The malfeasors of Dusit D2 Nairobi; A Review of Grassroots Jihadists Poor Tradecraft.
Harakat Shabaab Mujahidden (HSM), the Al-Qaeda branch in the horn of Africa banked on Mahir Khalid Riziki, a 25 year criminal from Mombasa’s dusty outskirt of Majengo, to make the Dusit D2 terror attack bear a complexion. Mahir, however, will remain the grotesque picturesque of cowardice if not extreme regret, or both, for any suicide jihadist’s last moments. Mahir, obviously desperate, and seemingly quite regretful of his choices in life, detonated his suicide vest, away from the many civilians he had been told to kill without mercy. Mahir, in his last moments alive, didn’t see that anymore, he saw fellow human beings, innocent, lovable, and harmless, a sharp contrast with the instructions of his instructors and Sheikh at the Masjid. Mahir didn’t scream “Allah-u akbar!” nor raise his index finger and say “La Illah illa Allah!” to confirm he was going down a “Shahid”. Mahir Khalid Riziki knew he was not a shahid, that, the sunnah at the masjid was misconstrued, the Da’wa was crooked, the hijra was vanity, and that, Shabaab Mijahideen sheikhs did not teach Islam, as such, he chose to die alone, with at-least, little blood on him, hopefully, Allah would have rahma on him and welcome him to Jannah.
Intelligence by S.I confirms that, Mahir Riziki was under surveillance by counter terrorism and intelligence agents in Kenya. When Kenya’s National Police Service put his name and pictures in the media, Mahir fled to Vanga area, a frontier border area in Tanzania and he was tracked in Southern Somalia by deep cover intelligence assets. Mahir was tracked to Jillib, the headquarters of the terror group in Somalia. Several airstrikes targeting camps housing suspected istishhad in Southern Somalia, were conducted to destroy the units, further confirming Kenya’s intelligence services robust capability in tracking and destroying terrorists beyond the borders. While about 216 jihadists were killed in 4 special operations by Kenya Defense Forces (KDF), Mahir was one of the few who narrowly escaped the brute force. In one special operation, an entire camp composed of a garage, filling stations, unarmed training facility, and hotel/mess, were completely destroyed. Dozens of foreign fighters were killed alongside their mid-level Amirs. Mahir Riziki arrived in Nairobi on January 13, three days to the Dusit D2 terror attack. Mahir did not use public transport, rather embarked on a long journey from the Somali border, sometimes covering the distance through long motorcycle rides through the wild, hiking rides, and night travel in private vehicles to avoid police surveillance. From Mombasa, Riziki may have boarded a newly imported vehicle destined for Nairobi, posing as a mere desperate night traveler, a quite commonplace occurrence.
Grassroots Jihadists at Dusit-D2.
The Dusit D2 Terrorist attack was the 1st Al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa, grassroots jihadist attack. Though largely a failure, the attack’s complexion is of significant interest to Strategic Intelligence Service research team. Grassroots jihadists or a small cell that was given terrorist tradecraft training and working under the leaderless resistance operational model but guided and directed by professional terrorists, will pose a significant threat to East Africa, West, and Europe throughout 2019-2020 period. Grassroots jihadists are locals waging an insurgency/resistance in their countries on behalf of their parent organizations. Grassroots jihadists will conduct attacks as directed by hierarchal organizations or orchestrate attacks on their own (think global act local logic). The entire Dusit D2 cell was local/grassroots. They all came from areas where social economic conflicts have remained high. Also notable is the geography of these areas, apart from being semi-arid, they are Muslim dominated ‘religiously, but ethnically cosmopolitan.
“We know that Al-Qaeda began heavily promoting the grassroots jihadi concept in 2010 and they are achieving those objectives. The strategic logic of local but remotely led jihadi cells is to overcome the difficulty experienced in getting trained terrorist operatives into the Kenya and perhaps the West, and it’s a stark reality underscoring Kenya’s robust CT and terrorism deterrent capability. As such, it is correct to point out Shabaab’s weakening abilities, particularly in successfully deploying foreign terrorists to Kenya, thus this shift to grassroots jihadist”. Argues David Goldman.
Unfortunately media, conflict journalists, and analysts ‘narrow’ and largely rustic purview of terror attacks overshadows countless counter terrorism successes. Their narrow focus being the government’s failure to stop an attack. The unrealistic expectation that the government should prevent all terrorist attacks, creates a great deal of pressure on government, in fact the intelligence leadership is every bit as attuned to political pressure as elected officials, however, this is the terrorists psychological objective, from a PsyWar perspective.
As observed in Dusit-D2, grassroots jihadists narrow down their tactics away from complicated attacks to simpler armed assaults. Such attacks are simple to carry out since the cell is capable of conducting them without or with minimal assistance from the parent cell in Somalia. Another observation in Dusit D2 is that, the cell had acquired basic skills after attending training in Somalia thus had skills in how to operate combat hardware such as assault rifles and hand grenades, however, the cell was not highly skilled in the use of both. Most of their arsenal went unused further confirming inferior tradecraft. While adoption of grassroots jihadists is a sign of significant weakness and perhaps a larger problem within the rank and file of the terrorist organization, counter terrorism officers must escalate profiling of returnee’s and criminals in areas prone to social-religious conflicts. Dusit D2 has taught that grassroots jihadists, even those who’ve acquired physical conditioning, military grade weaponry handling training, and combat skills, lack the sophisticated terrorist tradecraft, thus easy to detect, surveil, and destroy, despite the threat they pose locally.