Wanted terrorist behind nine-year carnage in Lamu killed in Somalia

Wanted terrorist Maalim Ayman.

The killing of terror suspect Maalim Ayman, accused by the government of being behind years of blood bath in Lamu County, could mark a significant achievement in the war against terrorism in the country.

On Friday, the US military command in Africa, Africom, and the Somali government announced that Ayman, the leader of the Al Shabaab franchise operating in Lamu, was killed last Sunday in an airstrike near the city of Jilib.

U.S. Africa Command said it will continue to assess the results of the operation and provide additional information as appropriate, but it positively identified Ayman as one of the casualties.

Kenyan and US intelligence has since 2019 identified Ayman, the leader of the Al Shabaab franchise named after him, as the man behind the carnage in Lamu and Tana River since mid-2014.

On October 18, Interior Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kithure Kindiki named Ayman among 35 suspected terrorists wanted for carrying out attacks in Lamu and Tana River.

At the same time, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) issued a notice asking members of the public to send information that could lead to his arrest.

Prof Kindiki also named Ramadhan Kioko, Abdullahi Banati, Andreas Martin Muller, Abu Amar, Suleiman Maktum, Tanzanian national Yusuf Anau, Abdiweli Yassin Isse, Idris Dhul Kifir, Silla, Ibrahim Magag, Hassane Tijana and Bangladeshi national Fahad in the list of the most wanted suspected terrorists.

Others were Tanzanian national Jamalo, Sheikh Nganglangalam, Ethiopian national Janagale Huteiba, Bashir Mursal Mohamud, Abu Khatal, Maalik Alim Jone from the United Kingdom, Abu Said (a medic), Abu Anan, Mzee Mashella, Warsame Ali, Mohamed Mwanjama Salim and Abdikhadir.

Throat-slitting killer

He said the militants bear the greatest responsibility for the atrocious murder of civilians and security personnel in Lamu and the general Boni enclave.

Ayman’s killing brings to an end the life of a man described in Lamu as a “beast” that helped slain British jihadist Thomas Evans to slit the throats of at least 85 men in June and July 2014.

Evans, who was also known as Abdul Hakim after converting to Islam, was killed in a botched attack on the Kenyan military base in Baure in Lamu, close to the border with Somalia.

Africom and the Somalia government confirmed that Ayman was killed last Sunday, termed as “a thorn removed from Somali people.”

“This is another step to defeat the terrorist group that undermines Somalia’s peace and development,” reads the statement, terming Al Shabaab as the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world.

Ayman, who topped the list of the 35 most wanted terrorists released by the Ministry of Interior, first came to the public in 2009. But it was in 2020 that the US Department of Justice circulated the name of Ayman aka Geraad aka Nuhu Ibrahim, as the leader of Jaysh Ayman - ‘the army of Ayman’.

Initially, Kenyan intelligence reports had claimed that members of Jaysh Ayman were followers of the slain fiery jihadist Sheikh Abubakar Shariff alias Makaburi who relocated from Mombasa to Lamu.

These reports claimed Makaburi’s followers from Majengo, Kisauni, Kwale, and Malindi relocated to Lamu to establish Jaysh Ayman in 2014 after State security agents intensified their clampdown on jihadists.

Since mid-2014, several villagers, security officers, and politicians have been butchered in Mpeketoni, Panda Nguo, Hindi, Salama Widho, and Witu in attacks linked to Jaysh Ayman, an affiliate of Al Shabaab.

One of the brazen terrorist attacks in Lamu and Tana River took place in June and July 2014, where at least 85 people were killed. In 2017, the group also claimed responsibility for beheading men in the area.

The US also accused Ayman of being responsible for preparing the January 2020 Manda Bay Airfield attack that killed a US soldier and two US Defense Department contractors.