A report from Africa in the aftermath of the deadly al-Shabab terrorist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall indicates Kenya’s intelligence agency had advance warning that the al Qaeda-linked group was planning attacks.
The Kenya National Intelligence Service reported in August that an al-Shabab cell had been activated in the coastal city of Mombasa, according to an intelligence report obtained by the Nairobi newspaper, The Standard.
The report said four al-Shabab terrorists had traveled to Mombasa from Somalia around Aug. 15 to join a terrorist cell in the Mtopanga section of the city. The cell included two Islamist clerics.
The terrorists were described as “newly trained jihadists with a mission to strike targets in Mombasa and Nairobi to mark the first anniversary of the Aug. 27, 2012, killing of radical Islamist Sheikh Aboud Rogo,” the newspaper said.
The Kenyan cleric was shot 17 times by unidentified gunmen, as he was driving his wife to a hospital.
“The two [al-Shabab] clerics were to coordinate attacks against shopping malls, police stations, churches and other installation, as Mombasa prepared to mark several functions, including a presidential visit,” the report said.
Mombasa County Police Cmdr. Robert Kitur acknowledged that Kenyan officials were aware of the al-Shabab plot.
“Yes, we are aware of that intelligence report, and we know that there are plans by al-Shabab to attack functions that are highly populated,” he said.
The location of the four al-Shabab jihadists who were in Mombasa is not known. Officials told the newspaper that they may have been in Nairobi or that the activation in Mombasa was a diversion prior to the mall attack in Nairobi.
At least 67 people were killed and more than 150 were wounded Saturday in the shopping mall assault by terrorists armed with grenades and assault rifles who battled security forces for four days.
The al-Shabab operation raised concerns that the Somali terrorist group is expanding its operations outside the Horn of Africa, including possibly in the United States.
Timothy R. Furnish, a counterterrorism specialist, however, said he doubts the group will conduct U.S. strikes.
Mr. Furnish said al-Shabab is an al Qaeda affiliate that is being challenged by a pan-Sufi Islamic trend called Ahl al-Sunnah wa-al-Jamaah.
“Covertly supported by the United States, [Ahl al-Sunnah] has greatly reduced al-Shabab’s area of control in Somalia — but obviously it has not eliminated it,” he said in a brief report.
“Al-Shabab, for all its east African nastiness, is not a threat to the United States, and claims that it will become so via the Somali expatriate communities here are far-fetched at best.
“Al-Shabab is, however, a serious terrorist threat in the Horn of Africa and, as it continues to build links to Boko Haram [terrorists] in Nigeria and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, among others, to the entire African continent — particularly Christians therein.”
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