Skip to comments.A New Terrorist Haven: The frightening advance of Islamists in Somalia
Posted on 10/21/2006 6:12:11 PM PDT by forty_years
WHEN FIGHTERS from the radical Islamic Courts Union (ICU) seized Mogadishu, capital of Somalia, in early June, the Western world briefly noticed. Analysts and talking heads were concerned that the country could become a terrorist haven. Then the media largely lost interest, though the situation remains dire. The ICU is on the verge of winning an even bigger strategic victory, and its links to international terrorism have become impossible to deny.
After Mogadishu fell, Somalia's beleaguered transitional government holed up in the south-central city of Baidoa and watched as the ICU won a rapid series of strategic gains. It took control of critical port cities--most recently, Kismayo, captured on September 25--that give it access to the Indian Ocean. The ICU's advances have met with little resistance, as typified by the capture of the town of Beletuein on August 9. The governor, escorted by a couple of "technicals"--pickup trucks mounted with machine guns--fled to Ethiopia shortly after fighting broke out between his forces and ICU militiamen.
Now, in late October, the ICU controls most of the country's key strategic points. It can move supplies from south to north, and ICU troops effectively encircle Baidoa. In the past month, the ICU has begun to make overt moves against the transitional federal government. The most dramatic came on September 18, when the presidential convoy faced a multi-pronged suicide car bombing attack just minutes after President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed delivered a speech to the transitional parliament. Six government officials died in what was the first suicide strike in Somalia's history. There were further casualties in an ensuing gun battle, but President Ahmed escaped unscathed.
That attack occurred against the backdrop of ICU-inspired protests in Baidoa. The ICU used local supporters to organize demonstrations against the transitional government, forcing government police to disperse a crowd with gunfire.
The bottom line is that Baidoa is a city under siege, as evidenced by a stream of defections from the transitional government's military to the more powerful ICU. Over 100 government fighters stationed near Baidoa have defected. All that prevents the transitional government's destruction is the presence of some Ethiopian soldiers. Early this month, witnesses saw at least thirty Ethiopian armored vehicles pass through Baidoa en route to military barracks about twenty kilometers east of the city, and these troops have set up roadblocks in an effort to protect the transitional government.
Intelligence sources, however, doubt the Ethiopian forces can prevent Baidoa from falling. Some believe that the main reason the ICU hasn't yet mounted a full assault is a desire to prevent the transitional government from escaping to Ethiopia or another sympathetic country and becoming a permanent thorn in the ICU's side: The radicals would like to see all major figures in the transitional government killed or captured.
The primary reason Westerners should care about these developments is the ICU's increasingly clear support for international terrorism. Longtime al Qaeda ally Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys has been appointed head of the ICU's consultative shura council. The United States named Aweys a specially designated global terrorist in November 2001. He is one of three individuals believed responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania who are currently sheltered by the ICU. Aweys's protégé, Aden Hashi 'Ayro, reportedly received terrorist training in Afghanistan as the United States was preparing to attack the Taliban in 2001.
- Somalia's Islamist Lifeguards
- Somali Islamists Go Psycho
- BBC Whitewashes Somalia's Islamists
- Afghanistan II
These men have seized power in a country that contains 17 operational terrorist training camps, as described in a confidential report prepared by the nongovernmental group Partners International Foundation in 2002. The claim in this report has been confirmed by a military intelligence source. Today, hundreds of terrorists from Afghan istan, Chechnya, Iraq, Pakistan, and the Arabian peninsula are said to be flocking to Somalia to train in or staff these camps. According to a military intelligence source, the camps provide training in the use of improvised explosive devices to counter Ethiopian vehicles.
According to press accounts, the ICU has received funding from the Arabian peninsula that allows it to arm its fighters with new weapons. Sheikh Aweys told a group of 600 fighters at the Hilweyne training camp, "This is the beginning, but thousands of other gunmen will be trained. You are the ones who will disarm civilians, restore law and order, and help enforce sharia law."
But the presence of foreign fighters in Somalia suggests that Sheikh Aweys and the ICU have ambitions beyond Somalia. Some ICU leaders, such as Sheikh Yusuf Indohaadde, have denied the presence of foreign fighters in the country in order to distance themselves publicly from al Qaeda. In a late June press conference, Sheikh Indohaadde said, "We want to say in a loud voice that we have no enemies, we have not enmity toward anyone. There are no foreign terrorists here." Within a few weeks of this unequivocal statement, how ever, the Associated Press obtained a copy of an ICU recruiting videotape directed at both Somali and Arab audiences (with Arabic subtitles) that showed Sheikh Indohaadde in the desert alongside fighters from Arab Gulf states.
Another senior ICU leader, Sheikh Hassan "Turki" Abdullah Hersi, openly admitted foreign involvement in Somalia during a speech to supporters after the seizure of Kismayo. "Brothers in Islam, we came from Mogadishu and we have thousands of fighters, some are Somalis and others are from the Muslim world," he said. "If Christian-led America brought its infidels, we now call to our Muslim holy fighters to come join us."
Nor is the ICU's support for international jihad lost on the movement's highest leaders. In an audiotape released in late June, Osama bin Laden stated, "We will continue, God willing, to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Somalia and Sudan, until we waste all your money and kill your men and you will return to your country in defeat as we defeated you before in Somalia"--a clear nod to the rise of the Islamic courts. In July, bin Laden issued an even stronger statement: "We warn all the countries in the world from accepting a U.S. proposal to send international forces to Somalia. We swear to God that we will fight their soldiers in Somalia and we reserve our right to punish them on their lands and every accessible place at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner."
The rise to power of the ICU is reminiscent of the Taliban's rise in the 1990s. Both radical groups are allied with al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists. And like the Taliban, the ICU is now instituting an extremely strict version of sharia.
In Somalia, as in Afghanistan in the 1990s, the implementation of sharia is facilitated by lawlessness and desperate poverty. The Taliban im posed its harsh rule on what Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid called an "exhausted, war-weary population," many of whom saw the movement "as saviors and peacemakers." Likewise, Somalia, since the toppling of President Muhammad Siad Barre in 1991, has been at the mercy of rival warlord factions known for indiscriminate violence. Rapes and other crimes have been commonplace. It is thus unsurprising that many Somalis view the ICU as a force that can deliver the stability they crave.
In both countries, however, many citizens were unable to accept the radicals' draconian regime. By the time the Taliban was ousted from power in 2001, few Afghans were sad to see them go. Likewise, the influx of tens of thousands of Somali refugees into Kenya shows that not all of the ICU's subjects are happy with their rule.
Where it has taken power, the ICU attempts to regulate virtually every facet of Somali citizens' lives, even barring them from watching soccer matches. ICU forces shot at least two people who demanded to watch a World Cup semifinal this summer. And in mid-September, in the course of raiding a Mogadishu hall where a crowd was watching an English Premier League soccer match, they shot and killed a 13-year-old boy. The ICU has also conducted mass arrests of citizens watching videos, cracked down on live music at weddings, and arrested a karate instructor and his female students because the lessons constituted mixing of the sexes.
Beyond the religious basis for these laws, there is clearly a desire to cement the ICU's control. This can also be seen in the ICU's crackdowns on the media. The Islamic courts have closed several radio stations to stifle dissent. On October 8, they gave the press in Mogadishu 13 rules of conduct that the press freedom advocacy group Reporters sans Frontières describes as a "draconian charter." It prohibits publishing information "contrary to the Muslim religion," information "likely to create conflicts between the population and the Council of Islamic Courts," and the use of "the terms which infidels use to refer to Muslims such as 'terrorists,' 'extremists,' etc." A Reporters sans Frontières press release contends that this charter would result in "a gagged, obedient press, one constrained by threats to sing the praises of the Islamic courts and their vision of the world and Somalia."
The ICU is also moving to disarm the population. In mid-October, the Islamic courts announced the door-to-door collection of weapons owned by Somali citizens and organizations. Only ICU-affiliated Somalis would be allowed to retain their firearms. This move, ostensibly designed to instill order, clearly diminishes citizens' ability to resist the Islamic militia.
Although the situation in Somalia looks grave, the United States has more options for dealing with the ICU than it has in some other areas where terrorist factions have made gains lately, such as the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Ethiopia's military presence--still relatively light, and meant principally to help the transitional government escape once Baidoa falls--creates an initial opportunity for the United States. Back in the mid-1990s, Ethiopia intervened in Somalia to destroy the predecessor of the ICU, the al Qaeda-backed al-Ittihad al-Islamiya, which was sponsoring Islamic separatist groups in the Ethiopian border province of Ogaden. The Islamic courts are unlikely to be friendlier to Ethiopia than their predecessor. Sharif Ahmed, the head of the ICU's executive council, has openly called for a jihad against Ethiopian soldiers in the country. ICU military commanders have made similar calls.
Nor is Ethiopia the only neighbor concerned about the ICU's rise. On October 5, the ICU moved 15 of its technicals to the village of Liboi, in southern Somalia near the border with Kenya. While an ICU spokes man claimed that this was intended to "check the security in the area," the Kenyans viewed the move as provocative. Concern about the ICU's intentions had already prompted senior Kenyan officials to undergo anti terrorist and counterinsurgency training; when the ICU advanced to Liboi, Kenyan military helicopters responded with a show of force. Kenyan defense minister Njenga Karume later announced that "anybody who might touch Kenya will face the full force of our military."
Since then, Kenya has deployed forces along its border with Somalia. Moreover, the governments of the semiautonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland are hostile to the Islamic courts.
The United States has significant assets at Camp Lemonier in neighboring Djibouti, where the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is made up of Marines, Special Operations forces, civil affairs teams, and a U.S. and international naval task force. The Combined Joint Task Force's primary missions have been patrolling the East African coast and the straits of the Bab el Mandeb oil choke point, training regional militaries to fight the spread of Islamic terror groups, performing goodwill missions designed to improve the lives of Africans, and undertaking covert intelligence and hunter-killer missions. A Predator drone said to be operating from Djibouti killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, al Qaeda's chief operative in Yemen, in November 2002.
All is not lost in Somalia. While the transitional government has no power base to rely on, there is enough concern in the region about the ICU's rise that the United States has potential partners with whom it could fashion an appropriate response if it wanted to. The critical question is whether we can muster the will--or for that matter even the awareness--to address the problem.
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross is a senior consultant for the Gerard Group International and author of the forthcoming book My Year Inside Radical Islam (Tarcher/Penguin). Bill Roggio is an independent military blogger who served in the Army from 1991 to 1995.
Becoming another Taliban-like sanctuary. Yesterday they said women cannot go into the ocean even in full Islamic garb.
I'm so confused Clinton just said a few weeks ago that there was no Al Queda etc. in Somolia. Well not during his watch er...well I guess it depends on what you mean?
Gee! Another Taliban-like sanctuary! This time is has a wonderful set of beaches for Marines to land on, instead of having to take those long helicopter rides, as with Afghanistan. You would think that these folks would learn after a while, but the just want to all get together in one place! ;-)
Maybe they are counting on the American People to never want to return to Mogadishu?
Friday, October 20, 2006
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia: Death and danger in the Horn of Africa
Persecution of Christians intensifies as regional tensions escalate
By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service
AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- Tensions are rising across the Horn of Africa there is death and danger. Irredentist Somali Islamists have declared jihad against Ethiopia. Christians are being attacked and murdered by Muslims in Ethiopia. Eritrea, which is accused of arming the Somali Islamists, is exploiting an opportunity and has breached the 2000 cease-fire agreement by moving troops into the Eritrea-Ethiopia border buffer zone. Two Protestant Christians were recently tortured to death in Eritrea. The savagery of persecution appears to be escalating in proportion to regional tensions and it could be about to get much worse.
(Irredentist: One who advocates the recovery of territory culturally or historically related to one's nation but presently subject to a foreign government. (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language))
TENSIONS RISE THROUGH THE HORN OF AFRICA
Political and religious tensions have been rising throughout the Horn of Africa ever since Islamists captured Mogadishu, Somalia, in June.
As noted in the 29 July 2006 WEA RLC News & Analysis posting, "Somalia: Igniting jihad in the Horn of Africa" (Link 1), Islamist leaders in Somalia are actively reviving Somali irredentism while simultaneously effecting a massive military build up. The head of Somalia's Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC), Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys, himself a veteran of the failed 1977-78 Ogaden War for a Greater Somalia, has recently publicly voiced his support for the idea of Greater Somalia. He regards Ogaden as Ethiopia-occupied Somali territory. As noted in the July WEA RLC posting, this situation has the potential not only to erupt in regional conflict, but to inflame Islamic zeal, stoke traditional animosities, agitate belligerents and seriously impact and escalate the already perilous situation faced by Christians across the Horn of Africa.
On Monday 16 October, Eritrea moved 1,500 troops and 14 tanks into a security buffer zone established in 2000 after the 2-year border war with Ethiopia. While Ethiopia described this as a "minor provocation" the UN regards it as "a major breach" of the cease-fire agreement reached in 2000. (Link 2)
Stratfor Intelligence reported on 20 October: "Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said Eritrea is taking advantage of the standoff between the SICC and the Ethiopia-backed transitional federal government to take a swipe at its longtime enemy."
Associated Press writer Les Neuhaus writes, "Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have been strained since the peace pact ended their war six years ago, with tensions on the rise because of unrest in Somalia, with Eritrea and Ethiopia supporting opposing factions.
"Eritrea's move [into the buffer zone] may be part of a regional strategy to place military pressure on Ethiopia. The United Nations reported earlier this year that Eritrea has sent weapons to a radical Islamic group that has been increasing its power in Somalia and that opposes Ethiopia's moves to prop up Somalia's internationally backed government.
"By moving troops closer to the border, Eritrea could be aiming to keep Ethiopian troops tied up there so that they cannot move into Somalia. Ethiopia would presumably want to avoid trouble on two fronts, but Eritrea's action raised the threat of renewed war between the feuding neighbors." (Link 3)
Meanwhile on another front tensions are escalating between Ethiopia and Somalia, inflaming Islamic zeal across the region. Islamists, other Muslims, and anti-Western elements who resent the loss of Southern Sudan, are keen to support Somalia, any Muslims or any belligerents for that matter against any Christian and any West-allied force.
Somali Islamists continue to actively recruit youths for jihad against Ethiopia. Chief registration officer Sheikh Abdulrahman Abdulle told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) the Islamists would provide the recruits with military training, as well as arms and vehicles. (Link 4)
Stratfor Intelligence reported on 19 October: "Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi accused Somalian fighters Oct. 19 of coming within nine miles of the Ethiopian border backed by troops from Indonesia, Pakistan, the Arab world and other African countries. Zenawi said the troop movement threatens Ethiopia's sovereignty and that 'if these groups attempt to violate our border our defense forces will be obliged to hit back exercising the right of self-defense.'" Another source names Egyptian and Libyan military elements as working with the Islamic Courts Union. (Link 5)
ETHIOPIA: MUSLIM ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS INTENSIFY
JIJIGA, the capital of Ethiopia's Somali Ogaden region, is about 720 kilometres due east of the capital Addis Ababa, towards the Somalia border. In May, Muslim youths in Jijiga stoned the homes and businesses of Christians after taking offence at what they claimed was the desecration of the Koran. (Link 6)
HENNO is in southern Ethiopia, 404 kilometres South of Addis Ababa, towards the Kenyan border. According to International Christian Concern (ICC), Islamic leaders, angry about the conversion of two prominent Muslims in 2005, have reportedly been urging Muslims in the area to kill full-time Christian evangelists. ICC reports that on 20 July 2006, seven Muslim clerics brutally attacked 50 or more Christians, seriously injuring twelve. Local Muslims in Henno have so far been rejecting their leaders' calls to violence. (Link 7)
DEMBI is a small village 90 kilometres northwest of Jimma (which is about 350 kilometres west of Addis Ababa) towards the Sudan border. Muslims in Dembi had allegedly told the Christians that they would not let them celebrate Meskel this year because it was "their [Muslim] land". Meskel ("cross" in Amharic) is an annual Orthodox festival commencing mid September which marks the arrival of Spring.
When the Orthodox Christians in Dembi did celebrate Meskel the Muslims rioted. According to news agency Reuters, four days of religious conflict in early October left three religious centres and some 800 houses burned, more than 100 displaced, numerous people injured and 10 dead. The Islamic Affairs Supreme Council of Ethiopia claimed that nine Muslims were killed. Council vice-president Elias Redman said that most of the Muslims in the area practise the ultra-conservative Wahhabi brand of Islam. Religious conflict resumed on the weekend of 14 15 October, resulting in a further five deaths.
Local officials said they are growing increasingly concerned about conflict between faiths. A local official of the Orthodox Church said, "This is a very worrying situation for us. These things never used to happen but they seem to be starting now." (Link 6)
Reformatorisch Dagblad gives a more detailed account of the Meskel riot: "Within a matter of two days, they [armed 'Muslim fundamentalists'] had burned over 350 homes belonging to Christians, killed 31 Christians, and taken dozens as hostages, according to local church leaders. Muslim attackers burned one Catholic church, one Orthodox church, and three evangelical churches. The latter are part of the 75-year-old Kale Heywet Church (EKHC), which began under the missionary influence of what was then known as Sudan Interior Mission and now includes over 5 million Ethiopian believers. Attackers quickly converted five local EKHC churches into mosques.
"Local church leaders estimate that nearly 3,000 Christians have been displaced. Last week they hastily organized themselves into five camps for protection and to share food and other supplies. The humanitarian relief group Samaritan's Purse has provided $50,000 in emergency food aid to the displaced." (Link 8)
ERITREA: BELIEVERS DIE FROM TORTURE
Compass Direct's most recent News Flash on Eritrea gives insight into the escalating savagery of the persecution suffered there by Christians. (Link 9)
Compass Direct (CD) reports that on 15 October 2006, Immanuel Andegergesh (23) and Kibrom Firemichel (30) were arrested while attending a religious service in a private home south of Asmara. The ten Christians worshipping with them (three women and seven men), all members of the evangelical Rema Church, were also arrested.
CD reports that the Christians were detained in a military camp outside the town of Adi-Quala and, according to one source, were subjected to "furious mistreatment". On 17 October, Andegergesh and Firemichel died in custody as a result of dehydration and torture inflicted by Eritrean security police. The fate of the other ten believers is as yet unknown.
According to CD, Andegergesh and Firemichel had been performing their military service in a southern Eritrean town close to the Ethiopian border.
CD also reports that Eritrean-born American citizen Aregahaje Woldeselasie (early 60s) and his assistant, a married man identified only as Mushie, were arrested on 4 October and have been held in Asmara's Police Station 5. CD reports: "Woldeselasie has been working with Nehemiah Ministry International in Eritrea since 1991, providing leadership training to new congregations."
Furthermore: "Earlier this month, Eritrean authorities returned popular Christian singer Helen Berhane to military detention after she spent three days in Asmara's Halibet Hospital for medical treatment. Berhane's leg had been seriously damaged as a result of beatings she received while imprisoned in a metal shipping container since her arrest in May 2004."
And: "In its apparent campaign to bring all religious groups under its control, the government of Eritrea has recently focused its efforts on schools run by religious groups."
As reported by CD on 8 September: "A total of 35 pastors, priests and church elders are confirmed under arrest in Asmara's Wongel Mermera investigation center. An additional 1,758 Christians of both evangelical Protestant and Orthodox confessions are jailed in 14 other cities and towns." Eritrea is one of the world's most serious religious liberty violators.
REGIONAL THREAT RISES
Islamic irredentism is threatening Ethiopia and Eritrea knows an opportunity when it presents. As the tensions rise, Christians throughout the Horn of Africa are likely to face increased hostility from zealous Muslims and belligerents such as agitated Eritrean security police. If war breaks out between Somali irredentist Islamists and Ethiopia, and between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the situation for Christians throughout the region will be diabolical.
Her news links follow
Islamic terrorist will surface inside every country where ever there is an Islam presence.
In other words, there is no real surprise about Somalia.
The main driving force behind Islam IS terrorism, and/or
Islamist leaders in Somalia are actively reviving Somali irredentism while simultaneously effecting a massive military build up. The head of Somalia's Supreme Islamic Courts Council (SICC), Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys, himself a veteran of the failed 1977-78 Ogaden War for a Greater Somalia, has recently publicly voiced his support for the idea of Greater Somalia. He regards Ogaden as Ethiopia-occupied Somali territory. As noted in the July WEA RLC posting, this situation has the potential not only to erupt in regional conflict, but to inflame Islamic zeal, stoke traditional animosities, agitate belligerents and seriously impact and escalate the already perilous situation faced by Christians across the Horn of Africa.