Spy agency warns al-Shabab targeting Somali leaders

Somalia’s spy agency has warned about an alleged plot by al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabab militants to attack the president and the prime minister.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) said in a tweet that it had briefed the nation’s leaders on the “plot being hatched by the al-Shabab mafia”.

The agency did not provide further details, but said that it was pursuing everyone involved.

The warning comes amid a political crisis in the country due to the much-delayed indirect elections.

Al-Shabab has also intensified attacks across Somalia.

The group recently attacked a heavily-fortified airport complex which houses United Nations (UN) offices, foreign embassies and various diplomatic missions in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

It also carried out two suicide bombings in the central Beledweyne town, killing at least 48 people, including a female member of the federal parliament.

Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, was battling the UN-backed government in Somalia, and had carried out a string of attacks across the region. The group, which is allied to al-Qaeda, had been pushed out of most of the main towns it once controlled, but it remains a potent threat.

Al-Shabab means The Youth in Arabic.

It emerged as the radical youth wing of Somalia’s now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006, were forced out by Ethiopian forces.

There were numerous reports of foreign jihadists going to Somalia to help al-Shabab, from neighbouring countries, as well as the US and Europe.

It was banned as a terrorist group by both the US and the UK and was believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.

Al-Shabab advocated the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis were Sufis.

It has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.

In a joint video released in February 2012, then al-Shabab leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, said he “pledged obedience” to al-Qaeda head, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

There have also been numerous reports that al-Shabab may have formed some links with other militant groups in Africa, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb based in the Sahara desert.

Al-Shabab debated whether to switch allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group after it emerged in January 2014. -BBC

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