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al Shabaab Tag

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson is calling for "awareness" in the wake of threats made against the Minneapolis-based Mall of America. Late yesterday, Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab released a video calling for terror attacks on malls in the US, Canada, and the UK. Although there is no specific threat, officials are still urging caution, and high-profile shopping centers are upping their security presence.
Another U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the situation also told CNN that there is no actual working threat against any mall in the country and added that no one should avoid going to the mall because of the online threat. ... In its new video, Al-Shabaab calls for similar attacks on malls in the three Western countries. Al-Shabaab identified specific malls, but CNN will not list them unless they respond publicly. [FBI spokesman Rich] Quinn told CNN that "there is no doubt Al-Shabaab would like to carry out an attack on a U.S. mall, but they are in a pretty weakened state." The "bigger danger is their ability to inspire homegrown violent extremists inside the U.S. who might see this propaganda and decide to act," Quinn said. "Do we believe Al-Shabaab is sending operatives to the U.S.? No," he said.

Al-Shabaab intelligence head Abdishakur Tahliil was killed during a targeted December 29 airstrike conducted by U.S. forces just outside of the Somali city of Saakow. The mission was conducted by unmanned aircraft and used Hellfire missiles to "microtarget" Tahliil's vehicle. Bloomberg reports:
The U.S. Defense Department in a statement today confirmed that Abdishakur Tahliil was killed Dec. 29 near Somalia’s southern town of Saakow by unmanned aircraft that fired several Hellfire missiles at a vehicle carrying him. Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, which reported the killing yesterday, said two other senior officials of the group also died in the attack. Tahliil “was responsible for al-Shabaab’s external operations,” according to the Pentagon statement. “His death will significantly impact al-Shabaab’s ability to conduct attacks against the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the Somali people, and U.S. allies and interests in the region.”
One of the most difficult aspects of battling groups like ISIS or al-Shabaab is that they're hard to root out once they've gone to ground; this makes Tahliil's death even more significant---and strategically beneficial. Tahliil, as mentioned above, handled all of al-Shabaab's "external operations." According to a report by the BBC, Tahliil had just replaced the group's former intel officer after that man was arrested earlier this week. This strategy---causing chaos within the upper ranks---has been used before. Military and African Union officials knew that when a U.S. drone strike took out former al-Shabaab figurehead and spiritual leader Ahmed Godane back in September, that his death would be the catalyst of yet another internal power struggle. Reuters adds:

Yesterday, the United States Military launched targeted airstrikes against the insurgent group al-Shabaab in Somalia. From the Washington Post:
“The target of the strike was a senior al-Shabab leader,” Kirby said in a statement. “At this time, we do not assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties.” A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing analysis of the strike, said officials were not fully certain whether the strike had hit the militant. But he added: “We think the targeting was done precisely and accurately.” The official said that Monday’s attack on al-Shabab did not include any U.S. operations on the ground against the militant leader, whom he declined to name.
Multiple news outlets are reporting that the target was a "senior leader" of the al-Qaida affiliate, but American officials have not yet confirmed a name, or if the strike was successful. This is familiar territory for the U.S. Military, whose targeted drone strikes in southern Somalia this past September deposed former al-Shabaab front man and spiritual leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. After those strikes, Abu Ubeid Ahmed Omar rose to power within the organization, and although officials' lips are sealed (for now) about who this latest target was, it would make sense for the U.S. to target Omar.

Just days after al-Shabaab insurgents attacked an African Union military base in Somalia, one of the group's leaders has been captured along the Somalia-Kenya border. From the AP:
A leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, who had a $3 million bounty on his head, surrendered in Somalia, a Somali intelligence official said Saturday. Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi surrendered to Somali police in the Gedo region, said the intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabab's top leader who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this year, the officer said. Hersi was one of seven top al-Shabab officials whom the Obama administration offered a total $33 million in rewards for information leading to their capture in 2012. It is not clear if the reward will be paid out for Hersi because he surrendered. Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many terror attacks in Somalia and some in neighboring countries including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia's weak U.N.- backed government.
Reports out of Africa have confirmed that the Gashan (Somali special forces) have cleared out the last of the insurgents who attacked the AMISOM base in Mogadishu, but we still have very little information about why Hersi surrendered, or if his surrender had anything to do with Thursday's attack. Senior military official Col. Abas Ibrahim Gurey told CNN that "Zakariya has told us following his capture that he left Al-Shabaab a year and half ago and since then was looking for to surrender to the Somali government," but have otherwise been tight lipped about the man's motives.

Ugandan authorities on Saturday foiled an attempted terrorist attack in the Ugandan capital city of Kampala. The U.S. Embassy ordered American citizens to shelter in place as Ugandan police apprehended members of a terror cell, arresting an unspecified number of foreigners and seizing an unknown amount of explosives. Fred Enanga, a representative from the Uganda Police told the Wall Street Journal that until the investigation is over, police will increase security in public places such as hotels, restaurants, and Entebee National Airport. However, he declined to confirm whether or not the authorities had confirmed that the cell was associated with al Shabaab, and would not divulge the nationalities of the suspects in custody. Uganda is one of several African Union nations that is supplying manpower for the peacekeeping force fighting al Shabaab in Somalia. Uganda represents the largest presence in the force, and has suffered numerous threats and attacks since it joined. Most notably, al Shabaab took responsibility for the 2010 attack on the World Cup finals in Kampala, when two explosions took the lives of 76 people.