by Florian Flade
An American Jihadi in Somalia is sending out a chilling message. Omar Hammami fears for his life after he allegedly broke with the Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Now he is hunted.
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.
by Florian Flade
Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir – American Al-Qaida Envoy in Somalia
The young boy stands in the light of the camera, holding bags of beans, rice and a Quran in his hands. „Who gave this to you?“, the journalist asks. „Al-Qaida“, the child answers. „What do you think of them?“ – „I pray for them to win over their enemies“, the boy responds.
This is a scene from a recent documentary by a „Guardian“ camera crew who traveled to Somalia to visit a refugee camp in the south of the country. Somalia has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years. According to the United Nations more than 4 million people are effected by the catastrophy and hundreds of thousands have became refugees of hunger fleeing the drought-hit country-side to move to the camps built by various humanitarian aid organizations and by the Islamist group Al-Shabaab.
When the „Guardian“- team arrived at Ala-Yasir Camp run by Al-Shabaab in the Islamist-controlled South of Somalia, they were surprised to find a very different and shocking form of aid worker handing out food and other supplies to the hungry and suffering – Al-Qaida.
A unit of Al-Qaida fighters arrived at the camp with a truck and a fully-staffed ambulance and several masked men working as staff. Leading the Al-Qaida group was an American Jihadi fighter named „Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir“ who was introduced as „Al-Qaida´s representative to Somalia“.
„Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir“ is a White American, most likely of Arab origin or a convert. He walked around Ala-Yasir Camp, greeting the children and youngsters he met. „Allah is great“, the hundreds of children screamed as a form of welcome. Then Al-Muhajir gave a speech, talking in English with an American accent .
„To our beloved brothers and sisters in Somalia: we are following your situation on a daily basis. And, though we are separated by thousands of kilometres, you are consistently in our thoughts and prayers“, Al-Muhajir said. He also claims Al-Qaida´s new Emir Dr.Ayman az-Zawahiri is sending his greetings to Somalia.
The American Jihadi then gave out the aid he brought to the refugee camp – rice, oil, beans, dates, milk and Quran. When the sun set, the Al-Qaida militant opened bags full of cash, handing out Somali shillings to the equivalent of $17,000.
While the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab has banned most international organizations including the World Food Programme (WFP) from operating in Somalia, it seems Al-Qaida has replaced at least some of the Western aid workers. In cooperation with the Al-Shabaab members, Al-Qaida is showing very different face, acting almost like a humanitarian organization. The militants „Guardian“ met, talked aid instead of Jihad.
Some of the Al-Shabaab fighters working in Ala-Yasir Camp were Western-born and raised Muslims. Most of these foreigners allegedly are from the UK. „I´m an aid worker, basically“, British „Abu Omar“ told the journalists, „typical aid worker, as you say in the west.“ Helping the hungry was a religious duty, the British Jihadi said: „It’s a religious obligation. I mean, we left our countries. I left, we left our jobs, all these places just to come here and help our people.“
Hundreds of foreign Islamists from Europe, North America, Pakistan, other African and Arab countries have come to Somalia in recent years to receive terrorist training in the Al-Shabaab camps. Numerous of the Western Jihadis including a number of Americans have died fighting Somali government troops, Ethiopian forces and African Union (AU) soldiers, some of them as suicide bombers.
Now it seems Al-Qaida has stepped up activities in Somalia most likely with an aim to recruit and implement a base in the war-torn country. Western intellgence agencies witness these events with great concern. Especially British and Scandinavian counter-terrorism officials have warned of the terror threat emerging from Somalia and those Islamists trained there. The recent „Guardian“ piece shows: Al-Qaida has successfully established a base in Somalia.