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Norway spy chief: We tried to stop Kenya mall attack suspect from joining Somali militants

Norway_Kenya_Mall_Attack.JPEG-0a92dNorway’s domestic intelligence service tried to prevent one of the suspected gunmen in the Nairobi mall attack from joining Somali militants more than three years ago, but failed to talk him out of it, the agency’s chief said in an interview Wednesday.

The man has been identified in Kenya as Hassan Abdi Dhuhulow, a 23-year-old Somalia native whose family moved to Norway in 1999. Norwegian authorities have still not named him, and had previously not said whether they knew of him before the four-day siege of the Westgate mall that killed nearly 70 people in the Kenyan capital.

But Marie Benedicte Bjoernland, the head of Norwegian security service PST, told The Associated Press that the Norwegian suspect was well known to her agency and that it even tried to dissuade him from becoming a jihadist.

“We had several talks with him ... before he left Norway more than three years ago,” Bjoernland said at PST’s headquarters in Oslo. “Obviously we didn’t succeed, but there was quite an effort put into the preventive side of this.”

Bjoernland declined to give details of the conversations, and said the Norwegian “most likely” died in the attack, though PST investigators haven’t confirmed that. The Kenyan government said Sunday it believes it has recovered the remains of the four gunmen seen in CCTV footage carrying out the attack.

Security camera images showed what appeared to be Dhuhulow and three other gunmen firing coldly on shoppers as they made their way along store aisles after storming the upscale mall.

The Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility, saying the September attack was retribution for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia.

Dhuhulow’s sister told AP last week that her brother went to the Somali capital of Mogadishu for a three-month visit in 2009, then moved to Somalia for good in March of the following year. She said she didn’t believe he was among the gunmen seen in the footage.

Just days after Dhuhulow’s identity became known, Norwegian police issued international alerts for two Norwegian-Somali sisters, ages 16 and 19, who told their family they were traveling to Syria to join the civil war. They were last spotted on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“We see a growing problem when it comes to people traveling to war zones, and specifically the last year we’ve seen a growing number of persons traveling to Syria,” Bjoernland said.

She said between 30-40 people have left Norway to take part in the Syrian civil war, but added that the number is uncertain and may be bigger.

That conflict has attracted hundreds of foreign fighters from European countries, many of whom have joined Islamic militant groups. Western security services are concerned that they could pose terror threats when they return home with combat experience and terrorist training — and possibly traumatized.

“When they are radicalized and when they are determined to go, for instance to Syria or other conflict areas, we don’t have many legal measures to stop them,” Bjoernland said.

Norway just recently made it illegal to receive training from terror groups. But even with that law it is difficult for authorities to prove that a suspected want-to-be militant is traveling abroad to train with or join jihadist groups.

“We do preventive work. We talk to them. We try to persuade them not to go, because it’s a dangerous journey,” Bjoernland said. “I wish we were more successful. We have succeeded in turning some around from traveling. But quite a few have actually left.”

She called on other parts of society, including parents, child protective services, police and Muslim leaders to intervene when young Muslims are at risk of becoming radicalized.

 

Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum opens in Minneapolis

KABAN_SOMALIMINNEAPOLIS - A new museum showcasing Somali art and culture is now open in the Twin Cities.

The Somali Artifact and Cultural Museum opened Saturday and features paintings of nomadic life and photos of Somalia's capital Mogadishu along with traditional rugs, ancient writing tablets and lots of items made from animal skins.

Twin Cities businessman and restaurant owner Osman Ali started says the idea of bringing the artifacts to Minneapolis came out of his desire to teach younger Somalis the story of nomadic life in Somalia.

"I came with this idea to create a new base for these people living out of their country to let them study their culture," Ali said.
He collected many of the items on five trips to Somalia, starting in 2009 when he returned to visit his ailing father.

A national gallery once existed in Mogadishu. But years of war led to its destruction. The new Twin Cities museum aims to fill the void.

The grand opening Saturday drew a mix on Somalis and non-Somalis who made their way through the museums's five rooms, each with its own theme.

Abdi Mohamud, 25, recently studied photographs on the museum's walls and said he asked the gallery director if the images are truly of Somalia.

"And he kept saying, 'These things, they were there. But now they are not there'" Mohamud recalled. "These beautiful places are destroyed places. It's anarchy. The people living there have a horrible life. It is something I can't imagine how it happened."

Born in Somalia, Mohamud and his family fled the country's civil war when he was 9.

"I was born in Somalia, but I did not see all these beautiful things that I see right now," Mohamud said. "These are things that I've never seen in my life. It's like something I want to relate to my identity, where I come from and what kind of people I belong to. I never knew one day I could see a Somali museum here in Minneapolis."

 

Girl trafficked from Somalia into the UK 'to have her organs harvested'

Surgeons-about-toA girl was trafficked from Somalia into the UK to have her organs harvested, it has been revealed.

The case - believed to be the first of its kind in Britain - was revealed in a Government report which found the number of people being smuggled into the UK has risen by more than 50 per cent in the past year.

In total, 371 children were trafficked, including 95 from Vietnam, 67 from Nigeria and 25 from China, according to the review.

The girl's organs were taken with the intention of selling them to someone requiring a transplant.

Child protection charities warned the shocking case is unlikely to be an isolated incident.

Bharti Patel, the chief executive of Ecpat UK, a charity which campaigns against child sexual exploitation and trafficking, told  The Daily Telegraph : "Traffickers are exploiting the demand for organs and the vulnerability of children. It's unlikely that a trafficker is going to take this risk and bring just one child into the UK. It is likely there was a group."

 
 

ETHIOPIA:Deputy PM Visits Development Activities in Somali State

ethiopianmokenenA visiting high level delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Demeke Mekonnen, is hails the development efforts underway in Somali Regional State.
The delegation, comprising of higher government officials, investors and artists was warmly welcomed by clan leaders, elders and residents of Gode while arriving at Gode airport last Thursday.
The Deputy Premier hailed the outcomes registered over the past years in the areas of peace, development and good governance during discussion held with local elders at Gode Agricultural College meeting hall.
 

U.S. Embassy in Uganda on alert for possible terror attack

Terror_alertThe U.S. embassy in Kampala, Uganda, warned that it is on alert for the possibility of a terror attack that could resemble the "Westgate-style" massacre that killed more than 60 people in a Kenyan mall last month. Al-Shabab militants, a group with links to al Qaeda and Somalia, claimed responsibility for that siege.

State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said that the warning was issued "because of information available" but declined to spell out the specifics of this new Kampala threat. "Clearly, when there's a concern we provide information to American citizens," she said.

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, the embassy noted that it "continues to assess reports that a Westgate-style attack may soon occur" in the Ugandan capital. The post also advised U.S. citizens in the area to "exercise vigilance and to avoid public venues that attract large crowds." The unusually stark language used to describe the nature of a potential attack caught public attention since diplomatic advisories are typically muted.

A State Department official declined to provide further information about the potential attackers or the timing of the threat. However, the official noted that U.S. is legally required to share information about all "credible, specific, and non-counterable threats."

The increased threat level comes at the same time that special envoy Russ Feingold - a former U.S. senator - is in the area. He is visiting to work with local leaders to help broker a peace agreement in the so-called Great Lakes region of Africa, which includes Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations authorized an intervention brigade of peacekeepers to help calm the Congolese government defeat armed rebel groups and to calm an area that has been unstable since the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Peace talks have been ongoing for 10 months

 
 

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