Al Qaeda Plotted to Kill Kenyan Leaders
Top Kenyan leaders were targeted for assassination last year, a top Somalia crime buster has disclosed to The Standard On Sunday.
In an elaborate plot intended to achieve maximum effect and teach Kenya “a lifetime lesson”, the schemers of the al-Shabaab terror gang planned to bump off the two Kenyan leaders at the peak of their presidential campaigns.
Speaking to The Standard On Sunday from his hideout in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, Somalia’s immediate former Director-General of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA), Ahmed Moallim Fiqi revealed that the two top presidential contenders were to be assassinated in massive bomb blast attacks.
Details of the planned executions are contained in documents and files accessed from a computer laptop, owned by al-Shabaab leader, Fazul Muhammed, who was gunned down in June 2011 by the military wing of Fiqi’s NISA.
Fazul was one of the most sought-after key masterminds of the twin blasts of the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam on August 7, 1998.
The revelations by the Somalia crime buster come exactly 15 years since the terror blasts that left 212 people dead in Kenya and 12 in neighbouring Tanzania.
According to Fiqi, who led the operation that intercepted and gunned down Fazul, his NISA troupes found in possession of the killer terrorist a laptop, external electronic hand gadgets, flash disks, a host of texts and other Arabic literature — all of which had crucial information on al Shabaab’s activities.
A detailed map
Among the crucial leads was a detailed map out of staging a twin blast in Nairobi and Mombasa cities as well as at campaign rallies of the top presidential contenders, with near similar impact as the twin blasts of 1998. “Although President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga are not mentioned directly as targets of the attacks, the schemers had plotted one year ahead of the General Election with a view to targeting two leading politicians in the campaigns,” says Fiqi.
The former Somalia intelligence boss explains the goal of “Amniyat”, the intelligence wing of Al Shabaab, was to target top candidates, who enjoyed a huge following and who attracted massive crowds across the country. The objective was obviously to register maximum fatalities anywhere in the country.
Although by the time of his death Fazul had not specifically fingered Raila and Kenyatta for assassination, the political contest was already shaping up with the former PM and his former deputy PM as frontrunners.
Indeed, a senior Kenyan intelligence official confirmed to The Standard On Sunday that NIS was aware of the assassination attempts on civilians during the campaigns ahead of this year’s March 4 General Election and acted accordingly.
“We are heavily indebted to Fiqi, who is well known to my boss (Michael Gichangi), for sharing this particular report with Kenyan authorities, including specific target areas and hideouts of the al-Shabaab operatives,” he divulges.
The security official, one of the officers who man intelligence information flow on Somalia, Djibouti and South Sudan, confesses the leads aided Kenya to round up tens of suspected al-Shabaab members and crash the plot.
The officer, who sought anonymity for security reasons and because he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the NIS, partly attributes the successful operation to the fact that the mastermind of the blasts was killed before execution of the plot.
When contacted yesterday, the Director General of the National Intelligence Service, Mr Michael Gichangi said after the death of Fazul, so much information was gathered to help in bolstering security in Kenya and the region at large.
“We cannot discuss what we got in detail but all I can tell you is that we usually compare notes with our colleagues in the region,” said Gichangi.
“We were always on high alert but I cannot tell you about the security that was in place for the leaders at the time,” He said.
The General Election was moved to 2013 and not held in 2012 as Al Shabaab had originally schemed.
Besides Kenya, Fiqi discloses that there was more crucial information on other countries found in Fazul’s computer files, including a series of correspondence with the slain al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
Fiqi recounts that in one of the communications, Fazul — who was in charge of operations outside Somalia — accuses head of operations within Somalia, Ahmed Abdi Godane, of interference.
In the correspondence, Fazul protests at the “lacklustre” operation led by Godane in Ugandan capital of Kampala in June 2010, where a blast killed just a “handful of soccer fans” watching the World Cup on TV.
Fazul’s computer and other literature found in his car, from where he was shot dead, contained a lot of useful dossier.
And contrary to perception that Al Shabaab was strong, Fiqi discloses that the literature unearthed from Fazul exposed all the weaknesses of the groups and lamentations about weak links, all of which the Fiqi-led agency exploited to destabilise the terror gang.
As the first civilian to serve as Director-General of NISA between May 2011 and early 2013, Fiqi has been credited for successfully dismantling the Al Shabaab network in Mogadishu, including foiling many attempted suicide bomb attacks against civilians and several key Government institutions and installations.
On the run
Ultimately, Fiqi — who holds a Masters degree in Management from a university in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, frustrated the gang’s operations through sharing valuable intelligence reports with relevant agencies in Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
And during his tenure at NISA, over 2,000 members of Al Shabaab were arrested and tried.
Indeed a number of Somali people and members of the international community, including Kenyan authorities, have testified that Fiqi’s efforts have helped secure Mogadishu and the region from Al Shabaab’s reign of terror.
But for his selfless and bold move, Al Shabaab is on his trail and the 42-year-old crime buster is now on the run.
When The Standard On Sunday caught up with him in downtown Nairobi, courtesy of a secondary contact, a restless Fiqi demanded that we stagger this interview to three days, at different times and locations.
So far, Fiqi — Somalia’s former Ambassador to Sudan — has narrowly escaped a record five assassination attempts from Al Shabaab terror gangs, in Mogadishu and lower Shabelle.
But members of his family have not been as lucky. To date, the lives of three innocent kin have been snuffed out by the vengeful Al Shabaab, the latest being his nephew, Osman Abdirahman Moalin Fiqi, a medical doctor.
Family members of Fiqi, who is married with two children, have also been forced to flee their homes to seek refuge abroad.
But the ever-determined al-Shabaab seems to have regained ground after hounding Fiqi out of NISA.
Bomb attacks in Mogadishu have intensified and only last Monday, the Somali capital experienced 18 attacks and another last Sunday, leaving a total of seven people dead.
Asked whether he was in touch with his one-time Kenyan counterpart, Gichangi, Fiqi remarked: “I know, my old friend would be glad to secure my safety, but I have neither sought his help nor alerted him I am in Nairobi. My focus, though, remains that we must rid this region of criminal elements out to kill our political leaders and civilians.”
- The Standard