The US government has imposed sanctions on two Al-Shabaab leaders who helped plot a raid on a military camp in Lamu County this January.
US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on Tuesday listed Abdullahi Osman Mohamed and Maalim Ayman as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). The decision means any of their assets on US soil will be frozen, American entities barred from dealing with them, and global businesses could face sanctions if found to be channelling financial or other support to the pair.
This comes after the two were seen as key masterminds of the raid on Camp Simba on Manda Bay, which is used by both Kenyan and American forces.
On January 5, the camp was raided by militants who destroyed aircraft at Manda Air Strip and killed three Americans: a soldier and two contractors. Five of the militants were killed in the attack.
After months of investigations, US authorities fingered Maalim Ayman Jaysh Ayman, an al-Shabaab cell that often conducts raids on Kenya-Somalia border towns, as one of those responsible for preparing the January attack. It is not clear whether Ayman has assets in the US but he works with Kenyan and foreign fighters who may have links with financiers as far as the US.
The Manda Bay attack was reportedly conducted by Kenyan and foreign fighters who withdrew to Somalia after reinforcement at Manda Bay repelled them.
Pompeo also listed Abdullahi Osman Mohamed for his role as a Shabaab explosives expert. He is known in his cell as “Engineer Ismail” and helps assemble weapons from local materials.
A report by the UN Panel of Experts on Somalia last year indicated that Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants, affiliated to al-Qaeda, have managed to remain fatal in lean times by assembling explosives from local material that may otherwise be imported legally into Somalia.
Because of this improvisation, the report said Shabaab fighters have managed to conduct deadly raids on installations in spite of an arms embargo imposed on Somalia. They have also managed to infiltrate key sectors of the Somali government and launched a parallel revenue collection system.
Mohamed was also identified as an explosives manager and a special adviser to Emir of al-Shabaab as well as the leader of the group’s propaganda wing. Despite seeing more loss of lives at Manda Bay, the Shabaab media wing al-Kataib declared “victory.”
“The US Government is committed to disrupting the illicit financing methods of al-Shabaab, limiting its ability to conduct further attacks against civilians, and supporting the Federal Government of Somalia in disrupting terrorism finance,” Pompeo said on Tuesday.
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“Addressing the al-Shabaab threat will require working closely with our partners to degrade the terrorist group’s capacity and operations, combatting its control and influence in East Africa.”
The US designated al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation in 2008 and has since focused on disrupting illicit sources of financing for the group.
However, debate has often raged on how further the sanctions should go. Last year, the US sided with Somalia after Kenya wanted sanctions on al-Shabaab elevated to be similar to those initially imposed on the Taliban and al-Qaeda, where no humanitarian assistance goes to areas they control.
Somalia countered by saying civilians could suffer more and a group of ex-American diplomats and NGO bosses lobbied for a US veto. Eventually, the UN Security Council failed to elevate the sanctions.
Under the current regime, al-Shabaab fighters are also restricted under a UN resolution passed in 1993 during the Somali civil war, and which has been updated several times, to limit illegal arms supply and financial support to the group.