MI5 fears over 60 Somali jihad plotters in UK

Al-ShabaabMORE than 60 Somali extremists have been placed on a special MI5 watchlist as British security services tighten surveillance in the aftermath of last week’s attack in Kenya.

The news emerged as Foreign Office officials confirmed that a sixth Briton had been identified among the 67 men, women and children killed by members of the Al Shabaab Islamic group during the four-day siege in Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre.

According to security sources, the list contains 40 Somalis thought to be recruiting for the jihadist group and a further 20, mostly British so-called “clean skins”, who have committed no crimes but are thought to have links to the extremist organisation.

While Al Shabaab continues to focus its efforts on securing an Islamic state within its spiritual homeland in Somalia, experts last night warned that an internal power struggle could see the terror group, which has financial backing from Al Qaeda, shift its attentions to any country – including Britain – that supports African Union forces in efforts to contain it.

British Special Forces were scrambled with US counterparts and Kenyan forces after the attack in a bid to prevent the jihadists escaping back to safety across Kenya’s vast border.

Last night highly placed military sources revealed that SAS units were poised to join US and French forces in a coalition strike against Al Shabaab, a group which regularly uses child soldiers, after a plea from Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, who was in Washington at the time of the Kenya attack.

The source said: “The vast majority of London’s 70,000-strong Somali population are honest, peaceful citizens but there is a small faction who, perhaps feeling isolated within their communities, or a lack of opportunity, are drawn to Islamic jihad causes.

“Our watchlist includes around 20 who could be ‘sleepers’ waiting to be called into action. We may know who some of these Somali extremists are, but we don’t know what they are thinking.

“They keep within the law, maintain a low profile and communicate on the internet in such a manner that it is hard to intercept them. Vigilance by the police, ourselves and the public will be key to future safety in mainland UK.”

Charlotte Francis, Africa expert with the Heritage Foundation think tank, said: “There has been a power shift within Al Shabaab and it seems it will take a more global approach, though it is too early to say whether it is capable of launching an attack in the UK yet.”

British authorities want to avoid a repeat of the American experience in Minneapolis where gangs of Somali youngsters born in the US were encouraged to go to Somalia to fight the transitional government and its Ethiopian supporters, who have since withdrawn.

Despite setbacks which saw them pushed back from the capital Mogadishu, Al Shabaab continues to have a strong grip in Somalia, controlling vast swathes of land across the north east of the country. They recently shot down an experimental US drone.

The FBI is so concerned about a possible attack in the US that it has dubbed Al Shabaab one of its “highest priorities”.

Writing for the Sunday Express today Maajid Nawaz, chairman of the Quilliam Foundation think tank, warned it is a “foregone conclusion” that so-called white widow Samantha Lewthwaite, sought by Interpol in connection with the Nairobi attacks, could inspire others in the UK to follow her lead.

SomaliSwiss      London


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