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Uhuru targets financiers in latest strategy to crush Al-Shabaab

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - Al-Shabaab sponsors and their source of revenue is the next target for Kenya in the latest strategy to defeat the militants, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

While the group has been substantially weakened by SNA - Somalia's National Army and allied forces, it has however managed to wage perilous attacks both in Somalia and elsewhere.

Initially, the UN named charcoal trade as the major source of income for the terror group, although it has since shifted focus to mafia-style taxation, UN Panel of Experts said.

The income from illegal activities has not only financed the group's deadly attacks but also intelligence gathering in a wider geography, analysts say.

Calls for economic embargo on Al-Shabaab

At Mombasa on Friday, Uhuru elaborated plans to sabotage the group's activities, focusing mainly on the financiers and facilitators.

Without specifically naming the trade linked to Al-Shabaab, Uhuru called for an economic embargo, presumably following intelligence briefing.

He said: “Illegal deals fund Al Shabaab. I also expect more on dealing with the sponsors and the recruiters."

Previously, the group and her financiers had been linked to the selling of contraband goods among them cheap sugar across the border, KDF had revealed.

For the last two months, Kenya has recorded eleven terror attacks, particularly in Northeastern and coastal strip.

More recently, the militants ran over a US Naval Base in Manda Bay, a culmination of a series of insecurity incidents in Kenya, AFRICOM said.

Frequent attacks in Northeastern

And the Kenyan president, who was addressing security chiefs, singled out the porous region as one of the major targets for a massive operation.

“We will respond robustly by mounting the operation against the operatives and sleeper cells especially in the North Eastern and Coast," he said.

While noting the setbacks Kenya has suffered, he added: "I also expect the officers to use proactive measures in dealing with the attackers."

Al-Shabaab has often targeted security forces besides innocent civilians, particularly those who are considered as non-locals, the government said.

The US blames local networks

His tough measures come just a day after the US military issued a preliminary assessment on the Manda Bay raid, which also left several aircraft dismembered.

Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence, on Thursday, said the US has strong evidence linking local networks to the attack.

“We assess that these are al-Shabab coming out of Somalia, but with the support of Kenyan facilitators and potential Kenyan aspirants of al-Shabab."

Further, the intelligence officer added that those who survived the attack are making their way back to Somalia using local networks.

“We also assess that after the attack, they’re continuing to make their way back into Somalia as well,” he added.

Although Kenya is yet you respond to the claims, Al-Shabaab returnees and sympathizers have often been linked to disastrous attacks in the country.

Citizens role in the Al-Shabaab war

Local politicians, religious leaders, and elders, Uhuru added, are critical in the government's plan to weed out the militants from Kenya.

The team, Uhuru said, should work with security agencies to curb rampant radicalization of young people as part of proactive measures.

"Government administrators and police are to engage local politicians, religious and opinion leaders within vulnerable communities as a proactive strategy to deny terrorism entry points into radicalization, especially of our youth."

Also, the head of state called for modern training for security officers, noting that the militants continue to familiarize themselves with evolving technology.

Uhuru added: “The tactics used by the enemies are dynamic and we will offer more training for our officers as we continue to equip them."

"Deny recruiters the space to operate and use the available resources to counter-terrorism," he said.

Al-Shabaab's frequent threats

Al-Shabaab has caused havoc in East Africa, killing at least 4,000 people in the last decade mostly in Somalia, a report revealed.

Last month, the group attacked a convoy in a busy Mogadishu junction killing at least 90 people, Somalia's government said.

Recently, the group warned that "we shall continue attacking Kenya and US until they withdraw their soldiers from Muslim lands".

Kenya has a total of 2,600 peacekeeping troops in Somalia. It first made an entry in 2011. For the US, at least 500 elite troops offer logistical support in Somalia.