Thursday, January 27, 2022

Somalia court convicts foreigners of membership in al-Shababi

A military court in Somalia has convicted two foreign extremists for fighting with the terrorist group al-Shabaab. A Mogadishu court sentenced Britain’s Darren Anthony Byrnes and Malaysia’s Ahmed Mustakim bin Abdul Hameed to 15 years in prison for being members of al-Shabaab and entering the country illegally. Court officials said he was the first foreign extremist to be convicted of al-Shabaab membership in Somalia. Prosecutors said Abdul Hameed and Byrnes had come to Somalia to support al-Shabaab and “destroy” and “bleed”. The two’s lawyer, Mohamed Warsamay Mohamed, said the men denied being members of al-Shabaab and claimed they had come to Somalia to visit relatives and friends. He said he would file an appeal if Abdul Hameed and Byrnes decided to do so. Mohamed said no witnesses supporting the Somali government’s case testified in court. Instead, he said, the government relied on the accounts of those who testified in absentia and the alleged confessions of al-Shabaab membership by the defendants. Abdul Hameed and Byrnes admit they have been in areas controlled by al-Shabaab, but they deny being members of the terrorist group. “In my opinion, relying on documents is not enough to give him a 15-year prison sentence,” Mohamed told VOA Somali. Abdul Hamid traveled from Yemen and entered the country in 2009. The court said he fought for al-Shabaab in at least four conflicts. He reportedly offered first aid and health services to the group. According to court documents, Byrnes entered Somalia via Kenya in 2010 and reportedly worked with Bilal al-Barzawi, a known UK-based al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda member who moved out of Mogadishu in 2012. Was killed in a US drone strike. Byrnes fought alongside al-Shabaab in Mogadishu before expelling militants from the capital in August 2011. The court noted that at the time, Byrnes was also involved in al-Shabaab’s plot to attack France. Authorities in Somalia’s Puntland region arrested the men in April 2019 as they tried to sail to Yemen on a boat, officials said. Brigadier General Abdullahi Bulle Kamay, the chief prosecutor of the case, said these people had come to Somalia to kill people. “One of them came from one of the developed countries of the world. … If he is spreading Islam, why didn’t he do it in the UK?” Kamay asked. “He came to Somalia to shed blood.” Kamay described the Malaysian as an “aggressor” who had come to “destroy” Somalia. Experts believe that al-Shabaab has several hundred foreign fighters from around the world. Most of the foreign extremists are from East Africa, but some are far from Britain, the United States and Asia. One of the group’s chief commanders is Jihad Serwan Mustafa, the highest-ranking American jihadist to fight overseas. .

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