Posts Tagged ‘al-Shabaab’

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Claim: al-Shabaab financiers tend to come from one clan

August 19, 2014

Money Jihad cannot confirm the accuracy of a recent claim that financiers of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization tend to come from the Hawiye—the dominant clan in Mogadishu.

A Somali news site says it investigated al-Shabaab’s funding for six months and identified 10 entrepreneurs from various Hawiye sub-clans working in Somalia, Kenya, and Dubai who allegedly fund al-Shabaab. Money from the businessmen is said to be routed through Sheikh Yusuf Sheikh Issa, a.k.a. “Kabkutukade,” but separate media accounts appear to contradict that statement by reporting that Kabkutukade was jailed a year ago.

There is some corroboration that one of the men named in the article, referred to as “Muse Mohammed Ganjab,” does indeed have militant connections. The Times recently reported that “Musa Haji Mohamed Ganjab,” an adviser to Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, sent an arms shipment to al-Shabaab weeks after the terror siege of the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and that he personally delayed an attack against an al-Shabaab base in Barawe.

There is also some indication of Hawiye roots and connections to al-Shabaab: the Jamestown Foundation says that the Islamic Union of Courts and its al-Shabaab offshoot were initially criticized as a Hawiye clan militia, the website Terror Free Somalia has previously noted that al-Shabaab’s sanctioned leaders are “mostly Hawiye,” and the Somalia Report says that al-Shabaab used to be referred to as a Hawiye clan based group. But it is also possible that some claims originate from rival clans, and al-Shabaab has members and supporters from non-Hawiye clans as well.

Nevertheless, the tribal connections are mostly immaterial, since al-Shabaab is, at its core, a jihadist group aligned primarily around its belief in fundamentalist Islam, and not along clan lineage.

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Al-Shabaab profits from Somali telecom sector

August 18, 2014

Without a stable central government, Somalia’s telecommunications network has been unregulated for decades.  This has allowed for tremendous growth and fairly low prices for phone and Internet access in Somalia compared to neighboring countries.

However, this has also created a Wild West atmosphere of clan elders and businessmen in Mogadishu cutting deals with international—often Saudi-backed—telecommunications providers like Arabsat.  Arabsat is based in Saudi Arabia and is owned by the Arab League.  In addition to providing phone coverage, Arabsat’s satellites host television broadcasts by well-known hate channels Al Manar and Al-Aqsa.

The government of Somalia has made attempts recently to begin taxing and regulating the telecommunications industry, but the bigger factors at play are the taxes you don’t see.  Some evidence suggests that informal licenses are granted by warlords or businessmen in exchange for bribes paid behind the scenes.

Reporting from the Gulf News earlier this year went even farther, suggesting that the warlords allow the telecoms to over-charge customers so they can pocket the difference or pay off al-Shabaab too:

…By persuading other telcos worldwide to clip the ticket for them, these [Somali telecommunications providers] groups has [sic] become wealthy enough to avoid attempts by government and the regulatory International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to rein them in.

Not only do these groups exploit vulnerable customers charging them often beyond their means and disproportionate to costs, there are also suspicions that some sponsor the terrorist scourge, Al Shabaab.

By negotiating with foreign companies to charge above the usual rates and to put money collected into overseas funds, these “companies” avoid tax — and have sufficient clout to offer deals to favoured factions, or fund groups they believe will deliver a government suited to their economic or ideological aims…

There are also rumors of relationships between, or at least pressure exerted by, al-Shabaab on several specific Somali telecommunications companies including Hormuud Telecom.  RBC Radio reported this year that, “Al Shabab has closed down Hormuud Telecom Company’s branch in Jilib town, Middle Jubba region after the company failed to pay $50,000 which Al Shabab demanded from local companies,” and added that, “Extorting money from private business companies and aid agencies operating in Somalia is seen as the biggest source of investment for Al Shabab’s war with the government.”  Some sources have gone further, describing Hormuud as “al-Shabaab’s messenger” or “the phone of death” taking its cues from al-Shabaab.

In October 2011, Hormuud was allowed to remain in operation while two rival companies were closed by al-Shabaab.  One of those rivals, Nationlink Telecom, eventually reopened after allegedly paying $30,000 to al-Shabaab to resume operations.  An al-Shabaab member told the Somalia Report that non-cooperative companies would be forced to close “until their managers agree to pay taxation for the war against the infidels as well as the crusaders.”

While it is possible that some of the claims about the telecommunications business in Somalia have been exaggerated due to clan or business rivalries, former al-Shabaab commander Mohamed Farah Al-Ansari confirmed the role of extortion against Somali telecommunications companies in funding al-Shabaab in an interview with Voice of America last year.

There are enough grounds for concern that international investors and corporations would do well to examine any business deals with Somali telecommunications companies with the utmost caution.  Similar to the risks of doing business with the money transfer company Dahabshiil, the taint of al-Shabaab is simply too strong to ignore.

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Somali in Holland funded al-Shabaab

August 4, 2014

Farhia Hassan, a Somali living in the Netherlands, has been arrested as part of a U.S. sting against an international cell of East African women who financed al-Shabaab. Additional arrests were made in Virginia and Washington state. The women sent the money back home to “brothers in the mountains,”—al Shabaab fighters in Somalia. The money was transferred in small increments probably to avoid scrutiny. Hassan is said to be pregnant, which her lawyers will probably use to argue against her extradition.

Thanks to Theo Prinse for sending over the story from Omroep Zeeland. An English account of the development comes from DutchNews:

Dutch Somali woman faces deportation to US over terrorist funding

A 30-year-old woman who lives in Terneuzen faces extradition to the US on charges of helping finance the al-Shabaab terror group.

The woman was arrested on Wednesday on the request of the US authorities, the public prosecution department said.

The woman, who was born in Somalia, has Dutch nationality. She will appear in court on Friday and the US has requested her extradition, the prosecution department said.

Brothers

The US department of justice said in a statement that two other women from Kenya and Somalia were also arrested in the US on Wednesday and two more remain ‘fugitives’.

Three defendants who were arrested face charges of providing material support to al-Shabaab, a designated foreign terrorist organisation that is conducting a violent insurgency campaign in Somalia’, the statement said.

The statement said the women referred to the money they sent overseas as ‘living expenses,’ and they repeatedly used code words such as ‘orphans’ and ‘brothers in the mountains’ to refer to al-Shabaab fighters, and ‘camels’ to refer to trucks needed by al-Shabaab.

The money transfers often were broken down into small amounts as low as $50 or $100, and the funds were intended for use by al-Shabaab insurgents operating in Somalia…

Prior Money Jihad coverage of terror financing based in the Netherlands is here. Posts about the financing of al-Shabaab are here. See this and these for the use of “orphans” as code for terrorist financing.  The AP and the Washington D.C. affiliate of ABC News have more information on the arrests here.

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Dahabshiil offices closed for skipping payment to al-Shabaab

July 26, 2014

Somali news outlets reported on July 12 that several Dahabshiil offices in southern Somalia were ordered to close after the money transfer company failed to make required “sako” [zakat] payments to the al-Shabaab terrorist organization.

According to Radio Kulmiye, Middle and Lower Juba offices in Bu’aale, Saakoow, Salagle, and Jilib have been ordered to close. The same development was also reported by Shiniile News, and the website Dayniile says that “feet dragging” by Dahabshiil on making the payments is what prompted the closures.

According to some Somali news outlets, Dahabshiil routinely gives money to al-Shabaab, which the remittance company denies. For whatever reason, payments are occasionally decreased or delayed, and al-Shabaab threatens Dahabshiil in order for payments to resume. The most noteworthy example of this was the April 2, 2013, bombing by al-Shabaab of Dahabshiil’s office in Mogadishu because of a short payment.

The reason you haven’t read about this elsewhere is because English-language media simply don’t report on Dahabshiil’s ongoing financial relationship with al-Shabaab. But the compliance division of Barclays bank is likely aware of such reports, which has why it has tried desperately and rightly to sever ties with Dahabshiil.

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Singer shot dead after saying Somali bank funds terror

July 25, 2014
Somali super star singer

MP Saado Ali Warsame

Saado Ali Warsame, a well-known singer and member of parliament in Somali, was assassinated Wednesday on the streets of Mogadishu near the Ambassador Hotel. The jihadist organization Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the murder.

The BBC reports that “a spokesman for the Islamist al-Shabab group, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, told the BBC that she was targeted for her politics.”

Warsame herself believed that a bounty was offered for her killing by Dahabshiil, a UAE-based money transfer business that operates primarily in Somalia. In 2013, the news website Suna Times reported that Warsame had “accused Dahabshiil of putting a two million dollar bounty for her death, shortly after she released a song called Dahabshiil ha dhigan (‘Don’t Deposit with Dahabshiil’).” Money Jihad has been one of the only other English-language websites to cover those allegations.  Dahabshiil’s attorneys have previously denied the allegations in correspondence with Money Jihad.

Warsame’s album warned fans about Dahabshiil’s ‘linkage to tribalism and extremism,’ and satirized the company’s name, which means “goldsmith” by calling it Dhiigshiil, which means “bloodsmith.” Dahabshiil makes regular payments to al-Shabaab.

A dual U.S. citizen, Warsame’s family should demand a full investigation by federal authorities, and the family should consider legal action against the perpetrators.

Despite all the warning signs, prominent charities and spokesmen such as Olympics medalist Mo Farah have insisted that Barclays bank continue offering remittance services in conjunction with Dahabshiil. Those advocates for partnership with Dahabshiil should review this tragic case of Ms. Warsame.

Speaking at her funeral, Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said, “We will never stop to hunt the criminals and we will punish them.” Let’s hope that is the case. Another East African musician, Nimo Djama, has also sung out against Dahabshiil’s role in terrorist financing. Officials in the UK and U.S. need to wake up about the threat of Dahabshiil before this happens again.

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Gulf charcoal purchases prop up al-Shabaab

July 7, 2014

Money Jihad has long reported on how al-Shabaab profits from Somalia’s charcoal smuggling business, particularly by charging a checkpoint tax authorized by Islamic law. A new report from the United Nations Environmental Programme and Interpol confirms that this activity is ongoing despite a UN ban against Somali charcoal exports, saying that “Al Shabaab retains about one third of the [charcoal] income, which alone constitutes about USD 38–56 million” annually.

A map in the report shows a key al-Shabaab tax checkpoint at Buulo Xaaji, main points of embarkation from Kismayo and Barawe, major delivery locations at Jizan (Saudi Arabia), Dubai and Sharjah (UAE), and Khasab (Oman), with additional deliveries in Egypt, Yemen, and Kuwait.

Somali charcoal exports

In addition to “normal” smuggling of charcoal from Somalia to the Gulf states, it is Money Jihad’s belief that rampant trade-based money laundering is occurring between al-Shabaab and these states in which wealthy Arabs are transferring funds to al-Shabaab through over-invoicing for charcoal purchased. In other words, terror financiers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are intentionally overpaying for Somali charcoal as a means of funding al-Shabaab without simple detection. The Gulf states are doing this to pursue larger strategic interests in Africa.

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Road rage: Al-Shabaab taxes truckers $150 to $600 a month

May 5, 2014

Extortion by the Somali terrorist organization al-Shabaab against local corporations and merchants is commonplace.  That is part of the reason why it is so important that Western banks stick to their guns when they have moved to sever ties with Somali remittance companies.  It has become increasingly apparent that it is nearly impossible to do business in Somalia without enriching al-Shabaab.  The entire country needs to be completely fumigated by Kenyan and AMISOM forces.  Only after the al-Shabaab infestation has been exterminated can their business sector be rebuilt and foreign investment resume.

Thanks to El Grillo for sending in this from Horseed Media on Apr. 22

Somalia: Al Shabab increased tax on local Business

The group has already enforced the new tax in Galgaduud region (central of Somalia), residents say.

“…The local bus and lorry drivers have to pay $150 Us dollars a month, while the other drivers from other regions will pay $600 us dollars…” says one of the local residents who asked not to be named for security reasons. He added “… the local livestock traders are also forced to pay the tax…”

Al-Shabab has been driven out of major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force, but the group still controls many of the rural areas in south-central Somalia and regularly launch attacks that include bombs and guerrilla-style raids.

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Al-Shabaab financial news roundup

April 24, 2014

Thanks to all the tipsters who sent in these items:

» Kenyan police have identified two youth outreach coordinators in Mombasa who incite violence during sermons at mosques and offer who small signing bonuses for new al-Shabaab recruits.  (Hat tip to El Grillo)

» Also in Mombasa, Kenyan authorities are are investigating local businessmen for their role in trafficking weapons and recruiting fighters for al-Shabaab.  The businessmen have used up to 20 domestic and international banks to for their activities.  Officials are also monitoring Riyadh mosque in Nairobi, and Masjid Mujahideen (formerly known as Sakina mosque) and Masjid Shuhadaa (f.k.a. Masjid Musa) in Mombasa for their promotion of jihad in Somalia.

» Meanwhile in downtown Nairobi, a dozen shops are financing al-Shabaab and radical madrasas as well.  The shops are still in business.  Nobody in Kenya appears to have been arrested yet despite the fact that authorities have tipped them off.

» An Ethiopian member of parliament has pointed to a different culprit in fattening al-Shabaab’s portfolio–Egypt.   Egypt is spending money on weapons, indoctrination, and training for al-Shabaab according to the MP who says, “American taxpayers should demand answers from the Obama administration on why billions of their money is going to a country that funds terrorism in East Africa.”  Indeed.

» Barclays attempted to stop doing business with Dahabshiil over the Somali wire service’s lax money laundering and terror finance controls last year, but a court injunction forced their relationship to continue temporarily (despite reports that Dahabshiil pays $1 million to al-Shabaab annually).  Now Barclays and Dahabshiil have struck an agreement which will keep them in business together until Dahabshiil finds another bank to transfer its funds. (H/t Mean Kitteh)

» Foreign aid to Somalia has not been accurately accounted for, and has either been stolen or used or to fund militias, according to an investigative report.   The UAE sent $48 million in 2013 off-the-books, Qatar sent $25 million of which only $5 million was properly accounted for, and Iran sent $20 million in cash that was never deposited through official channels. The report revealed that “The diversion of public funds in Somalia is made easier by the fact that most Arab donors prefer to give their aid in cash.”   (H/t SomaliSijui)

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Interpol targets al-Shabaab’s charcoal smuggling

March 30, 2014

Finally. Action against al-Shabaab’s exploitation of the lucrative Somali charcoal trade is long overdue. Al-Shabaab exacts a 2½ percent tax at several stages of production from the point the charcoal leaves the kilns until it is loaded and shipped illegally to Persian Gulf buyers in contravention of a UN ban on the trade.

From Thomson Reuters on Mar. 27 (h/t El Grillo):

…“The al Shabaab-controlled charcoal trade is emerging as the new security threat facing the country’s biodiversity,” Henry Wafula, a district commissioner in eastern Kenya, said in an interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Charcoal worth more than 140 million Kenya shillings (about $1.7 million) is being shipped out of eastern Kenya illegally every month, Wafula said. The lucrative trade involves cutting down and burning mature trees, particularly in protected wildlife areas. The loss of trees reduces cover for wildlife and worsens soil erosion.

In 2013, the annual report of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia estimated that al Shabaab’s charcoal exports from eastern Africa could be as high as 24 million sacks per year, for an overall international market value of $360 to $384 million.

Laws passed by Kenya in 2013 impose tough punishments on illegal logging and related activities, but concern about al Shabaab’s possible use of charcoal trade revenue has drawn INTERPOL, the world’s largest international police organisation, into an alliance trying to stop the trade, though there is scant evidence it is used for terror-related operations.

“We have reports linking illegal charcoal trade in Eastern Africa to terrorist activities in the region. But this is not something governments are responding to,” David Higgins, of INTERPOL’s environmental crime programme, told a recent media briefing in Nairobi.

He did not give details of the activities, but said he has information, mainly from non-governmental organisations, that there are links between the charcoal trade and terror cells operating in the region.

INTERPOL began taking an interest in the charcoal trade soon after Kenya passed the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013, which spells out penalties up to life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of logging, clearing land or setting fire to vegetation in protected wildlife areas…

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UN lifts sanctions on al-Shabaab entrepreneur

March 24, 2014

UN sanctions against al-Shabaab financier Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale have been lifted.  The UN did not offer any explanation for the removal from their sanctions list.  Last year the government of Somalia itself requested the removal, saying that Jim’ale “is innocent.”

The UN delisting notice lays out the grounds for the original sanctions.  It is difficult to read their dossier and come away with an impression of innocence…

Ali Ahmed Nur Jim’ale (Jim’ale) has served in leadership roles with the former Somali Council of Islamic Courts, also known as the Somali Islamic Courts Union, which was a radical-Islamist element.  The most radical elements of the Somali Islamic Courts Union eventually formed the group known as al-Shabaab.  Al-Shabaab was listed for targeted sanctions in April 2010 by the United Nations Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 751 (1992) and 1907 concerning Somalia and Eritrea (the “Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee”).  The Committee listed al-Shabaab for being an entity engaged in acts that directly or indirectly threaten the peace, security, or stability of Somalia, including but not limited to acts that pose a threat to Somali Transitional Federal Government.

According to the July 18, 2011 report of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee’s Monitoring Group (S/2011/433), Jim’ale is identified as a prominent businessman and figure in the al-Shabaab charcoal-sugar trading cycle and benefitting from privileged relationships with al-Shabaab.

Jim’ale is identified as one of al-Shabaab’s chief financiers and is ideologically aligned with al-Shabaab.  Jim’ale has provided key funding and political support for Hassan Dahir Aweys (“Aweys”), who was also listed by the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee.  Former al-Shabaab Deputy Emir Muktar Robow reportedly continued to engage in political posturing within the al-Shabaab organization during the mid-2011.  Robow engaged Aweys and Jim’ale in an effort to advance their shared objectives and consolidate their overall stance within the context of the al-Shabaab leadership rift.

As of fall 2007, Jim’ale established a front company in Djibouti for extremist activities called the Investors Group.  The short term goal of the group was, through the funding of extremist activities and weapons purchases, to destabilize Somaliland.  The group assisted in smuggling small arms from Eritrea through Djibouti into the 5th region of Ethiopia where extremists received the shipment.  As of mid-2008, Jim’ale continued to operate the Investors Group.

As of late September 2010, Jim’ale established ZAAD, a mobile-to-mobile money transfer business and struck a deal with al-Shabaab to make money transfers more anonymous by eliminating the need to show identification.

As of late 2009, Jim’ale had a known hawala fund where he collected zakat, which was provided to al-Shabaab.

As of December 2011, unidentified donors from the Middle East were transferring money to Jim’ale, who in turn used financial intermediaries to send the money to al-Shabaab.

In 2009, Jim’ale worked with other like minded individuals to undermine the Somali TFG by not participating in Somali reconciliation efforts.  As of late 2011, Jim’ale actively supported al-Shabaab by offering free communications, use of vehicles, food aid and political advisement and set up fundraisers for al-Shabaab through various business groups.

The request by Somalia for the UN to lift sanctions on Jim’ale suggests that the Somali government has been compromised by the very elements which it purports to be at war with.  Just a couple years ago, Jim’ale was considered to be a security threat and an important al-Shabaab money man.  Suddenly he’s free to roam about Africa again.

The lifting of the sanctions, which included an international travel ban, enables Jim’ale to resume his travels back and forth between Somalia and Djibouti.  He holds passports with both countries.

For more on the cryptic UN delisting process, see prior Money Jihad coverage here and here.

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