Tuesday, July 13, 2010




Seventy-four persons, 60 of them reportedly Ugandan nationals, were killed and 70 others injured on July 11,2010, in two explosions suspected to have been carried out by Al-Shabaab, the Somali wing of Al Qaeda, at a local rugby club and an Ethiopian restaurant at Kampala, the Ugandan capital. The explosions took place near large numbers of football enthusiasts watching on TV the final match of the World Cup football in South Africa between Spain and Holland.

2. Citing local officials, the British Broadcasting Corporation has stated that among the casualties were Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian and Congolese nationals . It has not indicated how many Indian nationals were involved and whether there were fatlities among them.

3. In a statement issued from Mogadishu, the Somali capital, a spokesman of Al- Shabaab, who gave his name as Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage claimed that his organisation had carried out the two explosions. There were some doubts whether these were timed or suicide explosions , but an Ugandan official said that the head of a person believed to be a Somali was found at the site of one of the blasts, thereby indicating that at least one, if not both the blasts, was carried out by a suicide bomber.

4. The Al-Shabaab spokesman has been quoted by news agencies as saying as follows:"Al-Shabaab was behind the two bomb blasts in Uganda.We thank the mujahideen that carried out the attack. We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their Amisom [African Union Mission in Somalia] troops from Somalia, blasts will continue and it will happen in Bujumbura, the Burundi capital, too." These were thus reprisal attacks by Al-Shabaab against Uganda for participating in the African contingent helping the Somali authorities in their operations against Al-Shabaab and other jihadi elements in Somalia.

5. The Amir of Al-Shabaab, Mohamed Abdi Godane, had warned in an audio message earlier this month that Uganda and Burundi would be targeted. The main wing of Al Qaeda based in North Waziristan in Pakistan, the Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Al-Shabaab based in Somalia have continued to maintain a capability for planning and carrying out reprisal acts of terrorism in different parts of the world despite US claims of having eliminated many senior leaders of Al Qaeda through its Drone (pilotless plane) strikes in North and South Waziristan.

6.The deaths in the Drone strikes of many Al Qaeda leaders such as its No.3 Sai’d al-Masri (al-Masri means the Egyptian) also known as Mustafa Abu al-Yazid in May,2010 and Saleh-al-Somali from Somalia on December 8,2009, have not weakened the capability of Al Qaeda to plan and mount terrorist strikes---some successfuly, some unsuccessfully. The successful ones have been in the Af-Pak area, Somalia and Uganda and the unsuccessful ones in the UK, the US and Norway.

7.In supplementary indictments filed recently by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, US, they have alleged that before his death Saleh al-Somali was involved along with Rashid Rauf, a Mirpuri from Birmingham, who was also killed in a Drone strike, and Adnan El-Shukrijumah, an absconding US national of Saudi origin,in organizing a conspiracy by Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi and others to bomb New York City subways last September.

8. Along with Saudis, Egyptians and Yemenis, the Somalis have been among the important components of Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden had earlier used them for the terrorist strikes outside the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in August 1998,and in Mombasa in October 2002. The Somalis of Al-Shabaab have now operated successfully in Kampala. The Yemeni and Somali wing of Al Qaeda have exhibited a certain operational autonomy which enables them to mount terrorist strikes on their own without having to depend on the main wing of Al Qaeda in Pakistan. While Al-Shabaab has extended its operations to Africa, the AQAP has been trying to extend its reach to South-East Asia as indicated by the recent detentions of two Singapore nationals with suspected contacts with the AQAP.

9.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of December 4,2009, titled "The Somali Front of the Global Jihad" available at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers36/paper3534.html. It is annexed for easy reference. (13-7-10)

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd),Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )



Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders --- thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters--- as a global intifada waged on many fronts and through many means. In this global jihad, Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battle fronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the Western front.

2. In a message disseminated on December 20, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, said: “Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other God, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "

3. To keep the jihad going in Somalia is one of its important objectives. For this purpose, it uses not only recruits from the impoverished local population, but also from the Somali diaspora in the West----including the US--- as well as jihad-hardened cadres sent from the battle fronts in the Af-Pak region. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has had a long history of contacts with the Muslim population in Somalia and East African countries just as it has with the Muslim population of Chechnya and Dagestan. Though the TJ itself does not indulge in acts of terrorism, it plays an important role in facilitating the ideological motivation of the population on behalf of Al Qaeda.

4. In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning “The Lads”, an organization of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic web sites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name “The Lads” from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organization called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the elders of the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organization, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.

5. Though Somalis had participated in acts of suicide terrorism on behalf of Al Qaeda in other countries, suicide terrorism was unknown in Somalia itself till Al Shabaab made its appearance in 2006. Even though it proclaimed its loyalty to bin Laden only in September, 2009, it had carried out a number of acts of suicide terrorism against local Government targets as well as the peace-keeping troops of the African Union ever since the AU troops took over their peace-keeping responsibility in Somalia. Al Shabaab has been waging a two-front jihad---- against the AU troops and the local Government being protected by the AU troops. The first act of suicide terrorism took place on September 18, 2006. Since then, there have been 13 suicide attacks--- two in 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and five this year.

6. The Al Shabaab cadres, many of whom had allegedly served with the Afghan Mujahideen, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region, look upon their jihad as similar to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops and those of the Government of the then President Najibullah in the 1980s and the early 1990s.

7. In a serious attack of suicide terrorism, a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman managed to find his way into a graduation ceremony of medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on December 3, 2009, and blew himself up killing 19 persons, including three Ministers of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke of the UN-backed Government. Even though no organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, Al Shabaab is strongly suspected by the local authorities.

8. Though there is so far no evidence of any nexus between Al Shabaab and the Somali pirates, the dangers of money earned from piracy going to the coffers of Al Qaeda and the availability in Somalia of sea-faring people who could be used by Al Qaeda for future acts of maritime terrorism cannot be ignored.

9. A Reuters report carried on December 4, 2009, by the “Daily Times” of Lahore has quoted Bethuel Kiplagat, who used to be Kenya’s special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003 to 2005, as saying as follows: “Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan. There’s a worry Al Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary.”

10. On March 16, 2009, Mohamed Mohamed of the BBC’s Somali section, reported as follows: “As well as alleged links to al-Qaeda it is said to have Arabs, Asians, other Africans and - America's FBI believes - Westerners among its ranks. These foreigners are said to be involved in training Al Sabaab recruits in various aspects of guerrilla warfare, including suicide bombings and booby traps.”

11. On February 29, 2008, the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)