On 1 November, terrorist suspect Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed disappeared after escaping surveillance by slipping out of a mosque disguised in a burka. The 27-year-old is suspected of being associated with an Al Shabaab sleeper cell known as the London Boys, which is being linked to a plot to bomb the London Olympics and stage a Westgate-style massacre at Eton College. Furthermore, Mohamed is believed to have fought alongside and received training from the Somali terror group in Somaliland in 2007.
Although MI5 raised concerns about Mohamed, a lack of evidence did not allow him to be charged with a criminal offence directly linked to terrorism. Instead, restrictions were put in place by means of a terrorism prevention and investigation measure (TPIM). TPIMs restrict the movement of people who are believed to pose a threat to public security, but who cannot be deported or tried for reasons of national security. Measures include electronic tagging, reporting frequently to the police and facing strictly defined exclusion from particular places and the prohibition of travel overseas.
However, as Mohamed is the second terror suspect to escape while subject to a TPIM, the government is looking at making the restrictions on terror suspects stricter. The Shadow Home Secretary has called for powers to relocate terror suspects to another part of the country, as this has proven to be an effective measure in the past to prevent suspects from fleeing. Furthermore, the UK government’s chief anti-terrorism official said that the home secretary could ban terror suspects who are subject to orders restricting their movement from going to mosques.
Interestingly, Home Secretary Theresa May announced on Tuesday a plan to strip British terror suspects of their citizenship and take away their UK passports, even if this makes them stateless. According to May, a UK passport is a ‘privilege, not a right’. However, by taking away someone’s citizenship, May is actually overturning international human rights conventions that prevent individuals with only one passport from being made stateless. Critics argue that this measure will allow other states to use statelessness as a tactic to clamp down on political dissent. Others believe that these legislative measures will have little immediate impact.
On Wednesday the Special Immigration Appeals Commission backed May’s decision to deprive an Afghan national of British citizenship after he was suspected of travelling abroad for terrorist training. Although the Home Secretary already possesses the power to take away British citizenship from those with a dual nationality, the fact that May rejected the advice given by the MI5 who said to keep the suspect in the UK as that would allow for more option to control the risk is remarkable. It seems that May intends to pursue her promise to toughen up restrictions on terror suspects.
On Wednesday the U.S. designated Nigeria’s Boko Haram and Ansaru militant groups as foreign terrorist organisations.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has been targeting both the military and civilians, which has led to frequent clashes with the Nigerian armed forces. Ansaru is seen as an off-shoot of Boko Haram that arose in January 2012 and which became popular after the release of a video in which it vowed to take violent action against Westerners in defence of Muslims worldwide. They both strive for the implementation of Islamic law in northern Nigeria and are being held responsible for thousands of deaths.
Somalia & Kenya
The signing of the tripartite agreement by the UN refugee agency, Somalia and Kenya will give 500.000 Somali refugees in Kenya the opportunity to return home.
After the collapse of the central government of Somalia in 1991, many Somalis sought refuge in Kenya. Today, many of the refugees have been born in the camps and have never even set foot in their home country. The different parties to the agreement hope to setup a reintegration programme that helps refugees to start a new life in Somalia and allows them to take part in the reconstruction of their country.
Somalia still faces great terrorism threats, as another deadly bombing by Al Shabaab in Somalia’s capital this Monday made clear. The different parties have therefore decided that refugees can choose for themselves whether they want to return to Somalia or not.
Sceptics of the agreement believe, however, that it is not likely that many refugees will want to return, as they are aware of the fact that Somalia is still not a safe place. However, the high number of refugees has become a burden on Kenya. Furthermore, the attack by suspected Somali terrorists on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi in September have increased concerns among the Kenyan population about the threat of terrorism.
by ICSR research intern Anouk Boas