Recent arrests in Kenya have again brought to the fore that a growing number of Europeans and North Americans have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda linked terrorist group. This week alone Kenyan security forces arrested an American, a Britain and seven Europeans.
Craig Baxam, 24, was apprehended as he attempted to return to Somalia. After he was question by Kenyan authorities he was deported. Upon arrival in the United States he was indited by the federal court in Maryland for attempting to provide material support to a terrorist group.
Last month, Jermaine Grant, a 29-year-old British man from Newham, in east London, has been charged in Kenya when he was found in possession illegal explosive-making material and plotting construct and detonate a bomb. He and his three alleged co-conspirators have denied the charges and are awaiting trial in Nairobi.
Another British citizen, a 26 year old mother of three is the subject of a manhunt by Kenyan police. January 4th, an arrest warrant was issued for 26-year-old Natalie Faye Webb, alleging that Webb had links to known Shabaab terrorists. Police say she entered Kenya with a South African passport (shown above) in the later part of 2011.
Reuters reports that in late October, two 18-year-old men of Somali ethnicity from the Welsh town of Cardiff were arrested on Kenya’s war-torn Somalia. The two young men were deported to Britain. They come from families employed in the shipyards there. British officials have found that al-Shabaab has be successful in recruiting Britons of Pakistani ancestry as well as Anglo-Saxon converts to Islam.
An al-Shabaab recruitment video which circulated on the internet testifies to the fact that the terrorists’ desire to recruit foreigners. The video shows al-Shabaab militants from around the world making appeals in English, Swedish and Swahili. Some video messages were narrated by Omar Hammami, an American Muslim convert from Alabama who is now in Somalia. Hammami uses hip-hop rants to dare the United States to make him a martyr by killing him in a drone attack.
The newly active al-Shabaab Twitter account, @HSMPress, is managed by a man who calls himself Sheik Yoonis and has spoken to reporters in a “clipped British accent”.
The Homeland Security committee of the U.S. congress has heard testimony that 40 Muslim-Americans from around the country have been recruited by al-Shabaab, most of them from Minneapolis. In the congressional testimonies it was reported that of the 40, three were arrested upon their return to the U.S. and they expect the extradition on another from the Netherlands. Mark Giuliano, a top FBI counter-terrorism official said 15 are believed to have been killed, at least three died while carrying out suicide bombings.
20 Somali-Canadians are also believed to have been successfully recruited by al-Shabaab.
The terrorist group is also extremely active in recruiting Kenyan Somalis through messages by a Kenyan man calling himself Ahmed Iman Ali. Ali was the director of the Muslim Youth Center out of Nairobi’s Eastleigh district. He now commands more than 300 al-Shabaab militants, most of which are Kenyan.