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U.S. airstrike takes out Muslim leader who masterminded murder of U.S. soldier at Kenya airfield

“The man is suspected of planning and directing terrorist operations that included the Jan. 5 attack at Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya that claimed the life of Spc. Henry ‘Mitch’ Mayfield Jr., 23, and two military contractors.”

Why are U.S. troops at Manda Bay Airfield? Are we stopping jihad activity in East Africa? If so, we’re not doing a very good job of it. These troops should come home, and new strategies should be formulated to contain the jihad threat.

“U.S. airstrike kills terrorist linked to death of Alabama-based soldier,” by Leada Gore, al.com, February 26, 2020:

A U.S. airstrike in Somalia killed the terrorist leader involved in a January attack that claimed the life of an Alabama-based soldier.

U.S. Africa Command said in a statement the Feb. 22 precision airstrikes near Saakow, Somalia killed the unnamed leader and his wife Both were known members of al-Shabaab, a terrorist group.

The man is suspected of planning and directing terrorist operations that included the Jan. 5 attack at Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya that claimed the life of Spc. Henry “Mitch” Mayfield Jr., 23, and two military contractors.

A resident of Illinois, Mayfield was stationed at Fort Rucker in Alabama where he was a member of the 1st Battalion, 58th Aviation Regiment, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group.

“Since January 5, U.S. Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners.”…

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EDITORS NOTE: This Jihad Watch column is republished with permission. © All rights reserved.

Al-Qaeda recruitment video features ‘Minnesota martyrs’

What is being done to prevent more Muslims in Minnesota from joining the jihad? Why, nothing. To take any such action would be “Islamophobic.”

Minnesota ISIS recruits

“Terror Recruitment Video Highlights ‘Minnesota Martyrs,’” by Nina Moini, WCCO, January 3, 2016:

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) A new video, aimed at recruiting jihad fighters, highlights Minnesotans who have left to fight with terrorists.

Al-Shabaab released the 50-minute video Friday which was similar to past propaganda videos, featuring high-quality graphics and video editing to glorify fighting overseas.

It also attempts to use American history to justify the terror group’s actions, arguing the country’s history of racism will lead to more discrimination in the near future.

Less than 15 minutes in, the video highlights local men nicknamed the “Minnesota Martyrs,” who died while fighting overseas.

“In the face of the global crusade against Islam, these young men could not afford to sit and watch as the American crusaders perpetrated the most hideous atrocities across the globe,” the video’s narrator said.

The FBI says more than two dozen young Somali-Americans from the Twin Cities have already been lured to training camps overseas, mostly in Somalia….

RELATED ARTICLE: Kenya: Muslims murder bus driver who couldn’t recite Islamic profession of faith

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Minnesotan Muslim students planting Islamic crescents on the lawn of a public school.

Miami: Muslim gets 15 years for conspiring to support jihad mass murderers

Al-Shabaab was behind the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi several years ago. “Kenyan sentenced to 15 years in prison in US terror case,” by Curt Anderson, Associated Press, August 28, 2015 (thanks to Lookmann):

MIAMI (AP) — A Kenyan man described by U.S. prosecutors as a fundraiser and recruiter for terrorist groups in Africa and the Middle East was sentenced Friday to 15 years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro imposed the maximum possible sentence on 27-year-old Mohamed Said. He pleaded guilty in May to charges of conspiring to support to Africa’s violent al-Shabaab organization and al-Qaida affiliates in Syria and elsewhere.

Said’s attorney, Silvia Pinera-Vazquez, had sought a more lenient eight-year sentence because Said never plotted directly against the U.S. and was solely supporting what she described as foreign “insurgents.”

“There is simply no evidence of direct intent to harm the United States,” she said.

Oh, well, then it’s OK? Not quite:

But Ungaro said terrorist groups he supported have an avowed intent to attack the U.S. and its interests overseas.

“It’s not reasonable to say that his conduct did not touch the United States. It did,” Ungaro said.

Said and co-defendant Gufran Mohammed were arrested in 2013 in Saudi Arabia in a case that evolved from undercover FBI monitoring of Internet chat rooms frequented by Islamic extremists. Mohammed, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from India, is already serving a 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty.

Said, from Mombasa, Kenya, had never been to the U.S. before his arrest. It was his use of the Internet and communications with undercover FBI operatives and Mohammed — who lived in the Los Angeles area — that enabled the U.S. to charge him with federal terrorism support crimes.

Of the two, Said played the more critical role because of his connections to the leadership of the terrorist groups and knowledge of their inner workings, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ricardo Del Toro. The prosecutor noted that al-Shabaab’s most notorious attack was the 2013 assault on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that left 67 people dead.

“He was an insider in al-Shabaab,” Del Toro said. “The goal of these organizations is to murder civilians.”…

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‘Sandboxing’ Islam: How to Protect America from Jihad Terrorism by Ralph Sidway

Enforcing the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) can give us the legal and tactical edge in countering the threat from Islamic supremacism.

Background

It should be obvious for anyone with eyes to see that Islam — its scriptures, the example of Muhammad, its doctrines, and its overall ideology — is behind the spread of most terrorism and unrest in the world today.

From the Islamic State (ISIS), Boko Haram, al-Nusra and al-Shabaab, to slightly older groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Muslim Brotherhood, to lesser known jihadi organizations throughout Central Asia, India, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Rim, and China, a survey of terrorist attacks reveals Muslim involvement throughout the entire world.

Here in the United States, we are seeing a dramatic rise in Muslim “lone wolf” jihad terrorist attacks (and, as some have described them, known wolves”). Further, from all points of the compass, we are seeing literally tens of thousands of Muslims flocking to the Middle East to join the Islamic State caliphate and support the jihad with their very lives.

The scenario gets worse. Some analysts argue that we are seriously underestimating the numbers of Western Muslims joining the Islamic State.

Here at home, we have a “ full blown insurgency.” The FBI has already arrested seventy IS-inspired Muslim terrorists, and has active investigations of IS-inspired jihad plots in all 56 of its field offices. NewsMax reports “the government’s terrorist watch list carries 700,000 to a million names.”

The Challenge: Jihad-Linked Mosques

This is all indisputable fact. The threat is real and growing. Even worse, the threat is specifically from devout, observant Muslims who attend mosque. Behind every lone-or-known-wolf jihadi and every Islamic State recruit there is a mosque where they are receiving instruction in Islam.

That should give us pause, as four separate studies in recent years show that 80% of mosques in the U.S. teach, preach or advocate for jihad and the imposition of sharia law in America. 

Confirming these mosque studies are proven links between mosques and terrorists.  For example, one of the two Mississippi Muslims recently arrested for trying to join the Islamic State is the son of the imam at the local mosque. Many terror-linked mosques have spawned multiple jihadis. The Phoenix mosque attended by the Garland TX jihadis is notorious for having two other members in federal prison on terrorism-related convictions. Perhaps most infamous is the Islamic Society of Boston, which was attended not only by the Boston Marathon Bombers, but by numerous other jihad-terror-linked Muslims. The list goes on and on.

For many people, especially in our political class and certainly among the 2016 field of presidential candidates, there seems to be no solution to this national security nightmare of terror-linked mosques and known wolf jihadis. To date, there is no coherent, principle-based policy to address Islamic terrorism in the United States.

The Solution: ‘Sandboxing’ Islam in America

This is where I believe the simple analogy of “Sandboxing” can help us.

You’ve probably heard the term, even if you’re not a computer geek. One tech source offers this definition:

A “sandbox” is a play area for young children: it is supposed to be safe for them (they cannot hurt themselves) and safe from them (it is sand, they cannot break it). In the context of IT security, “sandboxing” means isolating some piece of software in such a way that whatever it does, it will not spread havoc elsewhere.

If we think of America as being, ideally, a safe and free place for its citizens, within which we should be able to live, work, play, and, as the ubiquitous bumper sticker says, “Coexist,” then when it comes to Islam and Muslims, we need a solution analogous to the IT security process of “sandboxing.” We need to isolate malicious jihadi forces, “in such a way that whatever they do, they will not spread havoc elsewhere.”

What would “sandboxing” look like when it comes to Muslims in America? In practice, it could include the following policies:

  • A moratorium — a complete freeze — on Muslim immigration. Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul expressed a similar policy concept following the Chattanooga jihad murders of five US servicemen, proposing a halt to immigration from Muslim countries with known jihad activity. Going one step further, Franklin Graham wrote at the same time that “We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled.
  • All mosques must be classified and treated as “agents of foreign power,” in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a U.S. law (22 U.S.C. § 611 et seq.) passed in 1938.

The law presciently allows for application in gray areas such as Islam presents, as it states that any entity with a “political or quasi-political capacity” disclose their relationship with the foreign government and information about related activities and finances. The purpose is to facilitate “evaluation by the government and the American people of the statements and activities of such persons.” [Source]

Islam certainly thinks and behaves like a foreign power, is guided in America by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudis and other foreign Islamic groups, and has a definite political dimension. (See also here.)

  • Any and all mosques associated with Muslim terrorists must be investigated, and if found to be advancing jihad doctrine, sharia law, and Islamic supremacism over the United States, they should be prosecuted and closed, in accordance with the FARA act referenced above.
  • Stop all foreign funding of mosques, whether by FARA, new legislation, or executive power. We already know that Saudi Arabia is providing extensive funding to advance its extremist Wahhabi strain of Islam worldwide, including of mosques in America, as is Turkey. There already exist covert lobbying groups for Muslim nations, including Iran.

These are just some starting points to aid in getting this conversation going. The American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) has an 18-point platform with similar policy proposals which may be considered as well.

We must have hope that, just as illegal immigration has become a major issue in the presidential race, so also we may be successful in elevating public awareness of the clear and present danger from Islam and Muslim jihad terrorists. This is a generational if not century-long struggle ahead of us, and should resonate with voters.

The concept of “sandboxing” is, I believe, the most helpful image in making our case to not only the American people, but also to the political elite and the 2016 candidates.

We must publicly challenge the Republican presidential candidates to take the initiative, and to fearlessly raise the issue of Islam up to the same level as Immigration. We must demand of them to be bold and daring when it comes to defeating jihad. The defense of our nation, our freedoms, and the lives of our fellow citizens and men-and-women in uniform should be paramount for whoever would be Commander-in-Chief. This issue will be topmost on that person’s desk in the Oval Office from Day One. Better to tackle it now with a strong and visionary policy, than to be knocked back on our heels by a surprise attack in 2017.

Now is the time to put misbehaving Muslims and their terror-linked-mosques on time-out. Islam is at war with us. More and more Muslims are heeding the summons from Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, taking up arms against us in this war, and killing American citizens right here at home. Denying the reality and threat of Islamic jihad is not a valid policy, it is civilizational suicide.

It is time to “sandbox” Islam in America, and use decisive, legal means to counter its threat to our freedoms and our way of life.

ABOUT RALPH SIDWAY

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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Obama Apologizes for Drone Strike in Pakistan that Killed U.S. and Italian Hostages

The Wall Street Journal reported the disclosure of a classified drone attack on an Al Qaeda compound in January that mistakenly killed an American hostage, Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker, Giovanni Lo Porto.  An Al Qaeda senior operative, Ahmed Farouq who held dual U.S. and Pakistan citizenship was the target of the attack in the controversial CIA covert operation. Dr. Weinstein had been held since 2011.  The WSJ noted the reactions of the President, Italian Premier Renzi and Weinstein’s widow:

The intelligence that underpinned the drone strike turned out to have been tragically incomplete, U.S. officials and lawmakers said Thursday.

The deaths prompted President Barack Obama, who has expanded and redefined the use of U.S. drones, to take full responsibility.

“I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government I offer our deepest apologies to their families,” he said at the White House.

But Mr. Weinstein’s family expressed disillusionment at the U.S. and Pakistani approach to his capture and imprisonment by al Qaeda.

“We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so, and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through,” said Elaine Weinstein, the American hostage’s widow.

Mr. Obama said he spoke with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mr. Weinstein’s family.

Mr. Obama knew about the deaths of the hostages when he met with Mr. Renzi in Washington last Friday but Mr. Obama didn’t tell him, a senior administration official said. Mr. Obama wanted to first develop a plan for sharing the news with the families and the public, the official said.

Mr. Renzi on Thursday expressed “deepest condolences” to the Lo Porto family, as well to the family of Mr. Weinstein. The Italian foreign ministry’s crisis unit immediately contacted Mr. Lo Porto’s family after Mr. Obama’s call.

However, the CIA drone strike that mistakenly killed the two hostages met the rules of engagement:

It was the first known instance in which the Central Intelligence Agency killed hostages in a drone strike. The deaths were a major blow to the spy agency, which conducts the attacks largely behind a cloak of secrecy.

The CIA used rules of engagement that allow drone strikes against suspected militants even if the agency isn’t sure who they are.

The White House has launched a review of the strike to see if changes are needed to the program to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Officials said the program hasn’t been curtailed so far in response.

But Mr. Obama said the initial U.S. assessment of the strike shows it was fully consistent with the guidelines under which his administration conducts such counterterrorism operations.

The CIA launched the strike that killed the hostages under the broad authorities given to the agency to target suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, senior Obama administration officials said. Mr. Obama didn’t directly sign off on the strike beforehand, they said.

JM Berger, author of Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the name of Islam writes about the demise of three American Al Qaeda operatives:  Adam Gadahn, Jewish convert to Salafist Islam who headed AQ Central Media operation, Samir Kahn who fled North Carolina to join American born AQAP leader, Anwar al Awlaki in Yemen to edit Inspire Magazine  and Omar Hammami, a Daphne, Alabama native, born of a Baptist mother and Syrian Muslim engineer father,  who became an Al Shabaab media star and commander.

The title of Berger’s Politico Magazine article, “Al Qaeda’s American Dream Ends”   is both a chronicle of the trio’s exploits and circumstances about their demise.  As we learned today, Gadahn was killed in a separate drone attack by the CIA covert program. Kahn was also killed in a drone strike in Yemen, as was American-born AQAP leader, Sheik Anwar al-Awlaki.  The two hostages, American development expert Dr. Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a US Drone strike under murky circumstances in January 2015 along with AQ leader Ahmed Farouq who had dual US and Pakistani citizenship.  Farouq was allegedly head of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)

President Obama apologized and took responsibility as Commander in Chief for the failure of the mission to secure the freedom of the hostages, although the decision was delegated to others in the clandestine drone program. The error is reflective of the lack of intelligence assets, a product of reliance on drones to attack AQ leaders under approved rules of engagement.

Hammami was killed in an ambush by Al Shabaab in 2013 because he became increasingly critical of the leadership. Both Gadahn and Khan, as Berger points out, provided a template for the slick graphic/ video production and social media campaigns run by ISIS. The title of Berger’s piece is somewhat misleading. While Gadahn, Kahn and Hammami were prominent American Jihadis, others, especially in the Muslim émigré communities in the US are taking their place as recruits for ISIS.  For AQ the American Dream may have ended. For ISIS it is only just beginning with few prospects for counterterrorism echelons in our government to create effective de-radicalization programs aimed at preventing these Americans from joining the thongs of tens of thousands from around the Muslim ummah to fight and die for the pure Islamic State. That is because the President refuses to recognize the attraction of Salafist Jihadist Islam at the core of Muslim terrorism.

Today’s revelations illustrate why the U.S. has lost credibility in relying only on drone strikes to degrade AQ leadership rather than coordinating it with verifiable intelligence from assets in the field.

We understand completely the grief and frustration of the Weinstein and Lo Porto families who criticized both the US and Pakistani governments for not securing the freedom of their late loved ones languishing for years as AQ hostages.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Dr. Warren Weinstein U.S. Development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto Italian aid worker killed in January 2015 by a U.S. drone attack. Source: AP and Facebook Page.

New Al-Shabaab English Magazine: ‘Jihad is growing globally with lightening speed’

Al-Shabaab has published its first magazine in English AMKA: East Africa’s Baya’ah. Baya’ah (Arabic: بَيْعَة‎) in Islamic terminology, is an oath of allegiance to a leader. It is known to have been practiced by the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

To properly understand what motives those joining groups such as al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Islamic state it would be useful to study this magazine. Following are the AMKA “Notes From The Editor”:

From Syria to Nigeria, and closer to home here in East Africa, the Kuffar [non-Muslim] continue to parrot their old, tired slogan that: “Jihad is over.” For anyone with an ounce of honesty, it’s obvious that Jihad is growing globally with lightening speed. In East Africa, the lions of Harakat-al-Shabaab-al-Mujahideen, bolstered by the noble forces of the Ansar al-Mujahideen, stand firm to defend Islam against the evil designs of the Crusaders and their puppets, the United Nations and AMISOM.

Just months ago, on September 1, 2014, the beloved Amir Sheikh Mukthar Abu Zubeyr (may Allah accept him), was elevated to the ranks of venerable martyrs. In their folly, the Kuffar celebrated, mistaken in their belief that “removing from the battlefield” the Amir would weaken the resolve of the Mujahideen in Somalia. On the contrary, the martyrdom of the Amir serves as an example to which the brothers around the world aspire: in Australia, Canada, France and Kenya, courageous brothers have proven their desire to sacrifice themselves with open hearts in defense of Islam and the righteous path of Allah.

Oh Brothers and Sisters, followers of Tawheed, the time has now come for East Africa to arise with vengeance in defense of Islam. Our first step towards this glorious obligation must be the pledge of allegiance to the beloved Amir Sheikh Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah (may Allah guide him with wisdom).

Thus we in Al-Muhajiroun – Emigrants of East Africa swear our solemn and irrevocable Baya’ah to Amir Abu Ubaidah and Amir Ayman Zawahiri (may Allah preserve him).

We dedicate the first issue of Amka to our pledge of allegiance in order that it inspires others to follow suit, and that the pathfinders of Jihad in East Africa will be borne upward by a mighty tide of believers who will sweep the Kuffar from these Muslim lands once and forever.

The threat doctrine of the free world’s enemies is Islam.

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Exposed: Minneapolis Money Launderer for Terrorist Organization Al Shabaab

On January 1, 2014 a spectacular explosion and fire occurred at a building in the predominantly Somali émigré area of Minneapolis located in Congressional district of US Rep. Keith EllisonA Gates of Vienna (GOV) report noted what occurred:

At 8:16am a catastrophic fire broke out at 514 Cedar Avenue South in a predominantly Somali neighborhood of Minneapolis. The blaze began when an explosion blew out the windows in an upstairs apartment, propelling window frames and plywood debris into the street. The resulting fire sent flames twenty feet above the roof. Residents of the building were blown out the windows or jumped from them into the street. Fourteen people were taken to area hospitals.

The explosion occurred in an apartment on the second floor, immediately above the Otanga Grocery in the southeast corner of the building.

A city police unit was on the scene when the fire broke out. Contrary to later media reports, it had been called there because of an earlier theft, and not because of any “electric shock” or smell of gas.

Immediately adjacent to and behind the damaged building is the “Islamic Civic Society of America and Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque”, whose website declares its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and other people and groups associated with radical Islamism.

The building was gutted by the blaze. Two bodies were found in the rubble, and fourteen people were hospitalized, one of whom died later. Within 72 hours, the building had been pulled down into a heap of rubble by a backhoe.

Two days after the blast, before any real investigation occurred — which could never be conducted, anyway, with the potential crime scene destroyed — Greg Boosalis, the supervisory special agent with the FBI in Minneapolis, told the press that there was “no evidence of terrorist activity”.

As firefighters fought to contain the blaze, Fire Chief John Fruetel said the cause of the explosion was not yet known, and was under investigation. The gas utility CenterPoint Energy announced that there were no gas leaks in the Cedar-Riverside area.

GoV, working with local investigators in the Twin Cities, have uncovered evidence that this was not the typical New Year’s conflagration. Moreover, the findings raise serious questions about the handling of the aftermath of the event by city and federal officials from local fire, police, and US Department of Homeland Security, ATF and the FBI. The GoV team has briefed Members of Congress about the peculiar circumstances of the blast. The treatment of the event by local officials and the swift destruction of the building without adequate forensic investigations raise serious questions about the rising political influence of the Somali Muslim community. Their visible role was seen in the election of Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim US Congressman, Abdi Warsame, an elected Somali émigré city council member and Mayor Betsy Hodges whose recent election relied heavily on their votes.

Garad K. Nor. Source: The Muslim Issue

The GoV investigative team, in another report, has also unearthed documentation about the shadowy background of the owner of the building, Garad K. Nor, who was identified as a possible money launderer for al Qaeda by the European Council based on 2001 US Department of Treasury information cited by UPI. The EC listing highlighted Nor’s Hawala money transfer operations in two major population centers for the US Somali émigré community, the Twin Cities and Columbus, Ohio:

Jama, Garad (a.k.a. Nor, Garad K.) (a.k.a. Wasrsame, Fartune Ahmed, 2100, Bloomington Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America; 1806, Riverside Avenue, 2nd Floor, Minneapolis, Minnesota; date of birth 26 June 1974.”;

Aaran Money Wire Service, Inc., 1806, Riverside Avenue, Second Floor, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.”;

Barakat Enterprise, 1762, Huy Road, Columbus, Ohio, United States of America.;

Global Service International, 1929, 5th Street, Suite 204, Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States of America.”

Nor had somehow negotiated a deal to evade federal prosecution. The nexus for Nor’s indictment was the alleged funneling of funds to al Qaeda via the Al-Barakat Hawala money transfer system. As the latest GoV report on the unfolding investigation notes:

Garad Nor is recorded as a “Registered Agent” of Wadani Properties, the company that owned and managed the apartments of the Cedar-Riverside building located at 510 and 512 Cedar Ave South that exploded and burned on January 1st.

Wadani Properties in Minneapolis Source: Refugee Resettlement Watch

The address for Wadani properties is 2200 E Franklin Ave, # 204. One of the other tenants is the Minnesota Republican Party headquarters.

There is more in the GoV report about Nor’s money laundering involvement:

Garad Nor is also the Chief Executive Officer of Dar Al Tawakul General LLC. Dar Al Tawakul General LLC is one of the companies listed in the indictment against the two Rochester citizens found guilty of money laundering for al-Shabaab.

Dar Al Tawakul General LLC is also located at 2200 E Franklin Ave, # 204.

Garad Nor, the owner of the destroyed building on Cedar Avenue South, acknowledged his place on Treasury’s list of indicted persons and companies. According to an article published in 2012 by The Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“Nor, who also goes by the name Garad Jama, was in Dubai the day he learned through CNN that his name was listed among 62 individuals and organizations that the U.S. government said had helped fund Osama bin Laden.”

Why might Garad K. Nor have been in Dubai, of all places?

Here’s a possible reason:

Mr. Nor works for Tawakal Express, an international hawala money-transfer company headquartered in Dubai. Tawakal Express is a globe-spanning enterprise.

Back in 2007 we published a report on a similar Hawala transfer indictment for Abdizirik Hassan, the head of the Somali Nashville Community Center who like Nor was also caught in the Al-Barakat web of money transfer indictments in October 2001. He was fined and somehow had his prosecution dropped five years later. Despite the executive director’s indictment, the SNCC received a $500,000 grant from the Office of Minority Health Programs of the US Department of Health and Human Services. That became a subject of further investigations on allegations of fiscal abuse of a women’s health program.

In early February 2014, The Investigative Project on Terrorism reported a Somali émigré cab driver in San Diego, California, Ahmed Nasir Taali Mohamud from Anaheim, was sentenced to six years for providing material support to Al-Shabaab through a defunct Hawala money transfer system, the Shidaal Express. In November 2013 a federal Judge had sentenced his three accomplices to terms of between 10 to 18 years.  The co-defendants included cab driver ring leader, Basaaly Saeed Moalin, Mohamed Mohamud an imam at a mosque frequented by the local Somali community and Issa Doreh who worked at the Shidaal Express money transfer firm. Evidence was presented at a trial in early 2013 that Moalim had been in direct contact with an Al Shabaab commander, Aden Hashen Ayrow who requested money for jihad. Ayrow was killed in a US missile attack in May 2008 in Somalia.

The Hawala money transfer system is a lifeline for war ravaged Somalia. Hawala  in Arabic means transfer or remittance. Virtually the only means available  for remittances from the Somali émigré community. A July 2013 Oxfam America study indicated that in 2012 more than $215 million was remitted via the Hawala system from the Somali émigré community in America. This was nearly equivalent to the $242 million in US development and humanitarian aid for Somalia. Degan Ali of Adeso, a Somali NGO based in Minneapolis was cited in a TC Daily Planet report saying that the Somali diaspora transmits $1.3 billion annually that supports 40 percent of the Somalia population.

The Tawakal Express franchise owned by Nor is one of four Hawalas that operate in the Twin Cities. The others include Dahabsiil, Amal Express and Amaana Express. Those Hawalas in the Twin Cities rout funds through a California Bank. In light of federal prosecution of Hawala operators and Treasury investigations major banks like Wells Fargo and US Bank have shut down Hawala accounts. David Reiling, CEO of Sunrise Community Bank interviewed on Minnesota Public Radio, in reaction to the two women convicted for money transfers to Al Shabaab via Nor’s  Hawala, said:

“We don’t want to be involved in money getting into the hands of the wrong people in any way, shape or form. So the only way we know at the moment to mitigate that risk is to close these accounts, until we can find another solution or work with the government to re-establish those lines.”

So if it is increasingly risky for Somali émigrés to use, why would they still use the system to send funds for both humane and nefarious purposes in war-ravaged Somalia? These and other questions were raised in a joint US Department of the Treasury – Interpol Monograph on the background and opaque functioning of the Hawala money transfer system. Also see the US Treasury Resource information on Hawala and alternatives, here.

The primary reason is that it is cheaper compared with using bank based electronic transfer systems like SWIFT or BAN that charge separately for sending and receiving funds. Hawala transfers are faster than international bank transfers taking less than a few days compared with up to a week for the latter. The Hawala system is more reliable than the international bank routing system which goes through several layers of financial institutions. There is no bureaucracy in the Hawala system, meaning no checks on the senders’ identity or immigration status. Hawala transfers lack a paper trail making it ideal for anonymous illicit transactions. The Hawala system lends itself to tax evasion by making transfers that are free of scrutiny.

Hawala lends itself to operating with low overhead in store fronts or shared business. The operators of Hawalas engage in exchange rate speculation and black market currency dealing. One example cited by the Treasury–Interpol authors was a US based hawala operator engaged in drug money laundering and legitimate transfers who alleged they could make a profit on an exchange rate margin of 2% which is more competitive than via a bank. Hawala operators are also involved in businesses where they have frequent need of foreign transfers. At its core the Hawala system operates on the basis of trust.

The GoV investigative report asked a question about why Nor was in Dubai and why the largest Hawala is headquartered there. One answer according to the Treasury-Interpol authors is that Dubai has a large pool of expatriate workers from South Asia where the Hawala system originated. The other is that Dubai is a major gold trading market the bulk of which is transmitted legally and illegally not only to South Asia but elsewhere in the Middle East, for example, Iran.

We noted the convictions of Somali émigrés in the Twin Cities and Southern California for essentially laundering funds to Al Shabaab in Somalia. The Treasury-Interpol report revealed how so-called “black” Hawala transactions are accomplished for offenses such as narcotics trafficking, fraud and Muslim charity funds devoted to the support of Jihad. That involves a three phased process of placement, layering and integration. In the US, the Treasury requires reporting of cash transaction over $10,000. Hawala operators evade that disclosure by taking amounts that they essentially commingle or place with regular business bank deposits. The hawala operator in the layering stage makes these commingled funds appear as if they came from legitimate sources such as invoices. This is risky as it requires a paper trail and thus can lead to the source of funds and unravel the laundering network. Hawala transfers often leave a limited or confusing paper trail. The Treasury–Interpol report notes:

Even when invoice manipulation is used, the mixture of legal goods and illegal money, confusion about ‘valid’ prices and a possibly complex international shipping network create a trail much more complicated than a simple wire transfer.

US Rep. Keith Ellison in Mogadishu, February 2013

In February 2013, Rep. Ellison journeyed to Mogadishu, the first visit by a US Congressman on the occasion of US recognition of Somalia’s new government. It marked a period of relative calm before the Westgate Mall massacre perpetrated by Al Shabaab in Nairobi, Kenya in late September 2013 shattered it. His remarks eerily mirror those of President Obama during his 2012 Presidential campaign when he proclaimed that “bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is on the run.” In this NPR report Ellison said:

Al-Shabaab is definitely on the run. They have been pushed out of Mogadishu; they have been pushed out of Kismayo, which is another very large city. And they have been relegated to the rural areas in the southern part of the country. They are not out, but they are down.

But Ellison was also there to help out Somali émigrés in his Congressional district having remittance problems. He said:

We’re very correctly trying to stop financing getting to Al Shabaab. But our policy may — well, for sure it’s hurting a lot people who have nothing to do with Al Shabaab.

He might start at home with requesting a federal investigation of Garad Nor, the Hawala operator and owner of the property that mysterious exploded in a ball of fire of indeterminate origin at 8:16AM on January 1, 2014.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.