Kenya – Security has been heightened across the country after reports indicated that terrorists were likely to attack during this festive season it was reported on the 24 Sep 15. The Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett has said police have credible information that Al-Shabaab terrorists were likely to strike, especially during the Idd-ul-adha festival celebrated by Muslims. "The security operation in Boni forest and the upcoming festivals have heightened the levels of threat in the country but adequate officers have been deployed across the country," he said. Police have said that a number of planned attacks have been thwarted by the security agents but have not given the details. "We have in some cases received very crucial and credible information from the members of the public that have gone a long way in helping us deal with the threats," he said.
Libya/Islamic State – Militants loyal to the extremist Islamic State group managed to penetrate an air base on the 18 Sep 15 on the outskirts of Tripoli that serves as the Libyan capital’s only working airport and launch an attack on the headquarters of an Islamist militia that is opposed to them. The attack by a suicide squad composed of at least four militants is one of the most aggressive forays the Islamic State has made on the Libyan capital. Four assailants were killed, according to a spokesman for the mainly Islamist upstart Tripoli-run government — the rival to the internationally recognized administration now in exile in the eastern Libyan towns of Tobruk and Beida. At least three members of the Special Deterrence Force, a 700-member militia loyal to the Tripoli government, were killed, rebuffing the assault.
Libya/Italy – Salah al-Maskhout, the country’s biggest people smuggler, had been shot dead along with eight of his bodyguards in the capital, Tripoli it was reported in the British press on the 27 Sep 15. Prime suspects were a special forces unit of the Italian army, accused by officials of the Tripoli-based government – one of two rival authorities in war-torn Libya – of responsibility, on the basis of the ammunition employed. The shoot-out had happened near the Tripoli Medical Centre, the city’s main hospital, on the morning of the 25 Sep 15 as Mr Maskhout, alleged mastermind of the biggest operation smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean sea, was leaving a relative’s house. A four-strong hit squad armed with handguns reportedly used their 4x4 vehicle to block the man’s car as he was leaving, killing him and others. Over the weekend, though, the apparently straightforward story was questioned from all sides. Italy said it was not behind the killing, saying it “categorically denies any involvement of Italian special forces in Libya that have appeared in news outlets related to the Salah Al-Maskhout event".
Paolo Gentiloni, Italy's foreign minister, warned of "false scoops, poison and diversions" in the decisive days of negotiations when Italy is pushing for a Libyan government of national accord. Then the identity of the victim was also challenged. Relatives of the man identified by the Italian foreign ministry as the man its operatives did not kill – Salah Al-Maskhout – issued a statement saying he was alive and well in Zuwara. The town, to the west of Tripoli, is well-known as the biggest hub in Libya of the people-smuggling trade. Residents of the Tripoli suburb of Furnaj asked whether the man killed might not have been Muhammed Salahuddin al-Maskhout, a former marine official until 2009 in the government of ex-Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who controlled fishing territories between Zuwara, Sicily and Tunisia. This family is believed to have influence in the area around the Mellitah oil and gas complex, the starting point of the Greenstream pipeline, largely operated by the Italian firm Eni. Italian news agencies also suggested the attack may have been a mafia hit – an attempt by organised crime gangs to consolidate their control over the lucrative Mediterranean smuggling routes. Western powers have threatened to take direct action against the people smuggling operation on Libyan soil. The EU does not have a mandate for land operations in Libya without prior UN approval.
Mali – A new Islamist push into central and southern Mali is being led by two charismatic leaders of a new Islamist armed group who cut their teeth in the country's northern conflict, according to security sources on the 23 Sep 15. In the latest of a series of attacks outside the West African nation's traditional theatre of combat, two policemen and two civilians were killed on the 19 Sep 15 in the village of Bi, near the south-east border with Burkina Faso. Investigators blamed the Macina Liberation Front (FLM), a new group that emerged earlier this year and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, some targeting security forces in central Mali.
The FLM, led by radical preacher Amadou Koufa, draws its support from the local Fulani people, and is linked to Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups that briefly took control of Mali's vast arid north in 2012. Security agents hunting Koufa, from central Mali, and Souleymane Keita, a southerner who commands the "Khalid Ibn al-Walid" combat unit, say the fugitive commanders learned their trade waging jihad during the 2012 conflict. Students in the art of guerilla warfare under the Tuareg warlord Iyad Ag Ghaly, Ansar Dine's leader, they returned to their respective homes, recruiting trainee jihadists from their own communities. "We are actively looking for them. They are in contact with Iyad Ag Ghaly to sow terror in the centre and south of the country, but we have already dismantled a major part of these groups, which operate in tandem," a police commander stated.
Seven Malian jihadists arrested in Aug 15 in neighbouring Ivory Coast and extradited admitted being members of Khalid Ibn al-Walid, according to a source close to the case, and to having taken part in jihadist attacks in southern and central Mali. Their confessions led to the arrest of three men at the beginning of Sep 15 presented as the masterminds of recent attacks in the capital Bamako against a United Nations residence and several security posts. The backgrounds of the three suspects points to their links with the Islamists of the north, say investigators. One, aged 35, is said to be the "number two" in the FLM and, significantly, a former member of the "Islamic police" in the northern city of Timbuktu during the Islamic rebels' occupation, alongside Souleymane Keita. A large consignment of weapons was found at the home of another, a 33-year-old, considered the attackers' logistics expert. Mali's decades-old Tuareg-led rebellion teamed up with armed Islamist extremists in the north in 2012 and declared independence for Azawad, the name they give their homeland, but the alliance was short-lived.
More interested in sharia than independence, the al-Qaeda-linked groups overpowered the Tuareg and planted their own black flags across the north, ruling with brutal repression until France sent in 4,000 troops in January 2013 to drive them out. But swathes of land remain still outside the control of Malian and foreign forces. Long concentrated in the north, jihadist attacks have spread since the beginning of the year to the centre, and then from Jun 15 to the south, said Human Rights Watch. According to investigators, fighters from both groups are able to move discreetly and silently across the country. Since most have black skin, they travel unarmed down to the south, so as not to arouse suspicion. Once there, they manage to get hold of weapons and conduct operations.
Koufa and Keita exert a great influence among the disenfranchised, mainly impoverished youth of their regions, according to a defence ministry official. Koufa, who is hiding out in the Mopti region, near the Burkina Faso border, attracts young Fulani seduced by his fiery sermons broadcast on local radio stations. In a Fulani-language recording recently he called on his followers to target French interests. "He has promised to all those young people in training in camps in the Mopti region that he would restore the Fulani Empire of Macina, creating a Fulani caliphate," said a security source. At least ten people have been killed in attacks attributed to the FLM in the last nine months in cities across Mali's central region. A Koufa loyalist said he had taken part in an attack on the Hotel Byblos in the central town of Sevare in Aug 15 that left four UN subcontractors dead. Both groups planned to kidnap foreign nationals in the south in August but were foiled by intelligence operatives, according to another security source in Mali.
Macina Liberation Front (FLM)
Since Mali became independent of France in 1960, its vast northern region, which is mostly desert and home to just 10 percent of its population of 15 million, has been largely neglected by authorities in the capital of Bamako. Eventually, it became dominated by various rebel factions led by either Fulani or Tuareg ethnic groups, which rose against the government to demand more autonomy. By 2012, Islamist groups such as the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine, aligned with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), took advantage of the chaos to gain territory for themselves. This development prompted a French-led military intervention to keep them from pushing farther south to Bamako. The intervention eventually drove them out of most major northern cities, but Tuareg rebel groups continued to clash with government forces. Despite a ceasefire agreement reached in 2014, fighting continued, and the success of rebel groups largely drove Mali’s forces out of the region. Fighters do appear to be of Fulani ethnicity, which is logical because the group’s name recalls a 19th century Fulani state, led by a Muslim preacher.
Recent Incidents – The militants in early Sep 15 destroyed a mausoleum that had been a proposed U.N. World Heritage site, warning they would come back to persecute anyone who wasn’t following their strict interpretation of Islamic law, witnesses said. A month earlier, the group killed three civilians and wounded 16 others when it attacked a U.N. barracks. Human Rights Watch reported in Apr 15 that “an Islamist armed group sometimes referred to as the Macina Liberation Movement” has committed “serious abuses,” killing at least five men who it thought were either working as guides for or providing information to the military. Witnesses told HRW the group “dragged a chief of a village near Diourna from his home and executed him” and that it killed another man in a market the next day, while burning government buildings and toppling a communications tower. Through flyers and public meetings, the group has threatened to kill anyone who collaborated with the U.N., French forces or the Mali government.
Nigeria – Three bomb blasts on the 20 Sep 15 rocked the north-eastern Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the stronghold of Boko Haram, the army said, but there were no immediate reports of casualties. “There were three improvised explosive devices explosions at Gomari and Ajilari general area in Maiduguri at about 1921 hrs ,” military spokesman Sani Usman said in a statement. “Although details are not clear, it is important to note the attacks signify high level of desperation on the part of the Boko Haram terrorists,” he said. The military has made a series of gains against Boko Haram after President Muhammadu Buhari recently set a three-month deadline to wipe out the extremists.
Somalia – A blast claimed by the Somali militant group al-Shabaab killed at least three soldiers who were waiting to collect their salaries at a military camp in the port city of Kismayu on the 17 Sep 15, police and the group said. Three officers who were handing out salaries died and 10 others collecting it were injured. The bomb was planted inside the camp, Police Major Abdirahman Nur said. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military operation spokesman, said the group was behind the attack.