Foot Soldiers of Islam
by Jerry Gordon (June 2009)
Delivered to the New English Review Symposium May 30th, 2009.
When clan warlords finally ousted him in 1991, it wasn’t much of a surprise what happened next. The warlords unleashed all that military-grade weaponry on each other, and every port, airstrip, fishing pier, telephone pole—anything that could turn a profit—was fought over. People were killed for a few pennies. Women were raped with impunity. The chaos gave rise to a new class of parasitic war profiteers—gunrunners, drug smugglers, importers of expired (and often sickening) baby formula—people with a vested interest in the chaos continuing. Somalia became the modern world’s closest approximation of Hobbes’s state of nature, where life was indeed nasty, brutish, and short.
The looming threat of Al Shabaab in Somalia
Senior security officials in the region say that the foreign fighters are behind the recent success of the extremists. More than 290 fighters from Britain, the US, Canada, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia entered Mogadishu in the past two weeks.
An intelligence report seen by The Times, which is due to be presented to the US Congress next week, states: “An estimated ten foreigners have taken the lead to command both Somali and foreign fighters in Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia.”
“I have no doubt that some of the foreign fighters are British as well as North American and Scandinavian,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the top Somali diplomat for the United Nations. One Western diplomat with experience in Somalia said: “These foreigners are the ones with al-Qaeda links. I would be surprised if Britons were not the leading foreign members of al-Shabaab.”
Sheik Sharif Ahmed, a Sufi judge and former ICU official is President of the shaky TFG in Somalia. He is condemned by Al Shabaab as a so-called “Moderate Islamist.” Sufis in Somalia are forming militias to combat the Al Shabaab advances, according to a New York Times report by Gettleman. Sheik Ahmed was interviewed by William Wallis of the Financial Times and noted the adoption of Sharia as national law in the war torn country.
FT: How significant is the recent passage in parliament of Sharia law in re-establishing state authority?
Reuters spoke to an Al Shabaab official who claimed his group had made gains in northern Mogadishu.
"We killed an uncountable number of government fighters and moderate Islamists. Their dead bodies lie in the streets," Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim Bilal, a senior Al-Shabaab official, told Reuters.
"Now north Mogadishu is under our control. We swept them from five key positions including Mogadishu football stadium."
What is disconcerting is the role of Eritrea as spoiler in the complex web of Horn of Africa political dynamics, given the border conflict with Ethiopia and its alliance with Al Shabaab in the current Somali insurgency. Recently, Eritrea was reported to have supplied weapons to Al Shabaab. BBC News noted US concerns over Eritrean weapons shipments to Al Shabaab, reflected in these comments from Jonnie Carson, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs:
"There seem to be fairly serious and creditable reports that al Shabaab does have, amongst its fighters, a number of individuals of South Asian and Chechen origin," said Mr. Carson.
"This is a very disturbing situation and reflects the seriousness of the problem in Somalia."
Mr. Carson also expressed concern about flights from Eritrea that were carrying weapons and ammunition to Somalia to supply al-Shabaab.
"There have been numerous reports that the government of Eritrea has, in fact, been supplying weapons and munitions to al-Shabaab. These are reports that we do find credible," he said.
A senior government official tells NPR that because the U.S. military is worried about al-Shabaab, all options are on the table — including a military strike. The official said the most likely scenario would be an attack from the air, not boots on the ground.
Until now, the group has concentrated its efforts in Somalia, but officials, including National Counterterrorism Center Director Michael Leiter, worry about al-Shabaab’s future intentions.
"As a general matter, the focus has remained in Somalia. But I am not in a business where I am willing to bet the farm that it will remain that way," Leiter said in a speech before the Aspen Institute earlier this month.
Al Shabaab American Somali Recruitment
The presence of naturalized American Somalis among Al Shabaab fighters in Somalia, has been a controversial and disturbing aspect of counterterrorism efforts here and abroad.
On December 4, 2008, a funeral was held at a Mosque in Bunsville, Minnesota for suicide bomber Shirwa Ahmed, a 27 year old naturalized Somali American citizen who took the lives of 29 others in Somalia. Andrew McCarthy writing about the funeral quoted this FoxNews report
During the funeral Wednesday, Shirwa Ahmed was neither celebrated as a martyr, nor condemned as a killer. He was buried simply as a Muslim man, who died so close, yet so far, from home.
Ahmed came to America in 1996 under the State Department humanitarian refugee program with his family, settled into the largest Somali émigré community (Estimated 70,000) in the US and graduated from Roosevelt High School.
Minneapolis ABC Eyewitness News affiliate, KSTA on November 26, 2008 reported that federal investigators had determined that upwards of 40 American Somali youths may have left the US to join up with Al Shabaab in Somalia, as did hapless Shirwa Ahmed, the suicide bomber. The report noted:
Forty young Somali men from the Twin Cities are missing and federal investigators believe they may be back in Somalia training as terrorists.
"We have active Al Qaeda cells recruiting these people," said Omar Jamal with the Somali Justice Advocacy Center.
Federal law enforcement sources told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they believe Shirwa Ahmed, from Minneapolis, was a suicide bomber who blew himself up during an attack in northern Somalia last month. They also believe he was a recruiter in the Twin Cities for a terrorist network.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS talked to Ahmed's family. They said they have not heard from him in weeks.
"The bottom line is there are people who are recruiting here, kids who are being brainwashed to go back there and blow themselves up. That is the bottom line to this story," explained Jamal.
CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledges a growing tie between Al Qaeda and Somali terrorist groups. Federal investigators believe these missing men are training for terrorist attacks overseas, but can't be sure they won't return the Twin Cities someday to carry out an attack.
Patrick Poole noted in this Pajamas Media report investigative evidence of recruitment here in the US of these naturalized American Somali Jihadis:
The FBI is investigating similar disappearances in other major Somali communities in Columbus, OH, Atlanta, Boston, San Diego, and Seattle. There are even reports coming from Europe, recently from Denmark, of Somali men returning home to fight with al-Shabaab and other terrorist organizations.
ABC News also reports that a Somali from Boston, Tarek Mehenna, a U.S. citizen, was arrested last month on his way to Somalia to wage jihad after being in contact with Daniel Maldonado, a Muslim convert currently in federal prison after pleading guilty to training at a Somali terror training camp after being captured in Kenya with a Somali terrorist cell.
Another U.S. citizen, Ruben Luis Shumpert, an ex-convict Seattle barber and Muslim convert, was killed in Somalia earlier this year while fighting with al-Shabaab. Shumpert fled the U.S. for Somalia in 2006 before being sentenced on gun and counterfeit convictions associated with terrorism. In a taunting phone call to FBI agents after he had fled, Shumpert vowed that he and his Somali terrorist associates “would destroy everything the United States stood for.”
Predictably, Somali leaders in many of these cities are claiming surprise and shock that anyone from their communities and mosques would be leaving the U.S. for jihad. But as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross explained in a Fox News report, there exists an active recruiting and transportation network in the U.S., including Minneapolis, for Somali-run terrorist training camps, many of which have recently reopened. In many instances, these same Somali leaders purporting ignorance and innocence for the local media are not only aware of these recruiting operations, but have actively participated in them.
Thus, as seen in these cases from Minneapolis, Boston, Columbus, and Seattle, fears by authorities of Somali terror spreading to the U.S. through the local Somali community are hardly unfounded. Why Homeland Security and FBI officials have been so slow to respond to this growing threat remains unanswered.
There were other American fighters for Al Shabaab. Note this Jawa Report regarding the arrest of upwards of 15 such suspects in Somaliland, an autonomous region in Somalia bordering Puntland on the Gulf of Aden. Somaliland is a tacit ally of both the US and Ethiopia, with a secular parliamentary democracy.
It seems like there were more arrests involving US
So that brings the total of Somali-Americans arrested in Somaliland up to 15. At least five more traitors are on the loose somewhere on the horn of Africa. It's a good thing al Shabaab's website [in the US] has been shut down; this should cut down on their recruitment ability.
Somaliland is an autonomous part of Somalia considered "friendly" to the U.S. Unlike the rest of the country, it has something resembling a functioning government.
Another American, non-Somali, Al Shabaab volunteer fighter was featured in a video recruiting US and foreign fighters. Note this report:
Somalia’s Mujajideen Youth Movement, an apparent offshoot of the al-Shabaab group, has released a video (obtained by IntelCenter) featuring a figure who appears to be an American member. The guy in the video speaks American English and goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mansoor al-Amriki. The video is entitled “Ambush at Bardal,” but it’s unclear what the context of the video is so far. The video itself is 31 minutes and 37 seconds long and is the second one featuring an American English speaker from the group.
What should you make of the spin in this Minnesota Post piece? Should you blame the 'disappeared' Somali youths on Al Shabaab website internet chatter? Is it a reflection of intense Inter-clan rivalry in Minneapolis? Or should we blame it on the Ethiopian (read Christian), invasion that allegedly destabilized the failed Somali state giving rise to a new wave of 'humanitarian refugees' in 2007? Is it the alleged newly found 'nationalist' fervor among émigré Somali Muslims? Or can we attribute it to recruiting by a fundamentalist Imam at the Mosque, Sheik Abdirahman Ahmed, whom the FBI put on a no fly list?
Sheik Abdirahman Ahmed was accused in the Minneapolis Post account of being the facilitator for Al Shabaab recruitment by none other than the relative of one of the disappeared boys:
Osman Ahmed turned rumor into sworn testimony (PDF) at a U.S. Senate hearing this month when he accused Abubakar's leaders of brainwashing the men and trying to scare their families from talking about their disappearance.
Ahmed's nephew, Burhan Hassan, is one of the missing. The uncle was testifying on behalf of several families before the U. S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC).
"We have been painted as bad people within the Somali community by the mosque management. We have been threatened for just speaking out," Ahmed said in prepared testimony.
"They tell parents that if they report their missing kid to the FBI, that FBI will send the parents to Guantanamo Jail," he continued. "Public threats were issued to us at Abu-Bakar Assidique for simply speaking with CNN and Newsweek."
I read Ahmed's accusations to Omar Hurre, executive director of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center which includes the mosque.
"Lies...very clear lies," Hurre said.
"The parents initially came to us when they missed their kids and asked us what was going on," he said. "But we never told any parent that you need to report your son to the government or you do not need to report. We never directed any parent what to do about those missing kids, let alone tell them you will end up in Guantanamo."
“Authorities at all levels are vigorously pursuing any lead relating to this threat information," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said, saying Obama administration officials have been informed of the investigation. "The Transition Team has been briefed and is fully integrated into the process."
Now that the US Website for Al Shabaab has folded, where do the recruits get their information and indoctrination?. Here is what our colleague Joseph Shahda, who monitors terrorist websites and chat rooms ,told us in an email:
There is one Somali terrorist forum affiliated with the Al Shabaab terrorist group and it is called “Al Qimmah Islamic Network” with URL address http://www.alqimmah.net/ . This forum is hosted by a Swedish ISP called FIBERDIREKT-1-NET. The IP address for this Somali terrorist forum is “18.104.22.168”.
The video also shows a man reported to be Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, dubbed "The American" by al Qaeda. He apparently is now in Somalia training and counseling Somalis from North America and Europe. He speaks in American English.
"Away from your family, away from our friends, away from ice, candy bars, all those things is because we're waiting to meet the enemy," says the man believed to be al-Amriki.
"We're seeing perhaps their most sophisticated attempt so far to really reach an audience of potential recruits in America, and that's one of the things that made that video very significant," said Ben Venzke of the IntelCenter, a Washington-based research group that tracks al Qaeda's development and messages.
"They're casting it in a way that's going to speak to the youth of today," Venzke said. "Most of the time, what we're seeing in their videos directly parallels what the groups are doing operationally, what they are targeting, where they're recruiting."
Immigration Fraud by Somalis in the Family Re-unification P-3 Visa Program
Erick Stackelbeck, Washington, DC-based counter terrorism journalist for CBN broadcast a filmed segment, “Somali Muslims Changed Small Community” on the Somali immigrant impact in Shelbyville, Tennessee in March, 2009. In his report he interviewed State Department officials at the Bureau of Refugees, Population, and Migration. He captured this telling insight into how our government processes and views refugee absorption in America:
Immigrants are chosen from UN refugee camps. The selected refugees then undergo a few days of cultural orientation and are soon on their way to America.
Although most of the refuges are repatriated to their home countries, the U.S. takes in more refugees than any other nation--with a cap of about 80,000 this year.
"What we do is we look at the most vulnerable groups of refugees," said Todd Pierce of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. "One group we've tried to help is Iraqi Christians and those who've worked with U.S. and Coalition forces."
Pierce said the resettlement program helps improve America 's image in the eyes of the world.
"It's one of the best facets of America , that we are a very generous, hospitable country," he said. "This is something that has been bipartisan for decades now--we've brought people in….we look at Africa, we look at the Middle East, we look at Southeast Asia ."
Best facet for America? In the case of Somali immigrants, that may not be the case given the rise of possible homegrown naturalized Somali youths who have disappeared to war torn Somalia as Jihadi recruits. Moreover, the State department and Department of Homeland Security have uncovered massive immigration fraud by Somalis who want to come here.
The Refugee Resettlement Watch (RRW) blog posted revelations last November from a US State Department fact sheet on the suspension of the African refugee family reunification P-3 program in August 2008 because of evidence of wide spread fraud. RRW noted that "the State Dept. has admitted that 80% of Somali family reunification cases involve fraud." These findings were based in part on Homeland Security INS DNA testing in Somali refugee camps in Kenya.
The P-3 program has brought upward of 36,000 Africans into the United States just since 2003 (with another 400 arriving from the rest of the world), so what now?
He said final results of the testing are not yet available, but the results were troubling enough that U.S. officials suspended the program throughout the world.
Admissions have dropped dramatically since the start of the fraud investigation — from 5,090 in 2007 to 1,540 in 2008. Since October, only 139 family members of refugees have arrived through the program.
Lash said the U.S. government plans to reinstate the program by the end of this year. He said it will require more stringent biometric checks in the future, most likely through DNA testing. The State Department and DHS have not said whether that testing would include “anchor” relatives in the U.S.
Sources inform us that there have been no Congressional requests for an independent GAO investigation of the fraud in the suspended family reunification P-3 Visa program as a precondition for re-opening the program. Based on refugee processing reports from the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, Somali refugees admitted to the US for the current Fiscal year through April 30, 2009 were 2,232 out of a total of 4,301 for all of Africa.
Mosely found that Tennessee state refugee agency coordinators, a local volunteer agency and Tennessee immigrant advocacy groups involved with Somali refugee resettlement were dismissive of the US State Department findings of fraud in the African refugee family reunification program. Note these comments:
When asked about the fraud described, Catalina Nieto, director of advocacy and educational programs for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said that the State Department fact sheet is "a very general report and it is referring to all refugees, not particular to Shelbyville."
The rights group is made up of a coalition of immigrants, refugees and their American-based supporters who work to "improve the rights and the public's perception of Tennessee's rapidly growing foreign-born population."
"We are talking about folks who are eager to reunite with their families and are eager to bring their friends and families to a safe and peaceful place," Nieto said.
Holly Johnson, State Refugee Coordinator for the Tennessee Office for Refugees said Friday that to her knowledge, the suspension "has not had a significant impact on the local program."
"It will impact refugees nationwide who have submitted a non-fraudulent application for a parent, spouse, or minor child because they will be separated from their family indefinitely," she said.
Johnson said all resettlement agencies "are under strict guidelines regarding the reporting of suspected fraud in refugee families, and we are no different."
"I take it very seriously," Johnson told the Times-Gazette. "Of the hundreds of resettlement cases that I have handled in the ten years that I have worked in the local resettlement program, there were only two cases (in the state) where I suspected the possibility of fraud."
The matter of possible immigration fraud is far broader than the abuses cited in the suspension of the P-3 (family reunification) program by the State Department.
Mired in PC-The Senate HSGAC Hearings on the Al Shabaab threat in The US
Earlier, we noted the testimony presented by a relative of one of the Minneapolis ‘disappeared ' American Somali youths presented at a HSGAC Hearing in March, 2009. That Hearing in the view of Patrick Poole in a Pajamas Media article “What The Senators didn’t Hear About Somali Jihadists?”failed to identify the threat of Al Shabaab US terrorist trainees. Instead both FBI and National Counter terrorism panelists engaged in ‘sociobabble’ rather than the underlying Islamic Jihad doctrine promulgated in American Mosques by radical Imams that led to the Al Shabaab recruitments. See also as useful digest of the Senate HSGAC hearings at Refugee Resettlement Watch.
A serious new terrorist threat is on the horizon — but government officials are too politically correct to face it.
While the specifics of the federal counterterrorism strategy are classified, what is in the public record indicates that the plan contemplates having to deal with as many as three sites being simultaneously hit and using “overwhelming force” against the terrorists, which probably means mustering as many as 3,000 ground troops to the site. If that’s an accurate picture, it doesn’t bode well. We would most likely have far too few such elite units for dealing with a large number of small terrorist teams carrying out simultaneous attacks across a region or even a single city.
Nightmare possibilities include synchronized assaults on several shopping malls, high-rise office buildings or other places that have lots of people and relatively few exits.
Radical Somali Imams with so-called religious order Visas may be found to have indoctrinated naturalized American youths in extremist Islamic Jihad violence. The H-1 Visas for religious orders from countries harboring extremist Muslim clerics must be tightened up to prevent such infiltration in Muslim communities in America
We need a comprehensive counter terrorism strategy,. The US is vulnerable to home-grown naturalized Somali Jihadis initiating devastating Mumbai-type swarming attacks.
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