The US government has added two al Qaeda-linked operatives who murdered a US diplomat and his driver in Khartoum in 2008 to the list of global terrorists. Additionally, the US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice program is offering up to $5 million each for information leading to the capture of the jihadists. The two operatives were seen on a videotape that was recently released by Sudanese jihadists.
State added Abdelbasit Alhaj Alhasan Haj Hamad and Mohamed Makawi Ibrahim Mohamed, both Sudanese citizens, to the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists earlier today. Abdelbasit and Makawi were directly involved in the assassination of US Agency for International Development (USAID) diplomat John Michael Granville and his driver in Khartoum, Sudan on Jan. 1, 2008.
“Abdelbasit shot Granville and Makawi killed Abbas Rahama during the attack,” State said in a press release announcing the designations. Granville and Abbas were shot at least 17 times after leaving a New Year’s Eve party held at the British Embassy in Khartoum.
Rewards for Justice described Makawi as “the leader of the attack that killed Granville and Abbas” and said he had “ties to the Sudan-based terrorist organization al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles, which conspired to attack other US, Western, and Sudanese targets.” Abdelbasit was described as “the second shooter” who “also speaks English and Arabic.”
The murder of Granville and his driver was claimed by both al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles and by another Sudanese terror group, Ansar al-Tawhid (Partisans of Monotheism). Al Qaeda in the Land of the Two Niles claimed the attack was part of the global jihad, while Ansar al-Tawhid said it was to halt the spread of Christianity and avenge the humiliation of Muslims. The father of Abdul Raouf Abu Zeid Muhammad Hamza, one of the convicted assassins, is a senior cleric in Ansar al-Tawhid.
US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that the two groups operate in close coordination and often pool resources and personnel.
Assassins escape from prison, travel to Somalia
Not long after the New Year’s Day attack in Khartoum, Sudanese authorities detained five men believed to have committed the assassination: Makkawi; Abdelbasit; Mohannad Osman Youssef; Abdul Raouf Abu Zeid Muhammad Hamza; and Murad Abdel-Rahman Abdullah. Two of the men were arrested in February 2008 by Sudanese authorities after a brief shootout in a suburb of Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman. In 2009, a Sudanese court sentenced all of the suspects to death except Abdullah, who was sentenced to two years in prison. In June 2010, however, all four men who had been sentenced to death managed to escape from the heavily fortified maximum-security Kober federal prison. A police officer was killed during the escape.
Sudanese officials reported in September 2010 that the fugitives were likely hiding in Darfur in Sudan. Hamza was recaptured within three weeks of his escape from prison. Mohannad Osman Youssef “was reportedly killed in Somalia in May 2011,” according to Rewards for Justice.
But “Abdelbasit and Makawi remain at large and are believed to be in Somalia.”
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, welcomes foreign fighters in its ranks, including Sudanese. Abu Talha al Sudani, who is also known as Tariq Abdullah, served as al Qaeda’s ideological and strategic leader in East Africa before he was killed in 2007 during the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia. He was behind the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Recent video shows Abdelbasit and Makawi escape from prison
In late December 2012, a jihadist media group calling itself the “al-Hijratain Foundation,” a possibly al Qaeda-affiliated group tied to Ansar al-Tawhid, released a video detailing the June 2010 prison escape of the four men [see LWJ report, Sudanese jihadist media front releases video detailing prison escape of convicted militants]. Abdelbasit and Makawi were featured prominently in the video.
The video sheds light on the escape, and raises questions about the security at the supposedly heavily fortified maximum-security Kober federal prison. The jihadist claimed they stole the keys of a prison guard, which they used to unlock their shackles and were thus able to construct a 125-foot-long tunnel underneath the prison.
The video is narrated mostly by Makawi, who appears in it sitting in front of al Qaeda in Iraq’s flag.