Monday, 25 May 2015

Al-Muhajiroun : Emigrants of East Africa

Al-Muhajiroun, also known as the Emigrants of East Africa, is Al-Qaeda’s official affiliate in the East African region. It was created in January 2015 as a dedicated terror outfit that would integrate both Ansar al Mujahideen and Al Hijra (formerly MYC) elements into a distinct, cohesive and unified militant group, so as to reduce operational overhead costs as well as ensure efficiency of terror operations by eliminating unnecessary inter-group conflicts, reduce instances of duplication of tasks, in addition to creating a clear chain of command (which would ensure that the group does not suffer internal wrangles such as those suffered by Al Shabaab).
Presently, its focus of operations appears to be Kenya with the other East African nations suffering sporadic attacks. The reason for this disparity is that a majority of al Muhajiroun members are of Kenyan origin and are quite familiar with both the political and security dynamics of the nation.
Al-Muhajiroun is subordinated to al-Shabaab, but one of its senior leaders, Abu Salim al-Kenyi (the nom de guerre being used by Ahmad Iman Ali – another senior al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist of Kenyan origin) has stated that they recognize Ayman Al Zawahiri – al-Qaeda’s de facto leader - as their Supreme Leader. They do publish an online magazine known as Amka.

Al Muhajiroun Kenyan faction is predominantly made up of Muslim converts and Swahilis. The same applies to the Tanzanian faction while the Ugandan faction is predominantly made up of Muslim converts. The bulk of their fighters are aged between 18-45 years, but there has been a reported incident where a 60-years old Tanzanian man joined them.
Official Logo of Al-Muhajiroun
Ansaar Muslim Youth Center.
Ansaar Muslim Youth Center (AMYC) is a Tanzanian-based Islamist front which emerged from UVIKITA (Tanzanian Muslim Youth Union - which was formed circa 1970). The main aim of UVIKITA was to propagate Salafism in Tanzania, and their efforts induced al-Haramayn – a Saudi Islamic “Charity” Foundation – to fund it on condition that they accepted Laid Saidi (an Algerian who went by various aliases including Abu Huzhaifa and Ramzi ben Mizauni ben Faraj) as their leader upon which the group re-branded itself as Ansaar Muslim Youth Center.
AMYC were erstwhile followers of Sheikh Aboud Rogo, a cleric they held in high esteem and whose audio teachings they freely distributed. It was Sheikh Aboud Rogo who implored Ansaar Muslim Youth Center to support al Shabaab both physically and morally. Likewise, Aboud Rogo used his influence over the group to convince members of AMYC to study jihad in Kenya before emigrating to Somalia as mujahedeen. Omar Suleiman and Nur Abubakar (alias Abu Maulana) provided Rogo with a steady stream of recruits who then underwent jihadi indoctrination at Masjid Sakina, Masjid Kanamai and Masjid Musa before being dispatched to Somalia. It was these terror recruits who joined up with Kenyan terrorists to form the then nascent Ansar al Muhajideen. Ansar al Muhajideen would later on see its rank filled with foreign jihadis from the Somali-diaspora, Canada, Britain, France, USA, Australia, Afganistan, Pakistan and also Gulf Arabs.
Regarding its creation; al Muhajiroun was created after Al Qaeda senior leadership grew wary of creeping clan politics within al Shabaab as well as HSM (Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen) battlefield losses.  Most foreign fighters within al Shabaab decried HSM leadership styles and their non-conformity to fastidious Islamist ideals.
Moreover, Kenyan jihadists wanted their own equivalent of al Shabaab; and most see al Muhajiroun as the initial steps towards realizing a home-grown fully fledged terror group comparable to Boko Haram in Nigeria. Their petition to al Qaeda for al Muhajiroun to set up its own intelligence unit, and have it take over intelligence operations in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania from Amniyaat showcases their determination for limited autonomy from al Shabaab.
Prominent Members.
           1.      Sheikh Iman Ali
           2.      Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda of Tanzania.
Their ideology largely stems from the teachings of the late Sheikh Aboud Rogo and his erstwhile companion, the late Sheikh Abubakar Sharif. Sheikh Ponda Issa Ponda of Tanzania is currently propagating the teachings of the aforementioned two jihadi clerics in Tanzania, where it seems, the message of Aboud Rogo has been received well by a wide gullible audience. Nonetheless, following the demise of their two important clerics, al Muhajiroun currently uses the teachings of the following Salafi clerics to rationalize their actions:
            1.      Sheikh Abu Qatada al Filistini.
            2.      Sheikh Abu Hamza al Masri.
            3.      Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed.
            4.      Sheikh Abu Huzhaifa (Evidence indicates that he has been arrested but his teachings are                       still extant in both Kenya and Tanzania).
            5.      Sheikh Salim Abdulrahim Barahiyan.
            6.      Sheikh Abdulla el Faisal.
Al Muhajiroun elements can blend well with the local population- a fact that helps them collect intelligence as well as source for recruits without arousing suspicions. Their defining label is the signing off of their press statements with the Koranic verse extracted from Surah Al-Munafikqun:
“Allah is the greatest and glory belongs to Allah, His Messenger and the believers but the hypocrites know not”
The statement is used to showcase their disapproval of Muslim clerics who disagree with their beliefs, doctrines and dogmas.
Their terror operations resemble those of al Shabaab:
          1.      Mass Kidnappings followed by Mass Executions.    
          2.      Suicide Attacks
          3.      Bombings: This is used to attack crowded places.
          4.      Ambushes.
          5.      Assassinations.
Unlike al Shabaab (which considers the Somalia government and AMISOM as its immediate enemies), al Muhajiroun considers Christianity and modernity as its immediate principal enemies and for this reason; they do target people or institutions affiliated with either Christianity or modernization such as:
           1.      Churches.
           2.      Educational facilities.
           3.      Recreational facilities.
They also target:
            1.                  Transport resources such as buses and trains.
            2.                  Commercial assets.
            3.                  Government assets.
            4.                  Police stations.
            5.                  Military patrols.
            6.                  Military bases.
Known Locations in Kenya.
Al Muhajiroun is present in the following areas:
           1.                  Mombasa: Mainly concentrated in Majengo, Kisauni and Bondeni areas; and in particular areas neighboring Masjid Musa, Masjid Guraya, Masjid Kanamai, Masjid Mlango wa Papa and Masjid Shuhadaa.
            2.                  Nairobi: Mainly concentrated in Majengo, South C, Eastleigh and Pangani areas.
            3.                  South Coast regions: They have embedded themselves in areas plagued with MRC (Mombasa Republican Council) activities such as Kwale, Malindi, Tana River, Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties.
             4.                  Isiolo: There exists several terror cells embedded in Isiolo County.
             5.                  Marsabit: Several terror cells have embedded themselves in Marsabit County.

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