Shabaab al-Mujahideen (aka al-Shabaab, aka Mujahideen Youth Movement) is the Salafist-Jihadist off-shoot of the Mogadishu-based Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Al-Shabaab’s leaders maintain connections with al-Qaeda, and receives financial, logistical, and rhetorical support. The group is fighting the internationally recognized TFG for control of Somalia’s southern cities, and ultimately seeks to control the entire Horn of Africa. Al-Shabaab employs IEDs in support of its broader strategy of ousting the TFG and the contingent of African Union peacekeepers (mostly from Uganda and Burundi) protecting the TFG, called the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As a result, their IEDs target TFG and AMISOM personnel and operations. Al-Shabaab will continue to focus its IED efforts against TFG and AMISOM operations, primarily in Mogadishu, as part of an al-Qaeda-inspired strategy of attrition and exhaustion.
On Saturday, September 21, 2013, members of Al Shabaab, a Somali based Islamic terrorist organization affiliated with the international Al Qaeda network, executed a complex terrorist attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attackers simultaneously entered the mall from two different entrances, shooting shoppers with assault rifles and throwing hand grenades. The terrorists remained in the mall, engaging government security forces for the next four days, resulting in a major fire and partial collapse of the mall. The Kenyan government has officially reported 72 deaths and more than 200 injured as a result of the attack. A significant number of those killed and injured were foreign citizens, including 6 U.S. citizens who were injured in the attack.
This Joint Intelligence Bulletin (JIB) provides information on the 21 September 2013 attack in Nairobi, Kenya likely conducted by al-Shabaab—an al-Qai‘da linked militant group based in Somalia. This JIB examines the ongoing incident and provides background on the threat from al-Shabaab. This JIB also highlights protective measures that can assist in mitigating threats in the United States using similar tactics and is provided to support the activities of FBI and DHS and to assist federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government counterterrorism and law enforcement officials, as well as first responders and private sector security officials to deter, prevent, preempt, or respond to terrorist attacks in the United States or overseas targeting US interests.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaida ally, relies on a broad range of funding sources to support its terrorist and paramilitary operations in Somalia. However, little comprehensive information is available on the character and extent of this funding network within the large communities of Somali expats in Kenya. Existing reports suggest that alternative remittance systems (ARS), especially hawaladars, are a reliable source of income for Somalis still living in Somalia. Expat family members living in Kenya rely on these systems to transfer money to their relatives in Somalia. Recent reports suggest al-Shabaab is a beneficiary of these services1. Al-Shabaab could exploit current and future hawaladar networks in Kenya to transit funds to support IED operations against US or allied humanitarian or military operations. Thus, networks of undocumented and unmonitored hawaladars within the country could pose a threat to future counterterrorism or humanitarian operations in the region. Further study of the role of ARS in Kenya in the funding of al-Shabaab operations is recommended.