Kenyan man behind Westgate attack on world’s most wanted terrorist list
Kenya: A Kenyan Al-Shabaab operative, who is said to have been the key organiser of the September 21 Westgate Mall attack which left at least 67 people dead, is now on the list of the world’s most wanted terrorists.
The suspect, Mohamed Abdikadir Mohamed also known as Ikrima, a native of Mombasa, is now regarded as one of the most dangerous Al-Shabaabcommanders. He speaks five languages and is said to be in the central command of a terror web that connects operatives in Kenya, Yemen, Somalia and the West.
US officials have confirmed to CNN that he was the target of a US Navy Seal Team Six raid in a compound near the dusty town of Baraawe on October 5. US troops came under fire and Ikrima is reported to have escaped.
His existence was revealed to CNN by a former informant, Mr Morten Storm, who worked undercover for both Danish intelligence and CIA. A lot of this information has come to light because Storm is the subject of a tell-all book that is being published by Paul Cruickshack and Tim Lister about his five-year undercover infiltration of Al-Shabaab.
Storm granted an interview to CNN and admitted that he was offered $200,000 by Danish intelligence, PET, the money coming from the CIA, if he could lead them to Ikrima. Storm no longer works for Western intelligence services.
Kenya intelligence officials have been on the trail of Ikrima and believe his footprints are all over the Westgate Mall attack. In addition, they have revealed that Ikrima has been planning several attacks inside Kenya.
Ikrima is described as being in his late twenties, an ethnic Somali who was born in a Mombasa to a middle-class family. His family is said to have blood connections to the Al Ansi tribe from Yemen. He is reported to have had email links to wanted AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Pennusula) US-born al-Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki who was based in Yemen. Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by drone strike on September 30, 2011.
Information sourced from Western intelligence and Storm’s close friendship with Ikrima over the last five years paint a picture of a disillusioned young man who left Kenya for Norway for greener pastures but could not fit in.
Fond of smoking marijuana
Ikrima speaks Norwegian, Kiswahili, Arabic, Somali and English, which makes him an asset to Al-Shabaab. His family is said to have moved to Nairobi when he was young and he excelled in French. Friends, according to intelligence reports, describe him as religious and fond of smoking marijuana.
Kenyan intelligence officials are quoted as telling CNN that Ikrima regularly travels between Somalia and Kenya. He is linked to numerous plots inside Kenya. In addition, he regularly changes his appearance from long hair to a thin moustache similar to former Iraq leader Saddam Hussein.
Despite his ethnic Somali identity, Ikrima was denied asylum in Norway and travelled back to East Africa in 2008, shuttling the porous border between Kenya and Somalia several times. According to information availed to Storm, the Ethiopian invasion of Somali to fight the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was Ikrima’s turning point towards radicalisation and embracing terror.
Storm reveals that Ikrima first joined the ICU and experienced the Ethiopian invasion first hand. Storm first put Ikrima on the watch-list of Western intelligence after he met him for the first time in Nairobi in 2008.
A senior Al-Shabaab operative, Mr Abdelkadir Warsame, had sent Ikrima to meet Storm and pick electronic equipment for an Al-Shabaab leader. Storm was then working for M16 (British intel), PET (Danish intel) and CIA and the equipment was pre-installed with tracking devices.
The equipment, Storm learnt was for Saleh Al Nabhan, a senior planner of the 1998 US Embassy bombings that killed 212 people and left close to 5,000 injured. He is also a brother to Omar Nabhan, one of the Westgate mall attackers captured and identified on CCTV footage.
Saleh was later killed in a US navy seal operation based on the tracking of the electronic equipment supplied by Storm. Al-Shabaab surprisingly did not suspect Storm for the killing but blamed it on “a junior courier”.
After the July 2010 Kampala attacks by Al-Shabaab, Ikrima told Storm he was unable to meet him in Nairobi. According to CNN, the two kept in touch through encrypted emails. What’s more, Storm connected Ikrima to American-born Yemen-based AQAP head Anwar Al-Awlaki and the two are reported to have kept communicating through encrypted emails.
Through this communication Ikrima is reported to have pledged to send Al-Shabaab recruits to Yemen for terror training. The recruits would then be sent back to Somalia. In one of the leaked emails provided by Storm, Ikrima wrote to him stating: “And as for going to hooks (Awlaki’s) place, then I was told by hooks they want to train brothers and then send them back to the West.”
Storm says the link to Awlaki helped Ikrima climb up the Al-Shabaab hierarchy quickly. Storm describes Ikrima as “one of the smartest ones I met in East Africa.” Sources believe that the recent Westgate attack may have raised Ikrima’s profile further making him more emboldened and dangerous.
Ikrima has been linked to several ambitious terror attacks by Kenyan intelligence. They include multiple attacks targeted at Parliament, United Nations offices in Nairobi and leading politicians with the support, both logistical and financial of a “South African network.”
Ikrima was mentioned as the link person in a Swedish court case where two Swedes of Somali origin were accused of taking part in terror training in Somalia. Phone surveillance records introduced as evidence in the case indicate the two men discussed Ikrima as their contact person when they landed in Nairobi from Sweden on their way to Somalia.
Ikrima is also linked to a planned attack on Mandera Airport which he is accused of directing between April 25 and 28th 2013.
Kenyan intelligence are concerned that if Ikrima survived and escaped the October 5 navy seals attack and continues operating, he could be planning more attacks and training recruits. Ikrima is linked to the growth of “Amniyat”, an intelligence network Al-Shabaab set up locally.
He is also the main link between Somalia and the Al Hijrah group, a militant outfit operating locally and linked to Al-Shabaab. Kenyan security apparatus is said to have inflicted a major blow to the group and driven it underground.-standardmedia