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Jan 12th, 2010

Somalis Fleeing to Yemen Prompt New Worries in Fight Against al-Qaeda

Officials worry refugees will be recruited to a unified, regional al-Qaeda

Image: Somali refugees in Yemen
Somali refugees gather in the village of Basateen near the Yemeni port city of Aden on May 17, 2009. Basateen is often called “small Somalia” because of the number of Somali refugees who live there. (Photo credit: Khaled Fazaa / AFP — Getty Images file)

By Sudarsan Raghavan

January 12, 2010


KHARAZ, YEMEN — Thousands of Somali boys and teenagers fleeing war and chaos at home are sailing to Yemen, where officials who have long welcomed Somali refugees now worry that the new arrivals could become the next generation of al-Qaeda fighters.

As the United States deepens its counterterrorism operations in Yemen, officials are concerned that extremists could find growing Somali refugee camps fertile ground for recruiting. U.S. and Yemeni authorities also fear that Islamist fighters from Somalia could slip into the country among the throngs of refugees, deepening ties between al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen and the particularly hard-line militants of Somalia.

Fleeing a failed state for a failing one, the Somali youths arrive daily in this refugee outpost, which is filled with rickety tents and tales of misery, in the vast desert of southern Yemen. They bring stories of brutality and forced conscription by al-Shabab, an Islamist force battling Somalia’s U.S.-backed transitional government. …

But this longtime haven is becoming increasingly inhospitable since the United States bolstered its operations here, largely in response to the Yemeni al-Qaeda connections of the Nigerian man who allegedly tried to bomb a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, and to the links of an extremist Yemeni American cleric to the Nov. 5 shootings at Fort Hood, Tex.

Yemen’s fragile government fears that Somali fighters from al-Shabab will swell the ranks of Yemen’s Islamist militants at a time when links between the Somali group and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula are growing, according to Yemeni officials and analysts.

As it quietly wages war against extremists in the Arabian Peninsula and parts of Africa, the Obama administration could find itself confronting a unified, regional al-Qaeda on two continents. This would further stretch U.S. resources as Washington fights major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. …

“Somalia for Yemen is becoming like what Pakistan is for Afghanistan,” said Saeed Obaid, a Yemeni terrorism expert who wrote a book on al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate.

Leaders of al-Shabab, which the United States has labeled a terrorist organization with links to al-Qaeda’s central body, said last week that they will send fighters to help al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. …

In recent days, Yemeni security forces have staged raids on Somali refugee communities, detaining suspected loyalists of al-Shabab, which means “The Youth.” Overnight, an atmosphere of fear has gripped the community, which numbers more than 1 million. …

Salafist schools, which teach a puritanical brand of Islam, have attracted several hundred young Somali refugees with offers of free food and lodging, said Somali community leaders. They fear some could join al-Shabab. …

In an audiotape last year, Osama bin Laden exhorted al-Shabab to overthrow the Somali government. Radical Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, whom the United States has linked to the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing and to the gunman charged in the massacre at Fort Hood, has also expressed support for al-Shabab.

Yemeni officials and analysts say there is regular communication between al-Qaeda militants in Yemen and al-Shabab. Last week, Somalia’s state minister for defense declared that Yemeni militants had sent al-Shabab two boats filled with arms. They have also traveled to Somalia to fight. …

Full story


Related report

Yemen: Suspected al-Qaida figure killed in raid (AP, Jan. 13, 2010) — Yemeni security forces have reportedly killed suspected al-Qaida figure Abdullah Mihzar and arrested four others in a raid on a house in the remote, mountainous Shabwa province. Elsewhere in the province, suspected al-Qaida fighters ambushed a Yemeni patrol before dawn, killing two members of the security forces and wounding four others. … Full report


2/10/12 Update

New Al-Qaida Video Suggests Alliance with Somalia Terror Group

Al-Qaida head Zayman al-Zawahiri is shown speaking in a new propaganda video released Thursday, Feb. 9, 2012.

By Robert Windrem

February 9, 2012

An al-Qaida propaganda outlet has released a new video featuring al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and the leader of Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, apparently indicating that the latter group has been formally incorporated into the umbrella terror organization.

The video distributed by al-Qaida’s “As-Sahab Media” shows al-Zawahiri, who ascended to al-Qaida’s top post after the death of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, addressing the camera. Al-Shabaab leader, Mukhtar Abu az-Zubeir is shown in a photo and heard offering a “bayat,” or oath of allegiance, to al-Zawahiri.

Evan Kohlmann, an NBC News terrorism analyst, said the two men are not seen together in the tape and that it appears al Zawahiri and az-Zubeir recorded their comments separately and that they were then were edited together.

According to a translation provided by Kohlmann, al-Zawahiri said in the tape, “Today I bring glad tidings to our Muslim Ummah (community), happy tidings that please the believers and displeases the crusaders, which is the joining of Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia to Qaida’t al-Jihad in support of the Jihad unity in the face of the Zionist-crusader campaign and their helpers of cooperatives traitor rulers who brought in the crusader invasive forces to their countries.”

The implications of a formal link between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida would be worrisome, considering that as many as 50 American citizens are believed to be members of al-Shabaab in Somalia and at least three are known to have carried out suicide bombings inside that east African nation.  (In addition, another 150 Europeans and others who wouldn’t require a visa to enter the U.S. belong to al-Shabaab.) …

Full story


Related reports on this site

Somali Terrorist Attack on U.S. (Dec. 28, 2010)

Portland Somali Car Bomb Sting (Nov. 27, 2010)

Yemen Air-Freight Package Bombs (Nov. 6, 2010)

Somali Terror Suspects Indicted (Aug. 7, 2010)

Yemeni Clerics Threaten Jihad (Jan. 14, 2010)

Uncertain Ally Against al-Qaida (Jan. 9, 2010)

Battle Lines Are Drawn in Yemen (Jan. 2, 2010)

Obama Opens Third War Front (Dec. 28, 2009)

Yemen Link in Airline Terror Plot (Dec. 26, 2009)

Christmas Terrorism Alert (Dec. 25, 2009)

Obama Fires Missiles into Yemen (Dec. 19, 2009)

FBI Probing Somali Terror Link (March 12, 2009)

Minnesota Somalis Jihad-Bound? (Jan. 26, 2009)



Bomb-Rigged Motorcycle Kills Iran Nuke Expert

Image: Bomb blast scene in Tehran
Firefighters wash the scene of a bomb blast that killed an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. (Photo credit: Reuters)

The Associated Press via
January 12, 2010

TEHRAN, Iran — A nuclear physics professor who publicly backed Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the disputed June presidential election was killed Tuesday when a bomb-rigged motorcycle blew up outside his home.

The blast, apparently set off by a remote trigger, left a puzzling mix of clues about why a 50-year-old researcher with no prominent political voice, no published work with military relevance and no declared links to Iran’s nuclear program would be targeted.

Onlookers stand outside the building where a remote-controlled bomb explosion killed an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010. (Photo: AFP / Getty Images)

State media identified the victim as Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a professor at Tehran University, which has been at the center of recent protests by student opposition supporters. Before the election, pro-reform Web sites published Ali Mohammadi’s name among a list of 240 Tehran University teachers who supported Mousavi. …

The government blamed the rare assassination on an armed Iranian opposition group that it said operated under the direction of Israel and the U.S. Iran often accuses the two countries of meddling in its affairs — both when it comes to postelection unrest and its nuclear program. …

Ali Mohammadi had just left his house on his way to work when the remote-controlled explosion went off, state TV said. The blast shattered the windows of his home in northern Tehran’s Qeytariyeh neighborhood and left the pavement outside smeared with blood and strewn with debris. …


Iran blames U.S. for scientist’s death (NBC Nightly News, Jan. 12, 2010) — NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports on an international murder mystery. (01:57)


Related report

Was Iranian nuclear physicist killed by his own government?
(Babak Dehghanpisheh, Newsweek “Declassified” blog, Jan. 12, 2010)


1/12/12 Update

Killing of Iranian Scientist Used Same Method as Previous Assassinations


U.S. denies killing Iranian nuclear scientist (NBC Nightly News, Jan. 11, 2012) — The Obama administration is denying any role in the killing of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility. NBC’s Richard Engel reports. (03:05)

The Associated Press, Reuters, and The New York Times via
January 12, 2012

The assassination Wednesday of an Iranian scientist was similar to other killings aimed at the country’s nuclear program, bringing new accusations by Iran that Israel or the United States is behind the string of attacks.

Nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 32, was killed Wednesday by a magnetic bomb reportedly attached to his car by two assailants on a motorcycle in traffic. The cars of three other Iranian scientists, at least two of whom were working on nuclear activities, were blown up in 2010 and 2011 in similar circumstances.

Iranian Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi, in charge while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad travels in Latin America, told state television that “this terrorist act was carried out by agents of the Zionist regime (Israel) and by those who claim to be combating terrorism (the United States) with the aim of stopping our scientists from serving” Iran. …

The Obama administration denied any U.S. involvement. Israel did not deny involvement, and there are hints that the Jewish state at least had advance knowledge. …

On Wednesday, Israel’s chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, posted on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear,” according to a Reuters report.

Hazhir Teimourian, an Iran expert at the Limehouse Group of Analysts in London, stressed to Reuters that it was impossible to be certain who carried out the attack. But he said Israel was a logical candidate.

“The Israelis really have the ability and the incentive,” he said.

List of attacks

Iran has accused the Mossad, the CIA and Britain’s spy agency of engaging in an underground campaign against nuclear-related targets, including at least four killings since early 2007. They include:

  • In January 2010, a physics professor, Massoud Ali Mohammadi, was killed by a bomb in a motorcycle that blew up near his car as he left his Tehran home for work.
  • In November 2010, scientist Majid Shahriari, who managed a “major project” for Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was killed and colleague Fereydoon Abbasi, on the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions list for ties to the Iranian nuclear effort, was wounded when motorcyclists attached magnetized bombs to their cars in separate parts of Tehran.
  • In July 2011, Darioush Rezaeinejad, who allegedly was working on a nuclear detonator, was shot in the neck outside his daughter’s Tehran kindergarten.
  • In 2007, nuclear scientist Ardeshir Hosseinpour died of gas poisoning.

Another key attack was the release of a malicious computer virus known as Stuxnet in 2010 that temporarily disrupted controls of some Iranian centrifuges — a key component in nuclear fuel production.

Ronen Bergman, an investigative journalist with the Yediot Ahronot daily and expert on Israeli intelligence affairs, said the Mossad has “for years” targeted enemies that include “nuclear proliferators.”

“The outcome of such assassinations are the actual neutralization of the main scientists and the intimidation of those left behind,” he said. …

It also provokes panic in surviving colleagues, said an Israel official, generating a phenomenon that Mossad veterans dub “virtual defection.” …

Israeli attacks

Israel has an admitted history of state-sponsored assassination and intimidation, from letter-bombs it sent German scientists serving Egypt’s missile program in the 1960s to the Mossad hunt, using guns and booby-traps, for Palestinians involved in killing 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics.

More recently, Israeli air-launched missiles and special forces picked off Palestinian uprising leaders. In 1995, motorbike-borne gunmen killed Islamic Jihad chief Fathi Shiqaqi in Malta, and another suspected Mossad team smothered Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his Dubai hotel in 2010.

Proponents of such tactics say they stave off more ruinous open war and few voices are raised in Israel in condemnation. Mabhouh had helped smuggle rockets to Palestinians, a threat Israel cited in justifying its 2008-2009 offensive on the Gaza Strip, amid international outcry at the high civilian toll. …

Full story


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — January 12, 2009

Taliban fighter
Taliban fighters say they welcome the U.S. military’s proposal to send as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by summer 2009 because it will give the Islamic guerrillas more chances to kill “infidels.” (Photo credit: Paul Watson / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Caught in Israeli Crossfire

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that security forces used tear gas and batons to repel anti-Israel protesters who tried to attack a U.S. consulate in Pakistan as tens of thousands of people demonstrated worldwide against Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip. I also reported that seven years after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan routed the Taliban regime, hard-line Islamic fighters who had scattered under massive bombardment to their villages and rear bases in Pakistan once again govern large swaths of Afghanistan and are dug in across regions that surround the capital Kabul, saying they welcome the U.S. military’s proposal to send as many as 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan by summer 2009 because it will give them more chances to kill “infidels.”

13 Responses to “Yemen-Somalia Terror Nexus”
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