Islamist gunmen who stormed Mogadishu hotel posed as intelligence officers

Mogadishu SomaliaA group of Islamist gunmen who stormed a well-known hotel in the Somali capital on Saturday, killing and wounding dozens, convincingly posed as officers of the country’s intelligence agency, according to officials. The attack began when a truck was driven in broad daylight through the front gate of Naso-Hablod, a hotel located a few blocks from the presidential palace in Mogadishu. Shortly after the hotel’s front entrance was demolished, five heavily armed men rushed to the scene and entered the building. They told police forces and the hotel’s private security guards that they were officers of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) of Somalia. According to police reports, the men wore uniforms displaying NISA insignia and displayed NISA identity cards bearing their photographs and names.

But the men were members of al-Shabaab, a Somali-based Sunni insurgency group that claimed responsibility for the attack on the Naso-Hablod less than an hour after the truck bomb exploded. After gaining entrance into the hotel, three of the heavily armed men fought back attempts by Somali police and security forces to enter the building. The remaining two Islamists entered guest rooms and shot guests, ultimately killing 30. The killings continued for 12 hours, until three of the five attackers were shot dead. Two more were captured alive, still dressed in NISA uniforms with what appeared to be NISA-issued identity cards pinned on them. Government officials told local media that the uniforms and identity cards worn by the attackers did not differ from those issued to actual NISA employees.

On Sunday, the government of Somalia announced the firing of NISA’s Director-General, Abdullahi Mohamed Ali. The head of the federal police, General Abdihakim Saeed, was also dismissed at the same time. According to reports from the Somali capital, the government is concerned about a possible NISA connection to the Naso-Hablod attack. There are fears that al-Shabaab may have systematically infiltrated the intelligence service, or that the group may have sympathizers within the ranks of the agency. Two weeks ago, the Somali capital witnessed the worst terrorist attack in its recent history, when a massive bomb killed over 350 people. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but most observers believe that al-Shabaab was behind it.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 30 October 2017 | Permalink

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 #0115

  • China says US intelligence report shows Cold War prejudice. The 2009 US National Intelligence Strategy (.pdf) report singles out Iran, North Korea, China and Russia as nations with the ability to challenge US interests. But government-owned China Daily newspaper says the report is “stuffed with outdated pride and prejudice” and “reflects typical Cold War and power politics mentality”.
  • Somali suicide bomber lived in the US. After Shirwa Ahmed, a US citizen of Somali descent who last October became history’s first known US-born suicide bomber, another Somali-American, who lived in Seattle, has been identified as one of the participants of a suicide bombing that killed 21 peacekeepers in Mogadishu last week. US officials have been warning for almost a year about the strange phenomenon of the “disappearing Somali youths” from their US homes.
  • UK spies used Monopoly sets to help WWII prisoners escape. British secret services embedded escape tools and maps in Monopoly game sets distributed by humanitarian groups in care packages to imprisoned British soldiers during World War II. The article contains some interesting photographs.

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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