Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in violation of international laws, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Aug. 18. Based on interview research conducted between November 2013 and June 2014, terrorism suspects were badly mistreated, killed, beaten, abducted and detained without access to families or lawyers. HRW called on Kenya to thoroughly investigate the allegations and urged the US to suspend donor support to the ATPU. The ATPU has previously come under criticism by other human rights groups. Last year the Kenyan human rights group Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative jointly issued a report, calling on the US and the UK to suspend financial support to the ATPU. The report followed the completion of a new ATPU headquarters in Nairobi in May, which was partially funded by international anti-terror agencies. The facility increased technological capabilities and physical space for the ATPU, whose mission is to coordinate and carry out anti-terrorism operations within Kenya in support of the global war on terror. The unit's primary focus of late is Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, as the port city has become a major recruitment target for the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, based in Somalia.
Militant group al-Shabab has lived up to its promise to step up attacks in Somalia, mainly against government installations and personnel, during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on June 29. Over 30 people have been killed in Mogadishu alone. On July 8, the presidential compound was attacked during the iftar evening meal. Assailants entered the gate using a car bomb, and then engaged in a two-hour gun battle with palace guards, killing 14 soldiers. On July 5, at least four people, including two children, were killed when a suicide car bomb was detonated outside of the parliament building. Just two days earlier, a long-time member of parliament, Mohamed Mohamud, was killed with his bodyguard when armed assailants opened fire on his car. In response, the Somali government fired the police commissioner and head of the intelligence agency. Since then however, attacks have continued daily. Local media reported that the Ministry of Defense was attacked July 14.
Dozens of Muslim families in Mpeketoni, a coastal Kenyan town where more than 60 people have been killed in separate attacks this week, have fled following threats and assaults from the Christian majority. "Mpeketoni is not safe for us," Ali Lali Uweso, the headmaster of primary school, told Anadolu Agency by phone. "As we speak, we are travelling in a convoy of several vehicles from Mpeketoni with Swahili and other Muslim families heading to Mokowe Jetty to take a boat to the islands." The Swahili people are an ethnic group whose name is derived from the Arabic word meaning coastal. Local residents confirmed that a Swahili Muslim man in his 50s was beaten unconscious by youth armed with crude weapons who claimed to be avenging the victims of the recent attacks. At least nine were killed and a number of others wounded in the June 16 attacks in the usually quiet town near the Somali border. The previous evening, at least 53 were killed in armed attacks on a three hotels and a police station in the town. The attacks were reportedly claimed by the Somali rebel group al-Shabaab. (World Bulletin, Al Jazeera, June 18)
Two weeks after a tropical cyclone struck the northeast coast of Somalia, killing more than 100 people and thousands of head of livestock, important infrastructure lies in ruins and fears of an outbreak of waterborne diseases are mounting. The storm struck the autonomous region of Puntland from Nov. 8. "For four days, the cyclone brought heavy rainfall, icy winds, flash floods, and mudslides. Roads, houses, mosques, schools and farms were destroyed. Fishing boats sank. Water sources were damaged," according to Adeso, a humanitarian and development agency.
Foreign forces launched a night raid on a rebel-held town in Somalia's southern Lower Shabelle region from the sea Oct. 4. "Westerners in boats attacked our base at Barawe beach and one was martyred from our side," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab's spokesman for military operations, told Reuters by telephone. Sources indicated that the target of the raid may have been Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr AKA Ahmed Godane—but he was apparently not killed or captured. It is unclear whether any Shabaab leaders were killed in the operation. Pentagon spokesman George Little told NBC the next day: "I can confirm that yesterday, Oct. 4, US military personnel were involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist. We are not prepared to provide additional detail at this time." (BBC News, NBC, Garowe Online, Oct. 5)
Thousands of displaced persons who have taken refuge in Somalia's capital Mogadishu are being forcibly evicted from makeshift camps as the government presses ahead with plans to clean up the city, Amnesty said in a briefing released Sept. 13. "It is completely unacceptable for people who have fled to the capital for protection to be forcibly evicted. It has resulted in large scale human rights abuses," said Gemma Davies, Amnesty's Somalia researcher. "The government has a responsibility to protect this vulnerable sector of society and ensure their security." More than 300,000 live in settlements in Mogadishu, where they are sheltering from cyclical drought, famine and the two-decades-long armed conflict.
Some 160 Somali religious scholars came together in Mogadishu on Set. 11 to issue a fatwa denouncing al-Shabab, saying the rebel group has no place in Islam. The Fatwa calls al-Shabab a "strayed group," and called upon members to repent from its "criminal acts." It asserted that Somalia's interim government is a Muslim government and it is illegal to call it "apostate" or to wield arms against it. It forbids Muslims from joining or providing support to al-Shabab, and mandates support for the government's fight against the rebels.
At least 10 Shabaab rebel fighters were reportedly killed in heavy clashes with Kenyan security forces Aug. 21 after the Somali rebels crossed the border and attacked a military patrol. Local authorities in the town of Garissa, North Eastern state, said Shabaab fighters attacked a Kenyan border patrol with grenades, mortars and small arms, sparking a battle that lasted for nearly an hour, residents said. There was a similar incident last week, when Shabaab fighters raided a police post at Galmagala, in Garissa county's Fafi district, some 10 kilometers from Somalia's border, killing four officers and seizing weapons. (Garowe Online via AllAfrica, Aug. 22)