Camp where Shabaab planned terror

Sunday November 13 2011

A gas cylinder left behind at Qoddo training camp in Ras Kamboni after insurgents were forced out of the area. It is believed that the bombs that went off in Kampala were assembled here. Photo/JARED NYATAYA
A gas cylinder left behind at Qoddo training camp in Ras Kamboni after insurgents were forced out of the area. It is believed that the bombs that went off in Kampala were assembled here. Photo/JARED NYATAYA
By JOHN NGIRACHU [email protected]

There is nothing quite remarkable about the landscape at Qoddo, about 10km from Ras Kamboni.

The short thorn trees that have survived the onslaught of the charcoal dealers have turned green because of recent rains.

But this rough terrain at Qoddo conceals a spot from which terror was designed and sent out to wreak havoc on Kenyans and East Africa.

The training camp, located on a small hill that offers a view of a wide beach ahead and Ras Kamboni, is believed to have hosted Fazul Abdalla and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.

Apart from Osama bin Laden, the two men played a hand in the terrorist activities for which Kenyans remember the Al-Qaeda leader killed earlier this year.

Nabhan was shot down by US commandos in September 2009 as he and several other men sped across the desert at Baraawe, a village up north, beyond Mogadishu.

He was the head of Al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, and his position was taken over by Fazul, the man who planned the terrorist attack on an Israeli hotel in Kikambala in 2002.

Both were on the US list of most-wanted men. Fazul was shot dead by TFG soldiers after a confrontation in Mogadishu this year.

It is believed that the bombs that went off at Kyadondo Rugby Club and an Ethiopian Restaurant in Kampala were put together and dispatched from the spot.

When Al-Shaabab were forced out of parts of Mogadishu up north in 2006, they moved to Qoddo, so close to Kenya that there is mobile network coverage, and resumed their training for terror.

The reception of mobile networks means the terrorists could easily communicated with their colleagues in the region.

Among them were foreign jihadist fighters, said to originate from as far as the US, the Al-Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kenya.

A soldier with the TFG, who knows a bit about them, showed the Nation the spot at the centre where they were trained on martial arts by the Pakistanis.

He said, and he cannot be named for his own safety, that the terrorists had a $30 (Sh2,800) mobile network booster as well as satellite phones.

Forced to flee

At the site they fled only recently, there are also signs that they had access to more equipment — a gas cylinder that was probably used for welding and remnants of rocket-propelled grenades.

Mr Abdulahi Aden, a 56-year-old Somali pastoralist, who lives in the vicinity of the training camp, said they were even prevented from grazing their cows near the site.

The elimination of the terrorists from the camp probably means the end of incursions into Kenyan towns along the coast.