From al-Shabaab to Boko Haram: We ignore African terror at our peril

When we think of Islamist terror, we think of the Middle East. But, as Kim Sengupta explains, in parts of Africa groups like al-Shabaab have considerable power – despite fractures in their ranks

Monday 04 February 2019 10:22
Al-Shabaab remains a terrorist force to be reckoned with in Somalia
Al-Shabaab remains a terrorist force to be reckoned with in Somalia

After fleeing al-Shabaab in Somalia, the two men hid for a month in the Lacta forests on the Kenya borderlands. There were other defectors there, some living off the land, others using their guns to rob villages and travellers. All of them were fearful of the vengeful fighters they had left behind and, also, the retribution of state forces.

Both the men are of Somali background. One, Yasir, grew up in Germany and lived briefly in Britain. The other, Tawfiq, was born and raised in Kenya. Both had gone to Somalia following the call of jihad; both claim to have become disillusioned; both say they are seeking a new life away from violence.

The accounts they give, in a meeting at a small town in Kenya, are at times contradictory and evasive. But a lot of what they say appears, after cross-checking with other sources, to be true. And their deep apprehension about the uncertainties and dangers which lie ahead seem to be genuine.

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