A US air raid, carried with both warplanes and drones, killed more than 150 al-Shabaab militants in Somalia March 5, with the Pentagon citing an "imminent threat" to US and African Union forces. Spokesman Cpt. Jeff Davis said a "large-scale" attack was being prepared at the camp. The target, identified as "Raso Camp," was in Bulobarde province, about 200 kilometers north of the capital, Mogadishu. Al-Shabab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has continued to launch frequent attacks in its bid to overthrow the Western-backed government—including the twin bombing at a busy restaurant in the Somali city of Baidoa that killed 30 on Feb. 28.
A former aide of Osama bin Laden was found guilty on Feb. 26 of plotting the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224. Extradited from the UK in 2012, Saudi national Khalid al-Fawwaz was convicted on four counts of conspiracy by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York after three days of jury deliberations, and faces a possible life sentence. US Attorney Preet Bharara said al-Fawwaz "played a critical role for al-Qaeda in its murderous conspiracy against America." He described al-Fawwaz as one of bin Laden's "original and most trusted lieutenants" who was leader of an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later acted as bin Laden's spokesperson in London. Al-Fawwaz was arrested in the UK in 1998, the same year as the bombings. His trial lasted a month under heavy security in Manhattan. Al-Fawwaz did not testify.
Kenya's parliament on Dec. 18 passed a sweeping new anti-terrorism law after some of its members engaged in a shoving match that led to blows being exchanged. Those opposed to the law, citing violations of free speech and other civil liberties, shouted, threw water, and even threw books at the Speaker in protest of the bill. The law allows security services to detain suspected criminals without charging them for up to 360 days, allows media members to be persecuted for publishing material that is likely to cause fear or alarm, and enables a domestic spy force to carry out secret operations. President Uhuru Kenyatta has backed the bill due to increased pressure to improve security in the country after a 2013 terrorist attack by Somali al-Shabaab rebels that killed 67 people.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced Dec. 12 that she has suspended investigations into alleged war crimes in Sudan's Darfur, citing the UN Security Council's inaction in the case. "I am left with no choice but to hibernate investigative activities in Darfur as I shift resources to other urgent cases," Bensouda told the Security Council, rebuking the UN body for failing to push for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Presenting her 20th report to the Council on Darfur, Bensouda stated that without action, the cases against Bashir and three other indicted suspects would remain deadlocked. "What is needed is a dramatic shift in this council's approach to arresting Darfur suspects," Bensouda told the Council, or there would be "little or nothing to report to you for the foreseeable future." She also emphasized that the conflict is not over, saying that "massive new displacements" have taken place this year in Darfur.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Fatou Bensouda dropped the charges of murder, rape, persecution, deportation, and other inhumane acts against Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta on Dec. 5. This action comes after an ICC trial chamber order that required the prosecutor to either withdraw the charges or show sufficient evidence to proceed to trial. The prosecutor's office ceased action for lack of evidentiary support which was identified by Bensouda as a consequence of the Kenyan government's refusal to cooperate and failure to provide important records of Kenyatta's activities. ICC judges have not made a formal declaration of non-cooperation by the government, but they have expressed that the government's interaction with the investigation did not comport to the standards of good faith set out under the ICC's founding treaty.
Kenya's Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has carried out a series of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in violation of international laws, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Aug. 18. Based on interview research conducted between November 2013 and June 2014, terrorism suspects were badly mistreated, killed, beaten, abducted and detained without access to families or lawyers. HRW called on Kenya to thoroughly investigate the allegations and urged the US to suspend donor support to the ATPU. The ATPU has previously come under criticism by other human rights groups. Last year the Kenyan human rights group Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI) and the Open Society Justice Initiative jointly issued a report, calling on the US and the UK to suspend financial support to the ATPU. The report followed the completion of a new ATPU headquarters in Nairobi in May, which was partially funded by international anti-terror agencies. The facility increased technological capabilities and physical space for the ATPU, whose mission is to coordinate and carry out anti-terrorism operations within Kenya in support of the global war on terror. The unit's primary focus of late is Kenya's second-largest city, Mombasa, as the port city has become a major recruitment target for the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, based in Somalia.
Dozens of Muslim families in Mpeketoni, a coastal Kenyan town where more than 60 people have been killed in separate attacks this week, have fled following threats and assaults from the Christian majority. "Mpeketoni is not safe for us," Ali Lali Uweso, the headmaster of primary school, told Anadolu Agency by phone. "As we speak, we are travelling in a convoy of several vehicles from Mpeketoni with Swahili and other Muslim families heading to Mokowe Jetty to take a boat to the islands." The Swahili people are an ethnic group whose name is derived from the Arabic word meaning coastal. Local residents confirmed that a Swahili Muslim man in his 50s was beaten unconscious by youth armed with crude weapons who claimed to be avenging the victims of the recent attacks. At least nine were killed and a number of others wounded in the June 16 attacks in the usually quiet town near the Somali border. The previous evening, at least 53 were killed in armed attacks on a three hotels and a police station in the town. The attacks were reportedly claimed by the Somali rebel group al-Shabaab. (World Bulletin, Al Jazeera, June 18)
The African Union (AU) called Feb. 1 for African countries to "speak with one voice" against the trials of sitting heads of state in the International Criminal Court (ICC). The statement comes in relation to the trial of two current heads of the Kenyan government, Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy, William Ruto. The AU asked the UN Security Council to postpone the trials while the Kenyan leaders were still in power, but the resolution failed to get the required nine votes, making it the first resolution in decades to fail without a veto from one of the permanent members.