by Florian Flade
They are Al-Qaida´s hidden force, joining Al-Shabaab, fighting and training in a country that has suffered from civil war, occupation and drought for decades – foreign Jihadi militants in Somalia.
Hundreds of foreign fighters are actively training and fighting in Somalia, Western intelligence agencies and Somali government officials are estimating. Most of these so-called „Al-Mujahiroun“ are suspected to be from other African countries like Sudan, Kenya, Chad or Eritrea followed by the Arab fighters, some of which are Pakistan/Afghanistan-trained and experienced.
The real concern for Western intelligence services are the Jihadis holding Western passports. The threat these Islamists from Europe and North America are posing has long been underestimated according to various European counter-terrorism officials. Dozens of young men from the Somali communities of Scandinavia, the United Kingdom and the United States have joined Al-Shabaab in recent years, turning the group into an international terrorist organization.
Nevertheless Al-Qaida has successfully established its own branch in Somalia, regularly cooperating with Al-Shabaab. One of these Al-Qaida members in Somalia was killed today by what local sources believe to be a U.S. drone strike on a car.
„At around 2 p.m., a U.S. drone targeted our Mujahidin. One foreigner, a Lebanese with a British passport died“, the chief spokesman for Al-Shabaab, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, told news agency Reuters, „Bilal Al-Barqawi, a great Mujahid brother who was in Somalia for a long time was killed today. He was in a car in Elasha. This foreigner is a martyr.“
The British-Lebanese is Bilal Al-Barqawi known as „Abu Hafsa“, a Islamist who grew up in West-London and came to Somalia in 2006 and served as the deputy to Fazul Abdallah, Al-Qaida´s most senior commander in Somalia killed in June 2011 by Somali troops in a Mogadishu shoot-out.
When a U.S. airstrike targeted Lower Jubba region in Southern Somalia in July 2011 Bilal Al-Barqawi was injured on his head and later received treatment in Kenya according to Al-Shabaab.
British intelligence officials have warned about the emerging threat of Western Jihadi militants trained as terrorists in Somalia – especially those holding Western passports. Numerous of these foreigners have died in Somalia, most of them during gun-battles, others became suicide bombers. If the news of Bilal Al-Barqawi is confirmed, this shows: a Western Jihadi was for some years Al-Qaida´s No.2 man in the country.