army troops liberated Kuday and islands of Mdoa and Dagazi last week. The group, most of them of them Kenyan, are believed to be an al Shabaab off shoot that escaped into Boni Forest and is attempting to enter either Lamu, Malindi or Kwale. The group is led by Luqman Issa, who goes by the aliases Deere and Shirwa. The group is said to be at Lakta Belt in Boni Forest. Issa is believed to be responsible for a spate of attacks on Kenya Defence Forces troops and civilians in Kenya and Somalia's Lower Juba area. "The al Shabaab militia in Boni Forest have been responsible for a spate of attacks against KDF convoys and Coastal civilians. The militia in Boni Forest is comprised largely of militants from Coast including Lamu, Malindi and Mombasa," an intelligence report says. The report compiled last week reveals that families of communities at the Coast have appealed to the government to assist them bring back their sons, brothers and fathers who have been lured by al Shabaab to carry out attacks.
361 COMMENT: It is unsure if these two reports are one of the same although it is suspected they are. Different reporting sources along with dates make it unclear. If they are different then it would mean that al-Shabaab are attempting to create a large terrorist attack on Kenyan soil which will probably be large gatherings of western tourists which will effect the countries tourist industry. The Australian along with the United States and the UK government’s have issued a travel update to Kenya. COMMENT ENDS
Somalia – A heavily armed group of fighters from al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa stormed a hotel and seized control of it in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on the 27 Mar 15 in the Long War Journal. The attack is the latest by Shabaab against high-profile and relatively secure targets in the city. The Shabaab assault team opened the attack by detonating a vehicle packed with explosives at the gate to the hotel. A small team of fighters then entered the hotel, took control of the building, and positioned themselves to repel an assault by Somali forces. At least seven people were killed during the initial phase of the assault. An unknown number of government officials were trapped inside the hotel. The suicide assault, or coordinated attack using one or more suicide bombers and an assault team, is a tactic frequently used by al Qaeda and its branches as well as allied groups such as the Afghan Taliban, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and by the rival Islamic State. Suicide assaults are commonly executed by jihadist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Nigeria. Shabaab routinely targets hotels in the Somali capital as these are often meeting places for government officials and foreigners. The last such attack took place on the 20 Feb 15 when a suicide assault team hit the Central Hotel, a gathering place for Somali parliamentarians and members of government. Several senior Somali politicians were killed. In a previous attack, on the 22 Jan 15 Shabaab claimed credit for the bombing at the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu that killed three people. The attack took place as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a delegation were at the hotel. In the past, Shabaab has shown it can penetrate security at the heavily protected areas in the capital and carry out deadly attacks. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), Somali government and military officials, and nongovernmental organizations have been the target of Shabaab suicide assaults and bombings. Last year, Shabaab attacked the parliament, the president’s compound, and a high security intelligence headquarters. In June 2013, a Shabaab team struck at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) compound in Mogadishu; several UNDP employees were killed and Shabaab briefly took over the compound. And in September of 2012, three suicide bombers attacked Somalia’s president and Kenya’s foreign minister as they were speaking at a hotel in Mogadishu. The latest assault in Mogadishu serves as a reminder that the group is far from defeated, despite claims to the contrary by some in the Somali government. While the current media focus is on the Islamic State’s spectacular gains in both Iraq and Syria, Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, have controlled extensive areas of Somalia, including major cities, several times since 2006. Even today, Shabaab controls large portions of the countryside in southern and central Somalia, and still runs some towns and cities. An African Union offensive by forces from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Kenya has managed to drive Shabaab from the major cities of Mogadishu and Kismayo, but three years after the start of the offensive, Shabaab still controls vast areas in Somalia.
Uganda/United States – United States embassy in Kampala, Uganda has warned against a new wave of attacks targeted at US citizens and western interest in the country. The embassy has warned its citizens to avoid social gatherings and areas popular with western citizens. The embassy has cancelled several ceremonies expected to be conducted in the coming weeks due to the security threat. The statement has also said hotels where US citizens stay have beefed up the security to pre-empt attack. US embassy in the tiny horn of Africa country of Djibouti was closed down for similar security related threat. US and several European countries have previously issued travel advisories to their citizens to horn of African region for terror threat from armed group Al Shabaab.