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Kenya Bust Highlights al-Qaeda Threat

The recent police action by Kenyan authorities that disrupted a planned attack on the African Cup of Nations soccer final in Cairo underscore the continued threat posed by al-Qaeda elements in Somalia.

According to African News Dimension: (subscription only)
International anti-terrorist experts believe the network has cells and training camps in neighbouring Somalia.
The July 2005 International Crisis Group report on the situation in Somalia, while in significant disagreement with earlier assessments on the level of al-Qaeda activity in the country by both a March 2005 UN report and the information on al-Qaeda activity in Somalia contained in both the 2002 and 2005 editions of former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer’s Through Our Enemies’ Eyes, nevertheless documented the existence of 3 parallel jihadi networks in Somalia that were later discussed at length by Dr. Anouar Boukhars in the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor.

According to both ICG and Dr. Boukhars, these 3 jihadi networks are as follows:

  • The East African al-Qaeda network in Somalia established by Tariq Abdullah (Abu Talha al-Sudani) that includes a number of senior al-Qaeda terrorist including operations chief Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who is believed to be the current head of al-Qaeda in East Africa, as well as Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, all of whom are believed have been involved in both the August 1998 bombing of the US embassies in East Africa and the November 2002 suicide bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa that coincided with a failed plot to shoot down an El Al airliner. Other senior al-Qaeda members believed by Kenyan authorities to be based in Somalia include Issa Osman Issa, Fumo Mohamed Fumo, Salim Samir Baamir, and Mohamed Mwakuuza Kuza. In keeping with the al-Qaeda model, these individuals do not so much maintain their own organization in Somalia so much as coopt existing Somali groups for their purposes and act as the primary link between them and the broader al-Qaeda network.
  • The remnants of al-Itihaad al-Islaami, formerly the largest and most influential of the Somali jihadi organizations until 1997, when it came under conventional attack by a series of incursions into Somalia by the Ethiopian military that the group still has yet to recover from. As a result, some of al-Itihaad’s former leaders including political leader Sheikh Ali Warsame, recruiting chief Sheikh Abdulqadir Ga’amey, and spiritual leaders Sheikh Dahir and Sheikh Mohamud Isse have returned to their power bases in Garoowe, Bosaaso, and Bur’o in an effort to recruit new members, with al-Itihaad’s former military commanders Hassan Dahir Aweys and Hassan Turki taking charge over the remnants of the group’s fighters.
  • A new and as yet unnamed jihadi organization made up largely of al-Itihaad veterans led by either Aweys’s former protege Aden Hashi Ayro or Ahmed Abdi Godane, both of whom attended al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. This new organization is extremely secretive, operating in clandestine cells rather than as a militia, and appears at launching assassination campaigns and urban warfare tactics.

It would seem that of the three, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s would be the most likely to have masterminded this most recent plot directed at Cairo. The mention of South Africa in disrupting this attack also brings to mind Kurt Shillinger’s recent article in Armed Forces Journal concerning the al-Qaeda infrastructure present in the country and the steps that have been taken to combat it.

Feedback

While they may be making friends with their humanitarian missions, the Horn of Africa task force seems to be a bit undermanned, at 1,500 troops or so. I'm sure some intelligence gathering comes along with making contacts in the area, but I think sooner or later the US will need to increase their presence there.

There are Muslim majority or strong minorities in a number of African countries, as well as a number of troubled areas, an attractive combination for Al Qaeda.

If AQ is increasing their influence in the region, we'll need to follow suit.

Somalia has been flying under the radar for some time. Certainly we have discarded this place since not long after the "Blackhawk Down" days.

It is still a lawless country where any number of terrorists, or just plain criminals could go and hide and /or plan missions. Especially for the right price (weapons, money, drugs, etc). I am sure given our history there, there is an official reluctance to go in and conduct anything more than extremely covert ops.