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Spy agency NISA linked to financing of Al-Shabaab attacks in Kenya


KENYA, Nairobi- Somalia's spy agency NISA works closely with Al-Shabaab militants with an aim of unleashing terror attacks against Kenya, the confidential report obtained by Garowe Online reveals, in a shocking move which could strain the already fragile relationship between the two nations.

Influential Al-Shabaab operatives and NISA officials, the report says, are in close contact with a sole purpose of frustrating KDF operations in the war-torn nation

Under their well-coordinated unscrupulous activities, officials from NISA, apparently trained in Kenya, have been conspiring to unleash against the KDF, which serves large swathes of rural Jubaland in Sectors II and VI of AMISOM, the insider claimed.

At northeastern Kenya, the damning report alleged, NISA officials and their agents are involved in Al-Shabaab schemes to attack civilians and security forces. This year alone, Mandera, Garissa, and Wajir counties have registered 14 terror attacks.

Most victims of the attacks within the Northern Frontier Districts are non-locals and security agents. In February, the frequent attacks informed large exodus of non-local teachers from the region, officials said.

One of the fundamental roles of NISA agents include collection and relaying of intelligence information to Al-Shabaab, which then uses it to wage sophisticated raids against their targets, the report added.

"Some of these senior officers are providing highly confidential security information on Kenyan security agencies and personnel to al Shabaab to facilitate the militant group’s targeting of Kenyan security personnel," reads the report.

Multiple sources implicate a senior NISA official as the contact person with the Somalia-based militants. Among others, the official facilitates the group through financing, besides sharing critical information about the movement of KDF troops.

In recent weeks, Al-Shabaab received $1.5 million through a cheque signed by Abdullahi Kulane, a senior NISA agent. Using the NISA networks, Kulane also identifies easy targets for al Shabaab along the Kenyan border, claims the report.

NISA officials are believed to have instigated the deployment of the Somali National Army troops in Mandare in a bid to suck Kenya into internal Somalia affairs, according to sources. 

"NISA also deployed some of their telecommunication jamming systems to compromise Safaricom’s networks in Mandera and other adjacent areas in a bid to facilitate Al Shabaab operations in the area," adds the report.

Somalia's main problem with Kenya

The report comes amid escalating tensions between the two nations, which almost surged in February, leading to a series of shuttle diplomatic missions, that was engineered by Kenya.

In an interview with Universal TV, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo accused Kenya of "persistent interference of Somalia's domestic affairs" which he insisted that was "unnecessary".

Jubaland has been the epicenter of the differences, forcing Farmajo to deploy SNA troops to Gedo. Kenya works closely with the Jubaland administration under Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, considering that the region serves as a "buffer" zone in the Al-Shabaab war.

But instead, Farmajo believes the support for Madobe "undermines his administration". This occasioned fierce gunfight between SNA and Jubaland forces in the border town of Balad-Hawo, with the fight almost spilling to Kenya in February.

However, Farmajo placed a phone call to his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta, temporarily calling for a ceasefire. A much provoked Uhuru had warned Somalia against "interfering with our territorial integrity" in a statement that informed the US urgent intervention.

Nairobi temporarily arrested 12 MPs from the northeastern region who visited Somalia in February without "proper approval" from authorities. One of the contributing factors was reports that they had held a meeting with Somalia's spy agency boss Fahad Yasin.

Besides the Jubaland impasse where KDF is actively involved, Somalia is also embroiled in the Indian Ocean maritime dispute with Kenya. The case is due to commence at the International Court of Justice at The Hague in June 2020.

NISA's unending controversy

In Somalia, the spy agency is at the epicenter of persistent political intrigues and other clandestine activities, painting it in a bad light. Both Wadajir and FNP, the two official opposition parties, have often raised complaints about the agency.

For instance, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former president and now FNP boss, recently accused the agency of "acting outside its jurisdiction" after it was linked to travel ban against opposition bigwigs.

Abdirahman Abdishakur, the Wadajir leader, also claimed in February that "our NISA is the weak link in the fight against Al-Shabaab". According to him, the agency "works for Al-Shabaab" in a bid to intimidate opposition leaders and civilians.

In February, a group of Mogadishu businessmen also accused NISA of being "infiltrated by Al-Shabaab", arguing that even international partners fear to share intelligence reports with it for fear of "not knowing who is, or who is not Al-Shabaab in NISA".

Just last week, NISA published a controversial tweet in which it accused famous VOA journalist Harun Maruf of being a "danger" to national security. The agency further insisted that "we shall take legal action against him in due course".

The allegations were widely condemned by a host of Somalis, who termed the threats as "harassment and intimidations against the free press". Amnesty International had initially linked FGS and Al-Shabaab as "the worst enemies" of press freedom.

Incidentally, Maruf runs a popular program, "The Investigative Dossier" in which dozens of Al-Shabaab defectors have incriminated senior FGS officials of supporting the group's Jihadist agenda in Somalia.

Kenya, the most affected in Al-Shabaab raids

With Somalia's persistent accusations against Kenya about KDF policy in its territory, the end result has been increased attacks against the latter's forces and innocent civilians at northeastern, coast and Nairobi.

And in Somalia, the KDF troops have borne the brunt of the attacks, with Al-Shabaab targeting their camps in Jubaland. In one of the most dramatic setback, KDF lost close to 200 troops in El-Adde within Gedo in 2016.

The following year, the militant raided the Kulbiyow army base, further killing over 70 troops, military reports indicated. The two instances are the worst losses for KDF in a foreign land, Gen. Samson Mwathethe said last year.

But the team has managed to liberate a host of strategic towns among them Dhobley and Kismayo. The Kismayo capture in 2013 remains so far the best achievement by the KDF troops, whose AMISOM mission is set to expire in 2021.

Al-Shabaab has also been significantly degraded due to the persistent ground and aerial combats, which are mostly engineered by the US military and AMISOM troops. This year alone, 60 militants have succumbed to airstrikes.

Multiple intelligence reports also indicated that the group is financially strapped, leading to mass defections. Kenya blocked a host of businesses across the border which are said to facilitate the group's criminal operations.

Farmajo, on the other hand, has often denied links with the group, despite the opposition often accusing him of "behaving like Al-Shabaab". FGS, critics argue, is "obsessed" with crumbling regional states than fighting Al-Shabaab.

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