Deadly raid in Kenya carried out under ‘direction’ of al-Qaeda leadership, Shabaab says

Ali Mohamud Rage, a senior Shabaab official, says the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield earlier this week was “carried out under the guidance and direction” of al-Qaeda’s leaders.

Shabaab has released a video featuring its spokesman, Ali Mohamud Rage, who claims credit on behalf of the organization for the deadly raid on an airfield in Kenya earlier this week. Three Americans were killed and others wounded when the jihadists stormed the Manda Bay Airfield (Camp Simba) in a predawn raid. It is not clear how many casualties Kenya suffered. Several planes and equipment were also damaged in the raid.

In the video, Rage says the attack was “carried out under the guidance and direction of the leadership of al-Qaeda, foremost among them being Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah protect him.”

Shabaab has repeatedly signaled its loyalty to al-Qaeda’s global leadership. And the group’s latest video is filled with footage of both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. An archival clip of Zawahiri is featured at the beginning of the production.

Archival footage of Ayman al-Zawahiri addressing Muslims in Somalia is included at the opening of a new Shabaab video on the Manda Bay Airfield attack.

“Oh Muslims of Somalia, I give you the glad tidings that America and its servile allies will be defeated in Somalia, by the permission of Allah, the same way they were defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq,” Zawahiri says in the recording. “However, you must be patient and steadfast.”

The video, which was released with Arabic and English transcripts, is titled: “Statement from the Leadership: ‘Manda Bay’ Raid: Storming the U.S. Naval Base in Kenya.” Shabaab reiterates that the airfield raid was part of its “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized” Operations.

Both Shabaab and al Qaeda’s branch in West Africa, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM), have previously conducted attacks as part of this same campaign.

According to Rage, “an elite team of soldiers” from Shabaab’s “Martyrdom Brigade” executed the operation. Photos of Henry Mayfield, Jr. and Dustin Harrison, two of the Americans killed, are shown on screen as the Shabaab spokesman speaks.

“The Mujahideen were successful, by the blessing of Allah, in striking the unwary crusaders in the heart of the heavily fortified military base, destroying a cache of weapons, combat vehicles and seven military aircraft,” Rage says.

“The crusader base, known as Camp Simba, is an American military facility that is home to hundreds of U.S. Army personnel,” Rage continues. “The camp [is] also the headquarters of U.S. military operations in Northern Kenya, where it serves as the launch pad for the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations carried out by the western crusaders against Islam in East Africa. Camp Simba is also used to train special units of Kenyan soldiers.” 

“Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized” campaign

Rage says that both the attack on Manda Bay Airfield and an assault on a joint U.S.-Somali base in Baledogle in September are part of its “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized” campaign, which was initiated on the orders of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership.

Even though al-Qaeda has little to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the group is trying to capitalize on any anger over President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“Since acknowledging Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as the capital of the Zionist Jewish state, the Trump Administration has persisted on its path of hostility and blatant oppression against our families in occupied Palestine,” Rage says. Imagery of President Trump and various scenes from Israel are splashed on screen as the Shabaab man speaks. 

Rage portrays Shabaab’s violence, which long predates the Trump administration, as a response to the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Rage continues: “The U.S. has recognized the annexation of the Golan Heights by the Zionists, supported the illegal Jewish settlements in occupied Palestine, and remains committed to providing over $3 billion dollars in military assistance annually to the Zionist invaders so as to maintain the relentless oppression and bombardment of Muslims in Palestine.” 

He claims that the raid on Manda Bay was carried out “in accordance with the Islamic principles of aiding the oppressed” and in order to repel “the transgressor,” while “defending the sanctities.”

“The issue of Palestine is not merely an Arab or Palestinian issue but rather one that concerns every Muslim and is directly related to the faith of every believer.,” Rage claims.

The Shabaab spokesman also portrays the raid as a refutation “to Trump’s naive claims that the outcome of U.S. support for the Zionist regime” amounting “to nothing more than mere demonstrations, boycotts and posts on social media.”

Shabaab portrays America as being at war with all Muslims

Building on a consistent theme in al-Qaeda’s propaganda since the 1990s, Shabaab portrays the U.S. as the leader of a global campaign against all of Islam. “For nearly half a century, the United States of America has been engaged in a brazen total war against Islam across the globe,” Rage claims, adding that the U.S. is conducting “a relentless self-declared crusade against Islam.”

Rage does not concede that much of Shabaab’s own violence is directed at Somalis, including Somali Muslims, whom the jihadists kill in far greater numbers than the Americans stationed in East Africa.

Rage offers a litany of alleged grievances to buttress his argument, ignoring contradictory evidence and observations along the way.

“The U.S. involvement in the Lebanese War in 1982, its sanctions against Iraq in 1991, its intervention in Somalia in 1992, its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, its illegal detention of Muslims in Bagram and Guantanamo Bay, its unlimited support for the apartheid Zionist regime and its merciless aerial bombardment of innocent Muslims in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria and Somalia all stand as a testament to heinous U.S. war crimes in the Muslim world,” Rage says.

Demands full American retreat

Rage warns that the “Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Will Never Be Judaized” military campaign will continue until the U.S. does all of the following: “Ceases all forms of training and support they provide to the Zionist regime in their war against the Muslims in occupied Palestine”; “Stops the indiscriminate aerial bombardment against our Muslim women and children”; “Withdraws all U.S. troops from our Muslim lands”; “Releases all Muslims who are unjustly being held in their prisons, closes down all military bases and secret prisons that they have established in Muslim lands in order to humiliate our people”; and “Stops plundering our resources and assisting the enemies occupying our lands.”

He argues that “successive” American administrations have “repeatedly disregarded” this list of demands and “warnings” from the “Mujahideen regarding their oppressive foreign policy and invasion of Muslim lands,” so the jihadists continue to “deliver their messages through the blood of U.S. soldiers and the tears of their families so that they may take heed.”

Rage threatens Americans both in Africa and everywhere else, saying that any “failure to comply” with his exhaustive demands, “will not only result in further bloodshed of U.S. soldiers in Muslim lands but will also greatly jeopardize all American lives and interests worldwide as a just recompense for their evil crimes.”

Builds on Osama bin Laden’s messaging

Even though Osama bin Laden had little to nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he used the issue as a rhetorical device for wooing support for his cause. Rage follows in bin Laden’s footsteps in this regard. Indeed, Shabaab uses archival footage of bin Laden to frame its spokesman’s message.

Rage reiterates Osama bin Laden’s message.

Rage directly cites bin Laden’s invocation of the Palestinian cause. In footage that is shared once again, bin Laden said: “To our brothers in Palestine we say: the blood of your sons is the blood of our sons and your blood is the same as our blood. Therefore, we will avenge blood with blood and destruction with destruction. We swear by Allah, the Almighty we will not forsake you until victory is achieved, or we meet the fate of Hamza bin Abdul-Mutallib, may Allah be pleased with him.” 

Rage goes a step further by listing the raid at Manda Bay as one in a series of high-profile al-Qaeda attacks dating back to the 1990s.

“The series of attacks in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, [on the] USS Cole, [on] September 11, the [September 2019] Baledogle raid and the recent attack in Manda Bay, Kenya, should serve as a stark reminder that America’s crusade against Islam and Muslims has deadly consequences and will not go unanswered,” Rage says.

Rage portrays the recent raid at Manda Bay Airfield as one in a long line of al-Qaeda attacks.

“We call upon the Muslims in general and the Mujahideen of East Africa in particular to follow in the footsteps of these brave young warriors and make U.S. interests their first priority in all their operations,” Rage adds. (Again, despite his call for the jihadists to focus their violence on American targets, most of their operations are actually aimed at locals in Somalia and Africans elsewhere.)

Rage makes it clear that Shabaab adheres to al-Qaeda’s global jihadist ideology.

“The ultimate goal of the Mujahideen who are fighting the coalition of crusaders and apostates in the different Jihadi battlefronts across the world is to liberate Al-Quds from the Zionists occupiers, aid their brothers in Palestine and implement the Shari’ah of Allah across the globe,” Rage explains.

Toward the end of his message, Rage prays for jihadist success across a number of theaters. “Oh Allah keep us and the Mujahideen firm, wherever they are; whether in Sham, Iraq, The Arabian Peninsula, the Islamic Maghreb, the Indian Sub-Continent, Khorasan, the Land of the Two Migrations and elsewhere,” Rage says.  

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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