TIME National Security

Al-Shabab Leader Killed in Drone Strike

Adan Garar is believed to have masterminded the 2013 Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi

An American drone strike has killed a leader of Somali militant group al-Shabab, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

Adan Garar was hit by a drone missile near the town of Diinsoor, southern Somalia, on March 12, according to the U.S. Defense Department.

Garar is believed to be behind the 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed 67 people.

The U.S. describes Garar as “a key operative” who was “responsible for coordinating al-Shabab’s external operations, which target U.S. persons and other Western interests.”

The Pentagon believes he “posed a major threat to the region and international community.”

Just hours before Garar’s death was confirmed, al-Shabab, a militant Islamist organization, attacked a shop in the Kenyan town of Wajir, killing four people.

TIME Somalia

U.S. Drone Strike in Somalia Said to Kill Westgate Attack Planner

Smoke rises from the Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sept. 23, 2013.
Carl De Souza—AFP/Getty Images Smoke rises from the Westgate mall in Nairobi on Sept. 23, 2013.

(NAIROBI, Kenya) — A U.S. drone strike in Somalia on Thursday is believed to have killed a senior member of the al-Shabab extremist group who allegedly helped plan the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, officials said.

Adan Garar and two others are suspected to have been killed after their car was targeted near the town of Bardhere, the Kenyan and U.S. officials said.

The senior Kenyan official, who insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to give the information to the media, says Garar is also suspected of planning failed attacks on Kenya’s coast and in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, last year. The U.S official also insisted on anonymity.

Anti-terror police foiled a planned attack in the coastal city of Mombasa after they intercepted a car packed with explosives in March 2014, according to Kenyan authorities. According to police, al-Shabab militants had planned simultaneous attacks on the international airport in Mombasa, the ferry crossing and a supermarket. The car laden with explosives was to be detonated on a ferry.

Al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group, has vowed to inflict violent attacks on Kenya and Uganda because the two countries have contributed troops to the African Union force supporting the government in Somalia.

Sixty-seven people were killed in the Westgate attack, which was carried out by four gunmen from al-Shabab.

___

Associated Press Writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report from Washington.

TIME Somalia

Obama Nominates First U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991

New diplomat will fill a post that has been vacant since the country collapsed into chaos more than two decades ago

(WASHINGTON) — President Barack Obama has nominated a career diplomat to be the first U.S. ambassador to Somalia in nearly 25 years, filling a post that has been vacant since the Horn of Africa country collapsed into chaos in 1991, forcing the closure of the American embassy.

Obama on Tuesday tapped Foreign Service veteran Katherine Simonds Dhanani for the job, which will be based in neighboring Kenya until security conditions permit the embassy in the Somali capital of Mogadishu to reopen, the State Department said. Dhanani, currently director of regional and security affairs in the department’s Africa bureau, has previously served in India, Mexico, and Guyana and has significant African experience, having been posted in Zimbabwe, Gabon, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

The State Department said the nomination is a sign of the U.S. commitment to Somalia.

“This historic nomination signals the deepening relationship between the United States and Somalia,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “It also allows us to mark the progress of the Somali people toward emerging from decades of conflict. Somalia has considerable work ahead to complete its transition to a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous nation.”

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict and instability since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre 24 years ago, despite the formation of successive governments that have been plagued by civil strife, piracy and political uncertainty and continues to battle the al-Qaida affiliated al-Shabab militant group, which has staged attacks around east Africa and earlier this week threatened shopping malls in the United States and other Western nations.

Al-Shabab controlled much of Mogadishu during the years 2007 to 2011, but was pushed out of Somalia’s capital and other major cities by African Union forces.

Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in Somalia and the East African region. The group has carried out many attacks in Somalia and in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose armies are part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak U.N.- backed government.

The U.S. Embassy closed in 1991 when Somalia’s government collapsed in civil war. The situation quickly deteriorated, prompting the deployment of a U.S.-led U.N. peacekeeping mission. American troops withdrew from Somalia in 1994, months after the humiliating “Black Hawk Down” debacle when Somali militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle, which marked the beginning of the end of that U.S. military mission to bring stability.

TIME Somalia

Islamist Extremist Leader Surrenders in Somalia

Somalia Extremist Leader Surrenders
Farah Abdi Warsameh—AP In this Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011 file photo, hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area some 18km south of Mogadishu, in Somalia. A Somali intelligence official says Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, a leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab who has a $3 million bounty on his head, has surrendered to police in Somalia.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi turned himself into Somali police, an intelligence official said

A leader from the Islamist extremist group al-Shabab has reportedly surrendered to Somali police.

Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi was one of eight leaders of the extremist group that has been on the Obama Administration’s wanted list since 2012, according to the Associated Press. A total of $33 million was offered in exchange for information that could lead to their capture. There was a $3 million bounty out on Hersi.

The leader’s surrender comes just days after an attack by al-Shabab Christmas Day on an African Union base in Mogadishu killed nine people, including three African Union soldiers. That attack was allegedly in retaliation for the killing of Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabab’s former top leader.

An intelligence official told the AP that Hersi may have surrendered because he had fallen out with al-Shabab extremists loyal to Godane.

[AP]

TIME Photojournalism Links

Photojournalism Daily: Dec. 5, 2014

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Andrew Quilty‘s work on Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan. Some 100,000 civilians fled the Pakistani military’s offensive against insurgents in North Waziristan this past summer by seeking shelter across the border in Afghanistan. More than 3,000 families ended up at the Gulan Refugee Camp in Gurbuz District in Khost, only to find out another danger was lurking underneath their feet. It turned out the camp is located above a decades old minefield from the time muhajideen were fighting the Russians. Quilty’s compelling photographs capture these unfortunate refugees haunted by weapons of an old war.


Andrew Quilty: Finding Refuge on a Mine Field (Foreign Policy)

William Daniels: Fighting Over the Spoils of War in Central African Republic (Al Jazeera America) These photographs show how natural riches play a part in the conflict often seen purely in ethnic terms | Part of a series of posts on Central African Republic.

Best Photos of the Year 2014 (Reuters)

War’s effect on peace is examined in new Tate show (Phaidon) Tate Modern curator Shoair Mavlian talks about the new exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography.

Elena Chernyshova (Verve Photo) The World Press Photo award-winning Russian photographer writes about one of her photographs from Norilsk.


Photojournalism Links is a compilation of the most interesting photojournalism found on the web, curated by Mikko Takkunen, Associate Photo Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @photojournalism.

TIME China

China Tumbles in Annual Corruption Index

Chinese one-hundred yuan banknotes
Jerome Favre—Bloomberg/Getty Images

See where countries rank from most corrupt to least

China fell 20 spots in this year’s corruption rankings, despite President Xi Jinping’s massive campaign to weed out graft that has disciplined more than 60,000 government officials.

Transparency International’s annual study, released late Tuesday, scored 175 countries and territories based on how corrupt experts perceive them to be. The lowest rankings indicate the highest amounts of corruption. China, the world’s second largest economy, placed 100 on the Index, down from 80 in 2013.

“Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International, said in a statement released with the report. Brazil, Russia and India, the other members of the so-called BRIC developing nations, all placed in the lower two-thirds of the rankings.

Denmark held onto first place as the country seen as least corrupt, while recent and current conflict zones represented some of the poorest-faring countries, including Syria (159), Libya (166) and Somalia, which tied North Korea for last place.

Iraq, where the government said on Monday that an internal review had found some 50,000 soldiers were on the payroll but not showing up for duty, placed 170.

Read next: Hong Kong Protest Leaders Attempt to Surrender to Police

TIME Hong Kong

The Hong Kong Protests Are Creating a More Ethnically Unified City

Holing Yip Members from Hong Kong's South Asian community take part in a protest for democracy on October 9, 2014 in the Central district of Hong Kong.

Many members of Hong Kong's non-Chinese community have been swept up in the Umbrella Revolution

Jeffrey Andrews, a 29-year-old social worker of Indian origin, got a call from a Pakistani friend on the night of Sept. 28, when thousands of Hong Kong people, many of them students, had begun to occupy the streets to demand greater democracy. “What are we doing?” his friend said. “We should be out there with the students, this is our city.”

Andrews agreed, and the next day they mobilized a group of about 35 of their peers, printed banners that read “Hong Kong is our home, we ethnic minorities strive for democracy” and headed to Admiralty, the main protest site. Andrews admits that he was unsure what kind of reception and acceptance they would get from the ethnically Chinese crowd.

“As soon as we got out with our banners people just applauded, and we were so encouraged,” he said. And they’ve been going back there every night since then.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have flooded the streets since the end of September, defying Beijing in a protest that is widely seen as the most politically significant movement in China in more than two decades. Among the crowds are many non-Chinese, who insist that they too belong to the Umbrella Revolution, as the protests are being called, and that it belongs to them.

“Of course it is our movement,” says 19-year-old Kenny Omar, born and brought up in Hong Kong but Somali by origin. “We’re born here, we’re citizens, we support them.”

“This is just as much my city as it is anyone else’s,” says Nick, 23, a filmmaker of Indian origin who did not wish to give his last name. “I think the movement is way past race and ethnicity, it’s deep down in the core of humanity.”

His friend Kamal Mirwani, a travel writer who proudly sports the iconic Hong Kong skyline as a tattoo down his right leg, says the drive for full political rights has real urgency. “This is our chance — this is the only chance we get,” he says.

According to the 2011 census, Hong Kong is home to over 450,000 people of non-Chinese ethnicity, making up 6.4% of its total population. Some, like the Indians and Parsis, trace their roots back to the founding of modern Hong Kong as a British colony in 1841, when they were drawn by the fledgling settlement’s possibilities for trade. Others, like the Pakistanis and the Nepalese, came to provide the policing and military muscle of what was then an outpost of the Raj. Still later communities — like the Indonesians, Thais and Filipinos — came in large numbers to do domestic work as Hong Kong prospered into a global financial hub.

A few non-Chinese, particularly from the South Asian community, have become fabulously wealthy. But in general, Hong Kong’s minorities often face various problems, particularly in the fields of education and employment. According to government statistics, nearly two-thirds of the ethnic minority population earns less than $500 a month, in a city where the median income is more than three times that.

For several of them, supporting Hong Kong’s democracy campaign takes precedence over their pocketbook woes. “I think with this movement right now, it’s so important that we’re focused on the development of democracy, that we’re not really talking explicitly about other issues,” said Holing Yip, research officer for ethnic minority advocacy group Hong Kong Unison. “People are noticing ethnic minorities being a part of Hong Kong, being participants.”

Yip points out that ethnic minorities have always been involved in protest movements in Hong Kong, but says that she has seen an overwhelming sense of solidarity that sets the Umbrella Revolution apart.

“They really see this as a movement that they need to be a part of,” Yip said.

Or at least most do. Others prefer to adopt a neutral stance. “It’s not my job to keep track of what’s happening,” said Mohammad Noor, a 63-year-old Bangladeshi who has lived in Hong Kong for nine years and sells snacks, dates and prayer caps outside the Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre. “I think it is injustice to spoil this country,” he said. “It’s giving us a place to stay and work.”

Andrews says his group has faced some opposition of this nature, especially from older members of the community. “All of them say they’ve worked so hard to establish their businesses, and ask why we’re going against the flow of things,” he says. “Many of the Pakistanis even say their country has a great diplomatic relationship with China, that we’re going out and ruining it.” But he also says that negative comments make up only a sliver of the reaction they have encountered.

Unison’s Yip also detects a degree of fatalism. “One of the retorts would be ‘Even if the majority Chinese come out and they can’t do anything, what makes us feel like we can?’” she says. “But the others will say, ‘We are a part of this, if they are helpless, we are helpless too.’”

Nick, for his part, admits that he may not entirely subscribe to the ideology of the movement. But he says that’s irrelevant. “It’s less about whether I believe exactly in what’s going on, but I would be out there because I feel like it would affect the people of my city in the right way,” he says. “That’s why I’d be out there, to support them asking for what they believe is the right thing.”

“I think we’re finally being accepted as locals, we’re finally just like one of them,” says Andrews. “No matter what the result is going to be, at the end of the day I think we’re a much more unified Hong Kong than ever before.”

As the movement enters its fourth week, it’s becoming increasingly clear that — regardless of ethnicity — anyone who wants to get beneath the umbrella is welcome.

TIME Somalia

Somalia Braces for Retaliation After Al-Shabab Leader’s Death

United States Somalia
Farah Abdi Warsameh—AP Hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area south of Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 17, 2011.

African Union peacekeepers were attacked in southwestern Somalia Saturday

Updated 2:22 p.m. ET

Officials in Somalia have placed the country on high alert in anticipation of retaliatory attacks after the U.S. confirmed Friday it killed the leader of al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group operating in the country.

The Pentagon said Friday that intelligence had confirmed Shabab leader Ahmed Godane was killed in a Monday strike against the militant Islamist group. On Saturday, the day after the announcement, a convoy of African Union peacekeeping troops repelled an attack by the militant group in the south of the country.

Officials anticipate that Godane’s death may spark a new round of attacks from the group. Al-Shabab initially denied via Twitter that Goodane had been killed, but it confirmed his death Saturday and announced that Sheikh Ahmad Umar, also called Abu Ubaidah, as its next leader, Al Jazeera reports.

Under Goodane’s leaderhip, al-Shabab became a formal ally of al-Qaeda and carried out major terrorist attacks, including a round of suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, in 2010 that killed more than 70 and the attack on a Nairobi mall last year that left 67 people dead.

[CNN]

TIME Somalia

Pentagon Confirms Al-Shabab Leader Killed in U.S. Airstrike

The Pentagon confirmed Friday the death of Ahmed Godane, the leader of an Africa al-Qaeda affiliate that claimed responsibility for a Kenya mall terrorist attack last September

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the Pentagon has confirmed al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this week. Al-Shabaab is an African al-Qaeda offshoot primarily operating in Somalia which claimed responsibility for a deadly attack at a Nairobi, Kenya mall last September.

“Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaeda affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals,” said Earnest in a statement. “Even as this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabab, the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military –to address the threat that al-Shabab and other terrorist groups pose to the United States and the American people.”

The American airstrikes targeting al-Shabab in Somalia were previously reported, but it was unclear until now if Godane was killed as a result of them.

See the full list of attacks Godane has claimed to be responsible for in Earnest’s recounting below:

In September 2013, Godane publicly claimed al-Shabab was responsible for the Westgate Mall attack, which killed and injured dozens in Nairobi, Kenya, calling the attack “revenge” for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia and highlighting its proximity to the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Under his leadership, the group has claimed responsibility for many bombings—including various types of suicide attacks—in Mogadishu and in central and northern Somalia, typically targeting officials and perceived allies of the Somali Government as well as the former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Godane has also continued to oversee plots targeting Westerners, including U.S. persons, in East Africa.

In recent months, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and wounded several Western soldiers as well a car bomb at the Mogadishu airport that targeted and killed members of a United Nations convoy. Al-Shabab was responsible for the twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010, which killed more than 70 people, including one American.

The group has also been responsible for the assassination of Somali peace activists, international aid workers, numerous civil society figures, and journalists. In February 2012, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda announced their formal alliance through a statement in which Godane swore allegiance to al-Qaeda and promised to follow “the road of jihad and martyrdom in the footsteps that our martyr Osama bin Laden has drawn for us.

TIME White House

Obama Hosts 51 African Leaders Amid Grumbling Over His Record

President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014.
Manuel Balce Ceneta—AP President Barack Obama speaks to participants of the Presidential Summit for the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in Washington on July 28, 2014.

Putting aside Gaza, Iraq and other distractions, Obama focuses on legacy

Barack Obama came to office representing the hopes and dreams of an entire continent. His father, after all, came to America not in the cargo hold of a slave ship hundreds of years ago, but on an academic scholarship from his native Kenya in 1954: for many on the African continent, Obama was the cousin who’d made it big in America. His election was a symbol of hope, and that maybe help was on the way.

Obama stroked those expectations and rapture with the reissuing of his book in 2005, Dreams from My Father, and with a triumphal African tour in 2006, which sparked the first speculation that he might make a bid for the White House. But in his first term in office, Obama visited Africa only once, stopping at the tail end of his first international trip in Cairo deliver his speech launching “A New Beginning” with the Arab world and spending 24-hours in Ghana where he outlined the four themes upon which, he said, the future of Africa would depend: democracy, opportunity, health and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

Those four “pillars,” as he called them, went all but neglected for the next four years as Obama’s attention swung from domestic priorities like health care reform to crises in Syria, Ukraine and Iraq. So, now, as Obama turns an eye to legacy, he is hosting 51 African leaders at the White House this week for a summit. But legacy requires achievement, and Obama has left much undone in Africa.

To be fair, Obama had a tough act to follow. His predecessor George W. Bush created the Millennium Challenge Corporation to boost foreign aid and the Presidents’ Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, where he invested $15 billion for AIDS drugs—a program universally credited for bringing down AIDS deaths in Africa. Bush also had a security vision for Africa, establishing military bases and a joint African command. He helped create an autonomous government in South Sudan in 2005 to stop the genocide in Darfur. And Bush expanded a free trade agreement created under Bill Clinton called the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA.

Under Obama—or, perhaps better said, the Republican cost-cutting Congress—Millennium Challenge funding has remained flat and PEPFAR has been cut from $6.63 billion to $6.42 bullion in fiscal 2013 and is expected to face another $50 million in cuts this year. South Sudan, whose independence America celebrated in 2011, fell into civil war this year after the U.S. neglected to appoint a special envoy for more than six months. And AGOA’s renewal remains stalled before a Congress full of members who want to rewrite it, or potentially kill it, much like the Export Import Bank, which finances most U.S. business on the continent.

While Obama did help intervene with NATO in Libya and sent special forces to Uganda in 2011 to hunt down the warlord Joseph Kony, who has yet to be found, Obama has otherwise taken a hands off approach militarily in Africa. In Somalia, he sent in seal team that took out an al-shabab leader but only after that group’s terrorist attack against a high-end Nairobi shopping mall attack, which killed 67 people from 13 countries. He declined to send troops into Mali with France but provided air support, but only after a terrorist attack on a gas plant in neighboring Algeria claimed the lives of three Americans.

“There were tremendous expectations,” says Carl LeVan, an African studies professor at American University, who has just written a book on Nigeria. “There were big expectations from some of the big emerging African players on the continent. What has emerge over time is an appreciation of the American presidency as a complex organization that speaks on behalf of a big country and not just one man.”

Obama second term African record has been better. Last year, he toured the continent with hundreds of business leaders in tow, touting American investment. His second national security adviser, Susan Rice, is largely credited with the U.S. intervention in Libya and has a long history with the continent, which she views as a priority. Ahead of that tour, Obama launched Power Africa, a $7 billion program to provide power to 20 million sub-Saharan Africans. He also started the Young Leaders’ initiative, which provides scholarships for young Africans to top U.S. universities.

Obama emphasizes how America’s innovation has helped Africa skip several steps of development. He points to the broad use of smart phones across the continent as evidence of how American innovation allowed Africa to skip poles and wires and still bring, not just phone service, but online global banking and Internet connectivity to the most rural of communities. America, he argued to The Economist last week, is “better than just about anybody else” at such applications of technology.

But America is no long Africa’s largest patron. As the U.S. is pivoting to Asia, Asia is pivoting to Africa. China’s investments in Africa surpassed those of the U.S. in 2010 and are now five times as big—$15 billion to U.S.’s $3 billion. China’s investment in the raw-resource laden continent is expected to reach as high as $400 billion over the next half century. While, Obama says “the more the merrier,” as he told The Economist, “my advice to African leaders is to make sure that if, in fact, China is putting in roads and bridges, number one, that they’re hiring African workers; number two, that the roads don’t just lead from the mine, to the port to Shanghai.”

To that end, Obama has a distinctly American message for African leaders. He has seized upon the conference to underline the power of democracy for emerging nations. It is not by accident that he invited so many former African leaders: a message to Africa’s many aging dictators that it’s okay to step aside and give someone else a chance. Obama has proven that he isn’t Africa’s savior, and there’s only so much he can do. “If there is any lesson regarding development and stability that has been consistent since the end of World War II and the colonial era,” says Anthony Cordesman, a top conflict analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “it is that we can only really help those states that are helping themselves.”

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