Al-Qaeda 'Nice and Comfy' in Somalia
Prior to today's car bombings in Baidoa, a number of reports (see here and here) have been released indicating that al-Qaeda is operating in Somalia. According to Jendayi Frazer, the head of the State Department's Africa bureau,
Al-Qaeda militants are operating with "great comfort" in Somalia, providing training and assistance to a radical military element loyal to the Islamic group that controls most of southern Somalia.
Although the ICU has continually denied allegations of foreign militants in Somalia, Frazer indicated that three al-Qaeda militants wanted for the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Tanzania and Dar-es-Salaam are hiding in Somalia. Frazer also emphasized that the al-Qaeda presence goes well beyond these three suspects. To that effect, I recently co-authored an article with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross entitled "The New Taliban" which details the extensive relationship that the Islamic Courts Union has with al-Qaeda.
In other news, as mentioned earlier, reports are indicating that three car bombs have been detonated at various police check points near Baidoa, the seat of the Transitional Federal Government. This is not the first instance of suicide car bombings near Baidoa. In September, President Abdullahi Yusuf escaped a suicide bomb attack outside of a government building in Baidoa. His brother and 11 others were killed in the incident.
A senior official with the ICU has claimed responsibility for the car bombings that took place at the police check points. Mohamed Ibrahim Said Bilal, the Commander of the Al Bayun region's ICU militias, indicated that the blasts were perpetrated by "Islamic suicide bombers." As a result, 24 Ethiopian soldiers have been killed along with a number of civilians.
For more in-depth analysis on this situation, please read the blog posted by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross that I provided research for.