Somalia: Igniting jihad in the Horn of Africa

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As this is being written, the alliance of Islamist militias known as
the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) which has taken control of Mogadishu
and most of southern Somalia, is threatening jihad against Ethiopian
armed forces that have crossed into Somalia to defend Somalia's
UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) holed up in the
regional town of Baidoa. (For background and prayer needs, see: WEA
Religious Liberty Prayer bulletin 386 at link 1.)

There is every indication that this confrontation, though presently
paralysed, will soon break out into open war involving Ethiopia,
Somalia and Eritrea. It will be both a conventional territorial war
and a religious war. The conflict will doubtless attract a further
influx of foreign jihadis and inflame Islamic zeal and
identification amongst the region's Muslims (and other traditional
enemies of Ethiopia), seriously impacting and escalating the already
perilous situation faced by Christians in the Horn of Africa.


On 20 July, Stratfor Intelligence opined that when the ICU captured
the regional town of Burhakaba, just 81km (37 miles) south of
Baidoa, on 19 July, it was probably testing Ethiopia's commitment to
the TFG, testing to see how (or if) Ethiopia would respond to a
potential attack on Baidoa. The Ethiopians responded by sending
troops across the border on 20 July, in a convoy of over 100 trucks
and armored vehicles, to defend Baidoa and the TFG.

Ethiopia, a predominantly Christian nation, has entered Somalia
twice before, in 1993 and 1996, to put down Islamist groups seeking
to establish a Sharia government. Ethiopia has concerns that an
Islamist government in Somalia would foment increased agitation in
Ethiopia's already restive Ogaden region. (Ogaden, which borders
Somalia, has a population of around four million mostly ethnic
Somalis. Somalia invaded but failed to capture Ogaden in 1977-78.
The Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF, a group of ethnic
Somalis) is fighting for independence from Ethiopia.)

Also, Ethiopia already has one hostile neighbour in Eritrea. The
last thing Ethiopia wants to have is two hostile neighbours
co-operating with each other against it – possibly on two fronts,
north and southeast. (Somaliland, which has an unrecognized but
stable, democratic and secular government, is not hostile to
Ethiopia, is fighting against terrorism and Islamism, and is also
greatly threatened by the current situation in Southern Somalia.)

Baidoa is about 150 kilometers (100 miles) southeast of the
Ethiopian border, and about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of
the Somali capital of Mogadishu. Ethiopia cannot extend past Baidoa
without dangerously stretching its supply lines and risking a
painful, Iraq-style conflict. The ICU meanwhile, cannot match the
military force of the Ethiopian Army – at least, not on its own. If
the ICU is to engage the Ethiopian Armed Forces it would need to
move thousands of militants out of Mogasdishu, north to fight at
Baidoa, and the ICU can't do that without leaving Mogadishu
vulnerable to the warlords the ICU deposed. So for the time being,
the opposing forces are paralysed in a stand-off. However, there is
evidence that this may soon change, and that possibly the Islamists
are preparing for a much wider conflict, beyond Somalia's borders.


J. Peter Pham (Ph.D) writes a regular "Strategic Interests" column
for World Defense Review (http://reportingwar.com/ ). He is an
expert in terrorism and political violence, and, according to his
profile, "his research interests lie at the intersection of
international relations, international law, political theory, and
ethics, with particular concentrations on the implications for
United States foreign policy and African states as well as religion
and global politics." He is particularly interested in the rise of
militant Islamism is Sub-Saharan Africa and has been warning about
the situation in Somalia for some time.

Dr Pham notes that the Somali Islamists, like the Taliban of
Afghanistan, are reinforced by foreign jihadis, including Arabs,
Afghans, Pakistanis, Kashmiris, Palestinians, and Syrians. He also
notes that Somalia has long been a place a refuge and shelter for
foreign terrorists and that while Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys, the
Chairman of the ICU's majlis al-shura (or parliament) is a known,
designated terrorist, he is only one of several high-profile
terrorist leading the charge in Somalia.

According to Dr Pham, ICU military commander Adan Hashi 'Ayro
trained in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda before returning to Somalia
after 9/11. Pham describes him as "a cold-blooded killer with a
number of terrorist hits to his 'credit', including four foreign aid
workers in Somaliland, ten former Somali military officers, and most
spectacularly, Abdul Qadir Yahya Ali, the internationally-respected
founder of the non-governmental Center for Research and Dialogue in
Mogadishu, who was killed in front of his family last year." Pham
continues, "Another close collaborator of 'Aweys is Hassan Turki,
who was responsible for subversive activities in eastern Ethiopia
and who is closely linked with al-Takfir wal-Hijra ('Excommunication
and Exodus'), a group so extreme that it considered Osama bin Laden
too moderate and tried to kill the al-Qaeda leader in 1996 when he
was living in Sudan." (Link 2)

Dr Pham gives an ominous account of the weapons being stockpiled by
the Somali Islamists. He says, "According to the Monitoring Group
set up under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1407
embargoing arm shipments to the former Somalia, on March 5 of this
year, the Islamists were shipped, via Eritrea, 200 boxes of Zu-23
anti-aircraft ammunition, 200 boxes of B-10 anti-tank ammunition,
200 boxes of DShK anti-aircraft ammunition, 200 boxes of Browning M2
50-caliber heavy machine gun ammunition, ammunition for the ZP-39
anti-aircraft gun, 50 rocket propelled grenade launchers, 50 light
anti-armor weapons, 50 M-79 grenade launchers, and communications
equipments to be mounted on 'technicals'. This was followed two days
later by a consignment of 1,000 short-version AK-47 automatic
rifles, 1,000 pairs of binoculars, 1,000 remote-control bombs, 1,000
anti-personnel mines, and ammunition for 120mm mortars. To put this
arsenal into context – and appreciate its offensive nature – none of
the potential foes faced by the Islamists within Somalia use
military aircraft or tanks." (Link 2)

It is important to note that Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys is a veteran
of the 1977-78 Ogaden War for a Greater Somalia. During that war,
Somali government forces, bolstered by large amounts of Soviet
military aid, invaded Ogaden, captured much of it, but were unable
to hold it and were eventually forced to retreat. BBC Monitoring
reported recently that in a recent BBC Somali Service interview,
Aweys voiced his support for the idea of Greater Somalia, by
claiming Ethiopia-occupied Somali territory. (Link 3)

According to Reuters, "Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is considered a
moderate, told a gathering of ex-military officers, some of whom
fought Ethiopia in [the] 1977-78 [Ogaden] conflict, to prepare for
war. 'You will be joined by the Islamic Courts militia in defending
the country and our religion against our enemies,' he said to chants
of 'God is great!'" (Link 4)


On Monday 24 July, Islamists told crowds rallying in a Mogadishu
football stadium that God has commanded that they fight the
Ethiopian troops. The demonstrators responded by setting fire to an
Ethiopian flag to cries of "God is great!" (Link 5)

Also on 24 July a medium-sized Russian-built cargo plane with no
recognizable markings landed in Somalia's capital Mogadishu.
Residents reported seeing large boxes unloaded. Reuters reports,
"Onlookers and journalists were prevented from entering the area by
hundreds of heavily-armed Islamist militiamen guarding the airport
with dozens of battle-wagons."

TFG Deputy Prime Minister Ismail Mohamed Hurre told Reuters, "The
plane was carrying anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons donated
by Eritrea to the Islamists". An ICU official however, who asked not
to be named, said that the plane was not carrying weapons, only
"small sewing machines, which were a gift from a friendly country."
(Link 4)


Dr Pham's most recent column (published 27 July) is entitled "Al
Qaeda moves to Africa", and should be read along with his earlier
columns on Africa, especially "Militant Islamism's Shadow Rises over
Sub-Saharan Africa" (4 May 2006).

Dr Pham got the title for this most recent column from a four-page
article with the same name, "Al Qaeda moves to Africa", by Abu Azzam
al-Ansari, published in the June edition of the Saudi jihadi
magazine Sada al-Jihad (Echo of Jihad). An English translation of
that article can be found at link 6.

Elizabeth Kendal
[email protected]


1) Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin - No. 386 - Wed 12 Jul 2006

2) Sheikh Aweys Won’t Go Away (At Least by Himself)
J. Peter Pham, Ph.D. 6 July 2006

3) Analysis: Splits emerging in Somali Islamist movement.
BBC Monitoring 6 July 2006

4) Mystery plane fuels Somalia war fears
By Mohamed Ali Bile and Guled Mohamed.
MOGADISHU (Reuters) 26 July 2006
Experts see proxy war under way in Somalia
By MOHAMED SHEIKH NOR Associated Press Writer. 26 July 2006
ALSO http://edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/africa/07/26/somalia.ap/

5) Somali Islamists say told by God to fight Ethiopia
By Guled Mohamed. MOGADISHU (Reuters) 24 July 2006

6) Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center
The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements (PRISM)
Occasional Papers. Volume 4 (2006), Number 2 (June 2006).
Director: Reuven Paz1
Africa: The Gold Mine of Al Qaeda and Global Jihad
By Reuven Paz and Moshe Terdman

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