Tag Archives: KDF

Giveaways That Al-Shabaab’s Video Of The Battle Of El-Adde Was Staged

On Sunday, April 3rd, Al-Shabaab’s media wing released a recruitment video showing the militant group’s January 15th raid at a Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) camp at el-Adde, Somalia. It was the deadliest attack on an AMISOM mission to date, killing 100-200, 12 were reportedly taken hostage. KDF has yet to release any casualty figures to the public.

After viewing the video I contacted a military source – let’s call him ‘Dave’ – and asked him what he thought. Dave is a former KDF soldier, who has on several occasions engaged in battle with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. He is also a keen observer; his opinion is that much of the footage showing fighters approaching the KDF was staged i.e. filmed almost entirely on Saturday the 16th, the morning after the initial siege.

Here’s why:

  • Early reports indicated that three Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIED) had exploded inside the camp on Friday morning, January 15th. Dave thinks the explosion shown in the video is only one VBDEID which they detonated the following morning – but captured from different angles – to give the impression of several successive explosions. Use of split screen   would indicate the same.IMG_2382
  • KDF apparently had received photos from Friday morning’s attack  that showed deceased soldiers laying on a road outside the camp. The al-Kataib video shows only soldiers who’d been killed inside the camp, perhaps to underscore the military’s lack of preparedness. The Somali National Army (SNA) camp was co-located with the el-Adde camp 600 meters away. As Dave tells it the SNA had been tipped off of an impending attack. When the fighters arrived they fired several rounds near Somali National Army (SNA) camp as warning shots for occupants to evacuate. The shots also served as a decoy to lure KDF soldiers out of their camp into the “killing area”. Dave concludes that al-Shabaab probably killed a number KDF soldiers outside the camp as they tried to reinforce soldiers en route to the SNA camp. By midday, several hours after the attack, it was clear to al-Shabaab that KDF reinforcement from Nairobi headquarters was not coming, so they “extricated” (military parlance for withdrawing). They may have mingled with locals and the next day returned to the KDF camp –  now itself a kill area – to crush the remaining soldiers. A good portion of soldiers may have been killed inside the camp the next day. This means the camp was overrun on Saturday, not Friday.
  • Dave noted the fighters were not advancing toward the camp in a tactical formation; indeed, they appeared at times to be casually strolling through open grassy fields not expecting engagement. Al-Shabaab are foreign-trained and would never move around a battle field this way. IMG_2431
  • The film doesn’t show any return fire from the KDF camp, which is unlikely and for that reason would have been difficult to edit out. Not a single al-Shabaab militant appears in the video wounded or dead. Clearly al-Shabaab suffered casualties. Presence of bloated corpses indicates some soldiers were killed Friday morning but filmed the next day — corpses usually don’t bloat within the first few hours of death.
  • There were way too many Al-Shabaab fighters with phone cameras filming the attack. Dave notes that al-Shabaab consists of hundreds of professionally foreign-trained fighters who wouldn’t be caught dead in a battle field with cameras in hand.IMG_2410



On a final note Dave said Commander, Major Geoffrey Obwoge, was probably killed the second day. It appeared he was trying to repulse the enemy in an APC, along with the gunner and driver. One of the tires had been shot, caught fire (explaining the billowing black smoke) and the commander was unable to continue. As a commander he’d have been among the last men standing. If he was afraid in his final moments, it didn’t show. He stood his ground. The el-Adde camp was under-manned and under-equipped: the commander did not fail his company. Rather, KDF head quarters in Nairobi failed the company at el-Adde.




How Somali pirates and terrorists made bank off two Western hostages – Vocativ



Author Margot Kiser  Posted: 08/06/13 10:24 EST

Nearly two years after Somali pirates kidnapped them, two Spanish foreign aid workers suddenly reappeared at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu last month and got onboard a small plane headed back to Madrid. An undisclosed ransom was paid for their release, and though it’s still unclear exactly who received the money, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, announced the return of Montserrat Serra, 42, and Blanca Thiebaut, 32, at a press conference last month, saying the women are in “relatively good health.”

The two MSF aid workers arrived in Dadaab, Kenya, a sprawling metropolis of makeshift huts and tents, in the summer of 2011 to begin setting up a hospital for the more than 500,000 refugees, mostly Somalis who fled to Kenya because of war and famine. In October, Serra and Thiebaut were setting up a hospital at a separate camp 5 miles away when six gunmen ambushed their truck, shot and wounded their driver and abducted the women. By the time Kenyan police helicopters spotted the abandoned vehicle, the kidnappers had already taken Serra and Thiebaut across the Somali border.

Very little is known about what happened to the women during their 19 months in captivity. Yet interviews with sources and reports from U.S. and Kenyan authorities shed light on the ad hoc way that Al Shabaab militants and Somali pirates (who reportedly call themselves The Indian Ocean Network) often work in tandem to hide Western hostages and share the ransom money. “Hostage bartering has been known amongst pirate groups, and it is thought that Al Shabaab has handed some hostages over to pirate groups for negotiation,” says John Steed, a former British army colonel and current executive director at Secretariat for Regional Maritime Security, an organization that assists Somalia’s efforts to combat piracy.

Doctors Without Borders2
Montserrat Serra, left, and Blanca Thiebaut
Over the course of their ordeal, Thiebaut and Serra appear to have been shuffled between a series of windowless mud huts every few weeks with nothing to read and no one to talk to. Like most other hostages in the region, the two likely subsisted on a single meal a day of boiled potatoes, pasta and, occasionally, camel meat. In recent photos taken when the women landed in Madrid, they looked as thin and frail as the Somali refugees they once assisted. The gunmen who captured Serra and Thiebaut belonged to a militia that a minority faction of Al Shabaab hired, according to Matt Bryden, director of the Kenya-based Sahan Research Group, which focuses on the Horn of Africa. He tells Vocativ the women were immediately taken to the Somali port town of Kismayu, which is also controlled by Al Shabaab, a militant Islamist group with ties to Al Qaeda.

The pirates and the militant group once had little use for each other. But since July 2011, when African Union forces pushed Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu and cut off many of its revenue streams from the capital city’s port, the group has been strapped for cash. Yet a senior counterterrorism expert in Kenya, who asked not to be named because he or she was not authorized to talk to the media, tells Vocativ that the kidnappers offered the women to Al Shabaab’s commanders in Kismayu, who apparently wanted nothing to do with them. Instead, the kidnappers dragged them nearly 800 miles north to Harardhere, in central Somalia, where they off-loaded their victims onto a band of pirates for $200,000, a well-connected research analyst based in Mogadishu who wished to remain unnamed tells Vocativ. The Indian Ocean Network had found its newest prize.

According to a United States–based authority on piracy and international crime, Mohamed Abdi Hassan Afweyne (who is considered the father of Somali piracy and appropriately dubbed “Big Mouth” by fellow thieves of the sea) admitted in interviews that pirates initially paid the Islamist group $100,000 for safe anchorage in Harardhere between 2008 and 2010. That amount steadily rose and Al Shabaab began demanding 20 to 30 percent of the ransom for both merchant vessels and individual foreign hostages.

The Mogadishu-based expert says that pirates paid Al Shabaab leaders various forms of “protection money” as well as a cut of the ransom. In the case of Judith Tebbutt, a 56-year-old British tourist who was kidnapped (and later released) in 2011, the pirates paid $250,000 to pass through Al Shabaab’s land. For safe passage or anchorage of hijacked merchant vessels off the coast of Harardhere they could snag up to $300,000.

By 2012 Al Shabaab no longer controlled Merca, a city 50 miles south of Mogadishu and the area where the MSF workers were last seen. The Mogadishu-based expert concludes that pirates were the likely recipients of the MSF aid worker ransom, and he says it is rumored that Al Shabaab received a 20 percent cut of that ransom, or khumus.

Somali Pirates Map

In 2011 the average ransom for vessels seized in the Indian Ocean was $5 million, according to a report published by Oceans Beyond Piracy, a Colorado nonprofit. “Al Shabaab commanders usually won’t harbor kidnappers and their hostages,” Bryden says, “but they tolerated them in their midst and eventually took a cut of the ransom.”

Within the Indian Ocean Network, negotiators often pocket extra cash, thanks to a simple, but risky, scam. They will often quote a higher ransom than the kidnappers initially ask for, then keep the difference. If caught, however, the kidnappers will often kill them.

Most aid organizations provide armed security to their workers as they travel between the growing number of satellite camps around Dadaab. But MSF operates differently. Despite the group’s presence in some of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones, workers are rarely kidnapped. The organization says it strives to remain neutral and stay out of politics. Days after Serra and Thiebaut disappeared, Spanish MSF President Jose Antonio Bastos said at a press conference, “We want to strongly distance ourselves from any military or other armed activities, declarations or presumptions of responsibility related to this case.”

Yet neutrality often doesn’t matter when it comes to piracy, as many of the groups involved are mostly interested in making money however they can. Al Shabaab, for instance, got its hands on a piece of the $1.1 million ransom that a private security company and family members paid to liberate Tebbutt, the British tourist, Bryden says. At one point last year, the Islamist group demanded $68,000 per hostage for two Kenyan aid workers who were kidnapped while distributing food and medicine to poor. When it became clear that the families of the hostages couldn’t afford the amount, and the Kenyan government refused to negotiate with terrorists, elders from the hostages’ community eventually agreed on an undisclosed sum with Al Shabaab.

Somali pirates have carried out 218 successful hijackings since 2005 off the Horn of Africa, resulting in the abduction of more than 3,700 crew members and the total ransom payment of an estimated $385 million, according to a June 2013 World Bank report. As many as 97 non-Somali crew members died in the attacks, the report claimed. Although ransom rates are holding steady, the heyday of piracy appears to be over. Attempted hijackings declined by 70 percent from 2011. The number of successful piracy attacks in the Indian Ocean continued to decline in 2012, with just 14 reported hijackings. And on the ground in Kenya, kidnapping incidents are almost nonexistent. According to a United Nations report released last month, the decline is in part due to more effective European Union and NATO patrols, as well as the use of private security aboard merchant vessels.

Judith Tebbutt survived her kidnapping. Her husband’s killer recently received a death sentence from a Kenyan court.
Judith Tebbutt survived her 2011 kidnapping.
(AFP/Getty Images)
Pirates once saw tourists in Kenya as easy pray because of poor security. There hasn’t been an abduction since January 2012, when American journalist Michael Scott Moore, who was writing a book about piracy in Somalia, vanished. He is still missing. “It is highly unlikely that kidnappers will strike again at tourist areas on Kenya’s north coast,” says Major Emmanual Chirchir, former spokesman during Operation Linda Nchi, Kenya’s military campaign in Somalia to fight Al Shabaab. “But towns and refugee camps like Dadaab near the porous Kenya-Somali border in the northeast remain vulnerable.”

The release of the two Spanish aid workers has recharged the debate over publishing ransom amounts, as some argue it drives the dollar amount higher. But that, according to Bryden, simply isn’t true—especially now that kidnappings seem to be waning. “Everyone knows everything in Somalia,” he says. ” If a ransom is paid, word gets out very quickly.”

For now, however, exactly how the ransom exchanged hands remains a secret.


Margot Kiser is a Kenya-based American correspondent covering maritime piracy, security, geopolitics, wildlife conservation in East Africa.


Operation Linda Nchi – Kenya’s invasion of Somalia

Best wishes to all for a Happy and Prosperous 2012.
Kenya Department of Defence press brief Saturday, Dec, 31st, 2011.
Meeting began nearly an hour late @ 11 am.
Colonel Cyrus Oguna (a dead ringer for Eddie Murphy) from Kenya’s Dept of Defence delivered in dead pan fashion a speech that included description and # of successes (many) and # of KDF casualties (few) on the frontlines of “Operation LindaNchi” in Kenya’s war against Somalia.
When I first heard the name of the military operation – Linda’Nchi – I wondered…who is Linda? And Nchi sounds suspiciously Chinese. Hmmm. A Kenyan politician’s Chinese mistress. Figures.
I am proud of my handle on Swahili, but this Linda business stumped me.
I know “wananchi” means Kenyan citizens. “Wa” is the Swa prefix for People. “Na” roughly means “of”. So, Wana is people of the….
A Maasai Askari who protects me where I live in Kenya informed me that “Linda” is Swahili for “to protect”.
In the west Linda is associated with a woman’s name, but, of course, it’s a Spanish word meaning “beautiful”.
I didn’t know that “Nchi” meant country. LindaNchi then means to protect the country.
Since we are not referring to the other Swahili-speaking country, Tanzania, the phrase then means Operation Protect Kenya, the territory, that is, and, in this case, from Somalia.
Linda Nchi is an apt Swahili name that might easily define “sovereignty” and reminds me of the mantra that the US state Department invariably uses when, let’s say, Israel repeatedly attacks Palestine, “that every state has a right to decide for itself how best to defend itself”.
As with Palestine, the international community has yet to recognise Somalia as a sovereign state. A convenient truth?
Not recognising a country as a sovereign state is a handy way of rendering it illegal for any non-sovereign state to attack a sovereign state. In essence, Somalia has no right to defend itself.
The event that supposedly precipitated Kenya’s invasion into Somalia was the perception that Somalia had invaded Kenya by killing and snatching European tourists (David Tebbutt was shot dead, wife, Judith Tebbutt, and Marie Dedieu were kidnapped) while holidaying on Kenya’s north coast.
The group of thieves/bandits/Shabab/pirates had vanished with the two women (on two separate occasions) into Somalia as if into a bottomless long drop, never return until after paying a hefty ransom.
Tourism is one of Kenya’s largest revenue earners.
Reason alone, I suppose, for Kenya to invade Somalia.
Bottom line is that Kenya invaded Somalia to stop Somalia from further invading Kenya. Other incidents of this kind of perceived “invasion” began in the 70’s.
The upshot of last Saturday’s press briefing was to inform press of the existence of a list of insurgents thought to have already entered Kenya with knowledge of Al Shabab-related activities. Police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, said these individuals may be able to provide police w critical information in hunting down Shabab insurgent bases “wherever they may be”.
Al Shabab is an insurgent group based mainly in Somalia with loyalties to its parent group, Al Qaeda.
The question remains, what evidence is there to suggest that Shabab had anything to do with the tourist kidnappings?
[Kenya police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, with two among fifteen alleged insurgents; photos by Margot Kiser, copyright, Dec, 2011]