Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 5 Issue: 38


Kenyan security agencies were put on high alert on October 30 in response to threats from Somalia’s al-Shabaab movement. Al-Shabaab leader Shaykh Mukhtar Robow “Abu Mansur” issued a threat in mid-October to begin “a jihadi war in Kenya” if Kenya did not cease military training for some 10,000 recruits belonging to the forces of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) (Afrol News, October 16; Independent, October 17). An internal Kenyan government memo warned, “Information reaching our frontier control department indicates that al-Qaeda terrorist organizations under the leadership of one Harun Fazul [Fazul Abdullah Muhammad] are planning to attack vital installations and Western Interests in Kenya and Uganda" (Nairobi Star, October 31). In September there were fears Fazul Abdullah Muhammad (who is wanted for his role in the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings in East Africa) was planning attacks in the Ugandan capital of Kampala in retaliation for Uganda’s participation in the UNISOM peacekeeping force. Fazul was believed to be in the vicinity of the Kenyan town of Malindi at the time, where he evaded a security dragnet (see Terrorism Focus, September 24).

In what police describe as a “massive operation,” security forces have attempted to close the usually lightly guarded Kenyan-Somali border. On October 30, Kenyan police discovered 600 bomb detonators on a bus headed for the Mandera region of northeast Kenya – a possible indication of an impending escalation of violence in the area, already beset by clan fighting (Nairobi Star, October 31).

In the third week of October, Kenyan police and military forces began a large-scale security operation in the Mandera region, where most of the population is ethnic Somali, with close ties to related groups across the border in Somalia. The operation came in response to continued fighting between the Murule and Gharri clans. The conflict between the two groups has existed in one form or another for decades, but became heated in recent weeks after relative calm since a peace agreement was signed in 2005. The Murule and Gharri appear to have aligned themselves with rival clans within Somalia’s larger Marehaan group. According to some reports, Nairobi now views the clan fighting in Mandera as a potential threat to national security, as Kenyan intelligence reports that arms and funding from Somali clans and the extremist al-Shabaab movement are reaching the combatants in Mandera (NTV [Nairobi], October 30). There are also fears the weapons being shipped to Mandera may be passed onwards to intensify ethnic and political conflicts elsewhere in Kenya.

Security forces seized a small amount of communications equipment, which they said was used to coordinate illegal border crossings and monitor the movement of security personnel (NTV [Nairobi], October 30). The clans, however, have charged the security forces with using excessive violence (Daily Nation [Nairobi], November 3). Hundreds of people have been admitted to local hospitals with fractures, cuts and internal bleeding they say are the result of beatings and torture by security forces looking for concealed weapons. Kenyan police insist the wounds and injuries are self-inflicted and part of a campaign to stop the military operation (Daily Nation [Nairobi], September 1; IRIN, October 31).

There are reports that as many as half a million people have become displaced due to the fighting, which began with disputes over pasture land and scarce resources (The Standard [Nairobi], November 2). Some local leaders are urging an arbitration panel of religious scholars rather than a military campaign to reduce violence in the region, but the military says it will remain until it has completed its disarmament mission.


Right on the heels of the death of five Chinese oil workers in Sudan’s South Kordofan province came news of the murder of three Sudanese oil workers and the abduction of two Yemeni workers in neighboring Unity State. The latest ambush is blamed on individuals from Sudan’s Baqqara (cattle-owning) Arabs, who are also held responsible for the abduction and killing of the Chinese workers (Sudan Times, October 30).

Nine employees of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) were abducted on October 18 while doing contract work for the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company (GNPOC). Three were killed on October 27 in an incident described by Chinese authorities as a botched rescue attempt by the Sudanese Armed Forces and by Khartoum as an accident caused when the kidnappers became nervous after a military helicopter began monitoring their movements. Two more workers were found dead in the following days (AFP, October 31). Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi is reported to have told his Sudanese counterpart, "It is one of the most serious killing cases of oversea Chinese workers in recent years and we are very shocked by it" (Sudan Times, October 29). Four remaining workers were hospitalized after being rescued.

Identification of Arab Misseriya tribesmen as the responsible parties seems to have been confirmed by the arrival of a delegation of Misseriya leaders to negotiate the workers’ release and a claim of responsibility from Abu Humaid Ahmad Dannay, a Misseriya who also claims to be the leader of the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) in Kordofan (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, October 24). Though JEM has repeatedly stated its determination to drive out China’s oil operations, it has denied any participation in the latest abductions through recognized spokesmen. Dannay refuted Khartoum’s description of the abductions as terrorism, stating, “The government is terrorizing us and we will respond in a similar manner.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also denounced the kidnappings as “terrorism” while calling for “severe punishment” of those responsible (China Daily, October 29; Xinhua, October 28). Sudanese security forces report they have the names of 25 individuals involved in the abductions, while local reports say the kidnappers are suffering from shortages of food and drinking water (Miriya FM, October 32; November 1).

The government continued to claim that Darfur’s rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) was responsible for the abductions until November 1, when Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor identified the suspects as former members of the government’s Popular Defense Forces (PDF) militia who were not integrated into the regular army after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) (Sudan Tribune, November 1). The PDF in South Kordofan have suffered from a recent decline in funding and numerous defections to the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army (SPLA).

Misseriya grievances against Sudan’s growing oil industry include the destruction of pasture land and a preference for employing imported Asian workers instead of hiring locally. Having fought for years on the frontline of the north-south civil war, the Misseriya now feel abandoned by Khartoum. The Misseriya feel that the oil fields of the north-south border region were secured through their efforts, only to now see oil revenues used for the reconstruction of Khartoum while the poverty of South Kordofan remains unchanged. The leadership of the Misseriya is in a state of flux after government efforts to replace traditional leaders who supported Sadiq al-Mahdi’s Umma party with inexperienced individuals willing to support the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), which is dominated by Arab Islamists from north Sudan. Misseriya gunmen also abducted four Indian oil workers and their Sudanese driver last May.

Continuing attacks on oil workers threaten the development of the petroleum industry in Sudan just as a decline in oil prices and demand is creating a sharp drop in current revenues. The continuing militarization of the oil-producing regions is unlikely to inspire further investment, though China has stated its close economic involvement with Sudan will stay unchanged despite this latest in a series of attacks on Chinese facilities (AP, October 21).<iframe src=’’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>