by Florian Flade
“W elcome to Somalia – there are no worries”
- Al-Shabaab Chief Spokesman Sheikh Mohammed Rage says in the latest video release by the Somali Islamist movement, inviting foreign Muslims to join Al-Shabaab and fight in Somalia. This newest propaganda piece is an outstanding release of surprising quality and the clear intention to recruit Westerners or at least foreign Muslims to the Somali Jihad. The 1/2 hour tape, edited with English subtitles, features not only training camp and combat footage in Somalia, but also presents the statements of several foreign militants including Western Islamists fighting in the ranks of Al-Shabaab.
A British-Somali man called “Abu Dujana” is seen sitting on a hilltop, the Somali coast in the background. The British militant explains in fluent English that Jihad is a duty for every Muslim and why he came to the war-torn country at the Horn of Africa to fight for the Ummah. “I would like to use my time”, the militant explains, “to talk about the blessings of living in the land of Jihad…before we came here, we were living in a society in which people were enslaved by their desires.”
“Abu Zaid”, a militant from Sweden, is giving a statement standing in what seems to be a empty football stadium. Speaking in Swedish to the Muslims of Sweden, the masked militant says: “And I also encourage you to make hijrah to this country.” He then goes on and threatens Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks who drew some caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and received numerous death threats since. The Somali foreign fighter says: “I want to send this warning to Lars Vilks who was behind the caricatures defaming our prophet. And I say to Lars Vilks that wherever you are, if not today or tomorrow, know that we haven´t yet forgotten about you and we will get hold of you and with Allah´s permission we will get you wherever you are and in whatever hole you are hiding know what awaits for you, as it will be nothing but this: slaughter!” To his Muslim brothers and sisters “Abu Zaid” says: “If you can kill this dog called Lars Vilks then you will receive a great reward from Allah!”
Another masked British Jihadi appears alongside blurry masked fighters explaining to the audience: “We are here to capture and to slaughter them. That´s the only reason we are here.”
In addition, a Sudanese, a Pakistani, two Kenyan and a Tanzanian Jihadi are shown giving statements and calling Muslims to fight Jihad in Somalia.
The new Al-Shabaab video also reveals the identity of Somalia´s first foreign suicide bomber, a Kenyan militant called “Musa” who allegedly “in 2007…carried out a Martyrdom Operation that shook the pillars of the invading Ethiopian crusaders.”
A large number of Somali men from the exile communities of Europe and North America have traveled to Somalia in the last years, joining the al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab movement and fighting the Ethiopian occupation troops and later the Ugandan African Union Peacekeepers. Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the UK and the Netherlands are struggling to face this new terror threat by trying to infiltrate the recruiting networks of London, Göteborg, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. The “Al-Muhajiroun” as the foreign fighters are called, have become a major concern for Western counter-terrorism agencies as some of these men are EU or American/Canadian/Australian citizens. Especially those Al-Shabaab recruits returning from the frontlines of Somalia pose a security threat. Waziristan still is the main terror training center in the world, European authorities say, but Somalia is quickly heading to become the next al-Qaeda base.
Britain´s MI5 has noticed the emerging terror potential growing in lawless, war-torn Somalia. “I am concerned that it’s only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab”, MI5 Chief Jonathan Evans said back in September. “A significant number of UK residents” were training in al-Shabaab camps to fight in the insurgency in Somalia, he added: “”Al-Shabaab, an Islamist militia in Somalia, is closely aligned with al-Qaida, and Somalia shows many of the characteristics that made Afghanistan so dangerous a seedbed for terrorism in the period before the fall of the Taliban.”
About 100 UK residents are believed to have joined Al-Shabaab, including men of Somali origin, Bangladeshis, Pakistani and West-African. Some of them are University students, others worked as waiters in restaurants. One young Somali men from London carried out a suicide bombing in Somalia in 2007, giving a martyrdom statement and calling for other British jihadis to come to Africa.
Swedish security officials suggest around 20 Islamists have left the country and reached the terror camps of Somalia in recent years. Probably more or less the same numbers are given by Danish intelligence. Terror recruits from the Somali communities of Copenhagen are confirmed to have committed suicide bombings in Somalia, one occurred during the graduation ceremony of medicine students in a Mogadishu Hotel in January – Dozens died in the blast.
In Germany the recruiting network of Al-Shabaab is under intense investigation by counter-terrorism authorities after several men attended and indeed did travel to Somalia on terrorism means. One of them, a 23 year-old White convert, was arrested in Kenya on his way to Somalia. German intelligence had tipped off the Kenyan officials after the suspect´s mother found a letter written by her son stating he would “never return to Germany alive”.
Most recently German federal police discovered a recruiting and support network run by Al-Shabaab sympathizers in Western Germany. The 15-20 men group calls itself “German Shabaab” and is promoting the Jihad of Al-Shabaab as a religious duty. Most of the men are of Somali-origin, some are Arabs and converts.
The newest Al-Shabaab propaganda video will not fail to attract more Western recruits and the likely result will be an increase in travel movement from Europe to East Africa.