Friday, 13 November 2009

Article Examines Activities of Jihadists, al-Qaeda`s Growing Influence

Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al-Libi gestures in this handout video grab. Libi, in a video released on Islamist websites on February 13, 2009 urged Somali militants to step up attacks against Somalia`s new moderate government, which he dismissed as U.S.-backed.

Article by Herve Bar: “Somalia -- A New International Front for Jihad?”

Nairobi, 30 Oct 2009 (AFP) - Is Somalia becoming a new front for international jihad? Alarming signals are becoming more frequent, some experts, who recall that the Horn of Africa has been a difficult ground foral-Qaeda in the 1990`s, have been warning.

“The influence of al-Qaeda is increasing in Somalia” which could very soon become “the new Afghanistan,” Karel Gucht, the EU commissioner for development, warned at the end of September.

Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke, who is on a visit to London this week, is of the opinion that his country had become a “refuge” for jihadists. “They train there and prepare their operation on our land. Somalia serves them as the ideal place for regrouping and redeploying.”

Al-Qaeda`s influence is undeniably on the increase in Somalia, with the growing risk of the “internationalization” of the conflict, the Australian Institute of Political Strategy (ASPI) worried in its latest report.

This body has noticed “a tendency for the transformation of the Somali territory into the jihad`s battle ground,” while Al-Shabab Islamic insurgents that are fighting the transitional government that is at the brink of collapse have entered into allegiance with “Sheikh” Usama Bin Ladin.

Hundreds of foreign volunteers -- including numerous Somalis in the Diaspora - are fighting alongside Al-Shabab and are using methods already tried in Iraq -- suicide attacks and booby-trapped engines.

Bin Ladin, who has delivered three messages to Somalia since the beginning of 2009, clearly declared that he wanted to turn this country into a new front against the West.

All the same, Al-Qaeda failed to get established in Somalia in 1993-1994 and federated local Islamists fighting the UN peacekeepers deployed to the country.

“Just as it constituted an obstacle to Western organizations, the apparent anarchy reigning in Somalia which many people think was serving the interests of al-Qaeda, in fact, proved to be an obstacle to its own installation,” one reads in a report by the Terrorism Fighting Center(CTC) of the West Point military academy (United States).

These conditions “imposed constraints and dangers” on humanitarian NGO`s as well as on “terrorist groups,” the CTC disclosed. The Somali territory was used by al-Qaeda “as a passage and as a temporary refuge “but “the country`s isolation and rudeness constituted an obstacle to the creation of a sure rear base.”

Since his refuge in neighboring Sudan (1991-1996), al-Qaeda has encountered “big financial and logistic problems” in the Horn of Africa, stated Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor of political science in France and author of the “Nine Lives of al-Qaeda” (published by Fayard).

The mission of the jihadists has also been cut short due to the voluntary xenophobic nationalism of Somali militia groups,” “highlighting the difficulty of al-Qaeda to graft itself on the non-Arabic environment.”

Contemporary Somalia “is without a government but not without governance”: the hostility of the traditional clans and local officials has considerably complicated the task for al-Qaeda within a vast pastoral society that is “traditionally difficult to mobilize,” West Point emphasized.

“The Somali context has generally had the tendency of inhibiting and constraining the development of a radical Islam.” The local Islam is traditionally moderate with a strong influence from Sufism, whereas the Wahabism practiced in the neighboring Arabian Peninsula and which is claimed by Al-Shabab, is regarded as foreign to the local culture.

Inversely, new factors - such as the going into the Diaspora of the Somali society, rapid urbanization, and 18 years of civil war - have eroded these restraints on radicalism, thus rendering the Somali society more porous to the fiery rhetoric of al-Qaeda.

(Description of Source: Paris AFP (Domestic Service) in French -- domestic service of independent French press agency Agence France-Presse)

Comoran National Fazul Identified as Al-Qaeda Leader in East Africa
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Report by Herve Bar: “Fazul Abdullah, the Elusive Al-Qaeda Leader in East Africa”

Nairobi, 30 Oct 2009 (AFP) - The Comoran national, Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, the presumed leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa, disappeared from being tracked down by Americans for about 10 years and is today fighting alongside Al-Shabab Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

Fazul Abdullah, the last born of a sibling of six children, was born in Moroni on 25 August 1972, according to a report by the “Terrorism Fighting Center” (CTC) of the West Point military academy. Fazul lived a perfectly normal childhood life, his close associates remember: he played soccer, loved showing his prowess at kung-fu and dancing the “moon-walk” of Michael Jackson.

Like all Comorian boys, he began learning the Koran at four. Fazul began his radicalization at 16 by becoming the pupil of Soidiki M`Bapandza, a Salafist sheikh, outside the moderate Islam practiced in the archipelago.

In 1990, the young man left for Pakistan where he very quickly abandoned the study of medicine and engaged himself as a future “mujahidin” in Afghanistan, the CTC explained.

He then underwent an intensive training and indoctrination at the “Beid al-Ansar” school of jihad at Peshawar, a famous “guest-house” founded by Usama Bin Ladin and the preacher, Abdullah Azzam, and which later served as the breeding ground for al-Qaeda.

In 1991, Fazul wrote a letter to his family saying that he has joined al-Qaeda. In 1993, he took part in his first “mission” in Somalia for where he left with a small group of jihadists to train the Islamists fighting UN blue helmets. He returned briefly to THE Comoros in 1994 and later settled in Kenya. He lived between Khartoum, Nairobi, and Mogadishu, devoting the greater part of his time to the preparation of anti-US attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam which left 218 dead in July 1998.

He is a “key actor” in the plot and personally drove the pick-up that guided the truck stuffed with explosives in front of the US Embassy in Nairobi. Fazul therefore occupied an “intermediary position within al-Qaeda,” according to the CTC.

From 1999 to 2001, al-Qaeda invested millions of dollars in the “blood diamond” business in Liberia. Fazul was one of the two project managers of the operation and became an almost permanent invited guest of President Charles Taylor.

In 2002, the Comorian was given the leadership of al-Qaeda`s operations for the entire East African region.

From the heavenly archipelago of Lamu (north of Kenya), he planned the anti-Israeli attacks of Mombasa that left 15 dead on 28 November2002.

Fazul reportedly plays an influential role today within the Al-Shabab where he reportedly organizes “the training sessions and the preparation of suicide operations” in particular, the Norwegian researcher, Stig Jarle Hansen, assured.

On 8 January 2007, he survived a US bombardment that left 6dozen people dead at Ras Kamboni (south of Somalia). Two days later, the Kenyan army narrowly missed him in the Kiunga forest along the border.

On 2 August 2008, he narrowly escaped a raid by the police at Malindi (northern Kenya). “A computer expert,” the fugitive “likes wearing a baseball cap and dressing rather casually,” according to US authorities who have offered $5 million for his capture.

The man is “difficult” to neutralize, West Point warned: he uses a dozen pseudonyms, speaks five languages perfectly, and “has extended contacts with all the criminal organizations of the region.”

A master in the art of disguising, “remarkably intelligent, and perfectly trained, he is one of the most dangerous international terrorists living today,” the CTC said.

(Description of Source: Paris AFP (Domestic Service) in French -- domestic service of independent French press agency Agence France-Presse)

Somalia`s Puntland Region Says Committed To Fighting Piracy
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

MOGADISHU, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in the northeastern semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland have vowed to step up their effort to fight rampant piracy off the coast.

The region is considered hotbed for the menace and local authorities have previously come under repeated criticism that they were not doing enough to fight the illicit activities off the Somali coast.

The chief of police in the Bari region in Puntland, Osman Hassan Owkeh, said the local security forces were committed to stepping up their efforts and would do their bit in fighting piracy.

The official said the forces have captured “many” pirates and their equipment, adding the convicted pirates are servicing prison sentences in the region where locates the biggest pirate base, the town of Eyl.

Authorities have presented to the media confiscated equipment used by Somali pirates to carry out their activities, including small weapons, ladders, engines for skiffs and jerry cans for fuels. The media were also shown pirates in prisons in Bossaso, commercial capital of the autonomous state.

“All these (confiscated equipment and imprisoned pirates) should show the world that we are committed in fighting the piracy which is hurting Somalia more than any other country in the world, “Owkeh said.

He called on the international community to do more to support what he called “local initiatives and efforts” in global fight against piracy off Somalia and the Gulf of Aden.

Local forces, who are mostly ill-equipped and underpaid, have managed to prevent a number of piracy incidents and captured pirates along with their equipment. Authorities in the region have also been handed over pirates by international naval forces patrolling the pirate infested Somalia coast.

Local courts have carried out trials of captured pirates and have given jail terms, but some have reportedly escaped from prison or were released by bribed guards.

Somali pirates, who are better trained and well equipped than local forces, have recently intensified their activities along the India Ocean and extended their reach far into the high seas as off the Indian sub-continent, the longest distance so far.

Several warships from a number of countries, including China , patrol the Somali coast and the Gulf of Aden.

Pirate gangs are holding several ships with hundreds of crew on board for whom they demand ransom for their release.

Since the start of the restless situation in Somalia in 1991, the Horn of Africa country`s coastal areas and the Gulf of Aden have been frequently infested by pirates.

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