Terrorist in Somalia

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross:

Recently two prominent left-wing bloggers, Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman, have questioned whether the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) -- the radical group that Ethiopia is currently battling in Somalia -- is really linked to terrorism. Yglesias writes, "What are the names of these people the Islamists are sheltering? How many of them are there? Who are they? What have they done? What diplomatic efforts has the United States made to get the Islamists to turn them over? Pardon me for being cynical, but in this day and age my suspicion is that names aren't involved in these articles but [sic] there's no one in particular the Bush administration is worrying about and this is mostly hype and paranoia." And Ackerman, after a grand total of two telephone calls to public affairs officers at State and the DNI, concludes, "The administration believes three terrorists are in Somalia, with unclear or unstated connections to the ICU. Then there's the issue of Aweys, whom the U.S. isn't officially making an issue, for unclear reasons. Decide for yourself if this is a good reason to instigate a regional war."

In the first place, the criteria these two gentlemen use is flawed: there's no reason to make the names of specific terrorists the determinative measurement, rather than the seventeen active terrorist training camps in the country, the al-Qaeda-like propaganda tapes that the ICU has been producing, and the conspicuous presence of foreign fighters. But beyond that, this also illustrates one of the flaws of making the study of terrorism all about the Bush administration. Either the ICU is a threat or it isn't: two phone calls to a couple of public affairs officers with no expertise in Somalia is unlikely to resolve the matter. The fact is that an examination of information that is publicly available would quickly turn up links between the ICU and terrorism -- including the names that Yglesias and Ackerman desire.

As an initial matter, the precursor group to the ICU, al-Ittihad al-Islamiyya (AIAI) hasn't abandoned its support for terrorism. A look at the biographies of the fourteen high-value terrorists who were recently transferred to Gitmo bears this out: the section on the last detainee, Gouled Hassan Dourad, shows that in recent years AIAI has planned to attack the U.S. military base in Djibouti, shoot down Ethiopian airliners, and kidnap Western NGO workers in Somalia.

The United Nations released reports in both 2004 and 2006 that support the view that there is a substantial presence of foreign fighters in Somalia that are facilitating terrorist training and adopting an international jihadist agenda. (Foreign fighters do not comprise the majority of ICU fighters, but are still a significant presence). For specific names of terrorists, we can turn to reports produced by the International Crisis Group -- an organization that tends to be critical of the U.S. role in Somalia.

There is more. For those still questioning whether there are terrorist in Somalia and who they may be there is this post on the Embassy bombers.


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