CIA joins hunt for white British woman who joined Somali militants

Samantha LewthwaiteBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
American intelligence officials are said to be actively cooperating with Kenyan authorities in the hunt for a white British woman believed to have joined a Somali group that is part of al-Qaeda in East Africa. The woman, Samantha Lewthwaite, 28, was married to Jermaine Lindsay, a British suicide bomber who blew up a train at London’s King’s Cross station on July 7, 2005. Lewthwaite, who by that time had two children by Lindsay, disappeared soon after the so-called 7/7 bombings, and allegedly reappeared in England in 2009, to give birth to her third child, which she reportedly had with a Moroccan man. Today she is considered an important organizer of al-Shabaab, (The Party of Youth), which used to be the youth wing of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The Sunni-Muslim ICU ruled most of Somalia until the 2006 US-supported invasion of the country by Ethiopia. Ever since that time, al-Shabaab has become one of Africa’s most highly organized militant groups, relying on hundreds of Westerners who have flocked to Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, and elsewhere, to join a peculiar form of jihad (holy war) inspired largely by al-Qaeda. According to reports from the UK, Lewthwaite is one of at least three British planners involved in setting up al-Shabaab’s operations in Kenya, Somalia, and elsewhere. She first entered Kenya several years ago, using a forged passport belonging to a South African identity theft victim called Natalie Faye Webb. In February of 2011, she is believed to have entered Kenya again, on foot, via Tanzania. Her travels are thought to be connected with her fundraising and other organizing activities on behalf of al-Shabaab, which appear to include —aside from financing— procuring weapons and training recruits. Not long ago, Kenyan police said a white woman matching Lewthwaite’s description managed to escape during a raid at the house of a suspected Islamist militant in Kenyan capital Nairobi. Read more of this post

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Covert war in Somalia involves CIA, European mercenaries

Richard Rouget

Richard Rouget

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Regular readers of this blog will remember Jeremy Scahill’s report in The Nation last July, about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s expanding operations in Somalia. Since the 2006 US-led Ethiopian invasion, the Western-backed Somali government has been engaged in a brutal war with al-Shabaab, the youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union, which ruled most of the country in the years after 9/11. Scahill revealed that the CIA maintains a growing security complex in the country, located right behind Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport. The complex allegedly contains over a dozen buildings, as well as several metal hangars, which house CIA aircraft. Now a new report by United Press International claims that the clandestine American campaign in the horn of Africa “appears to be growing daily”, and that the CIA complex contains a prison for renditioned militant suspects. The latter are routinely interrogated by members of a Mogadishu-based CIA team consisting of approximately 30 case officers, analysts, linguists, and others. The UPI article suggests that the growing CIA presence in the Somali capital is part of a wider expansion of America’s counter-terrorist campaign in countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Indonesia, and the Philippines. However, the instances when CIA personnel venture outside Mogadishu are few and far between. For this purpose, the Somali government is using American financial aid to hire European private security firms, including Bancroft Global Development, a combat consulting group with a growing presence in Mogadishu. Bancroft’s 40-member team consists of Scandinavian, South African, and French former special forces members, including Richard Rouget (also known as ‘Colonel Sanders’), a former officer in the French Army who has recent combat experience in several African countries. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #539

Milt Bearden

Milt Bearden

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Former CIA officer urges US-Pakistan reconciliation. During the 1980s, CIA officer Milt Bearden managed the CIA’s covert assistance to the Mujahedeen, who were fighting the Soviet army in Afghanistan. This means Bearden was dealing with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) on an almost daily basis. He has now written an article for Foreign Policy journal, in which he advises CIA and ISI officials to “cut through the shrillness, the schoolyard taunts that characterize […] the current feud between their services; decide on what is worth fixing; agree on important common goals; and get to work”. He also reminds policymakers in Washington that America’s “influence in the Indian Ocean is slipping as China and India flex their growing economic muscle”, and that the US needs Pakistan’s assistance to remain relevant in that part of the world. ►►Pakistan spy director comes to US following aid cut. Meanwhile, Washington’s decision to withhold nearly a billion dollars in annual military aid to Pakistan has shaken up Islamabad. The Associated Press reports that high-level US-Pakistan meetings are quickly “unfolding”. One such meeting involves ISI’s fiery Director, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who just made an emergency visit to Washington, reportedly “for talks”. Pakistani officials insist, however, that “the trip was planned for some time”. Sure. In case you are wondering, Pasha’s visit went “very well“, according to both US and Pakistani officials. ►►Secret CIA site in Somalia revealed. While most intelligence observers are concerned with the latest US-Pakistan spat, Jeremy Scahill, one of America’s most tireless investigative reporters, has revealed that the CIA maintains a large secret site in Somalia. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0121

  • DHS intelligence official speaks on cross-department collaboration. Since its establishment, the US Department of Homeland Security has been involved in almost every major turf battle within the US security and intelligence community. Bart Johnson, the department’s Acting Undersecretary of Intelligence and Analysis, speaks about collaborating with non-DHS actors.
  • Somali group executes two for spying for CIA. Somalia’s al-Shabaab on Monday publicly executed two people accused of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency and the country’s embattled government. Before the US-assisted Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, al-Shabaab (The Party of Youth) used to be the youth organization of the Somali Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Al-Shabaab shares the ICU’s mission of turning Somalia into an Islamic khalifat.
  • US intelligence veterans group backs CIA torture probe. The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) have authored a memorandum addressed to US President Barack Obama, in which they “voice strong support for Attorney General Eric Holder’s authorization of a wider investigation into CIA interrogation”.

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Comment: Daring US Raid in Somalia is Risky Policy

Saleh Nabhan

Saleh Nabhan

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The political aftereffect of a recent raid by US Special Forces in southern Somalia may be more significant than its outcome. The operation, which took place in the early hours of Monday, killed a number of al-Qaeda-linked militants and captured at least two, according to local witnesses. Unnamed US officials said that among the dead is Saleh Ali Nabhan, a 30-year-old Kenyan al-Qaeda operative who is said to have participated in the 2002 attack on an Israeli-owned resort in his homeland, among other acts. Read more of this post

French spy escapes Somali captors, allegedly killing three

Hotel Sahafi

Hotel Sahafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
One of two French intelligence agents arrested by a Somali militia in July has escaped, after allegedly killing three of his captors. Somali military officer Farhan Asanyo told British newspaper The Daily Mail that the Frenchman approached government soldiers in Mogadishu early yesterday morning, identified himself and said he had escaped. He was then taken to the Presidential Palace in Mogadishu, where he now remains. The French Foreign Ministry has disputed Asanyo’s account, saying that the French intelligence agent escaped without resorting to violence and without a ransom having been paid by Paris. Read more of this post

French intelligence agents posing as journalists abducted in Somalia

Hotel Sahafi

Hotel Sahafi

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Foreign correspondents in Somalia have joined Reporters Without Borders (RWB) in condemning the alleged journalistic cover of two French intelligence agents, who were kidnapped on Tuesday in Somali capital Mogadishu. RWB director, Jean-Francois Julliard, said that if the allegations that the two French intelligence agents had pretended to be journalists are confirmed, it would be “shocking, because these are official agents on a mission for the French government, who have used the title of journalist as a cover”. In a telling move, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has refused to identify the two abductees, and has rejected calls to reveal the precise branch of the French government that sent them to Somalia. But the Ministry did admit today that the two Frenchmen were in the African country on “an official mission” to advise President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s crumbling Western-backed government in “security matters”. Speaking anonymously to the Agence France Presse news agency, a senior Somali government official revealed that the two abductees arrived in Mogadishu nine days ago in order to train “their counterparts in Somali intelligence agencies”. Read more of this post