Monday, August 23, 2010




According to Garowe Online, a Somali news web site, some members of Al-Shabaab, the Somali associate of Al Qaeda, were killed during an accidental explosion on August 20,2010, in a house in the Hawl-Wadaag district of Mogadishu, where members of Al-Shabaab were preparing two explosive-laden vehicles for use as car bombs. The news web site claimed that the house belonged to Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansoor, the deputy leader of Al-Shabaab.It was not clear whether he was present in the house at the time of the explosion and, if so, what happened to him. It did not give details of those killed except to say that there were both foreigners and Somalis.

2. Citing “security sources”, the local Ministry of Information and Radio Mogadishu reported on August 21 that at least 10 persons were killed in the accidental explosion-----three Pakistanis, two Indians, one Afghan, one Algerian, and two Somalis including a cleric who was in charge of praying for suicide bombers before they were dispatched. They did not indicate the nationality of the 10th person.Nor did they identify the Indians and Pakistanis killed or say as to how the security sources established that they were Indians and Pakistanis. Al- Shabaab has not so far admitted that the killed persons belonged to it. The local authorities claim to have established that the cleric killed in the explosion was Awais Abu Yusuf, a local Imam.

3.The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has been quite active in Somalia since the early 1990s. Despite a local ban on its activities, persons recruited by it in Pakistan have been visiting Somalia for religious preaching. The Somali authorities suspected that the TJ was in touch with local Wahabi/fundamentalist elements and that Pakistani jihadi organizations such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul—Mujahideen (HUM) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM) were active in the local Muslim community under the cover of TJ volunteers. Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM, had spent some months in Somalia in the 1990s when he was a member of the HUM. Al-Shabaab is believed to have a small component of Pakistani volunteers.

4. No Indian Muslim component of the organization had come to notice in the past. Till 2003, there were about 200 Bohra Muslims from India working in Somalia in the business of textiles dyeing. Many of them have since re-settled in Mombasa in Kenya. They had not come to notice for any association with extremist elements. If it is established that Al-Shabaab has a component of Indian origin, its members are likely to have been recruited either from the Indian Muslim diaspora in East Africa or the UK. In the past, there were instances of individual Indian Muslims from the diaspora in the UK either gravitating towards Al Qaeda or its associates or being influenced by its ideology. So far, there has been no confirmed instance of India-based Muslims joining Al Qaeda or pro-Al Qaeda organizations such as Al-Shabaab.

5. Indian intelligence and investigative agencies should seek more information from the local authorities in Mogadishu. This may please be read in continuation of my article dated July 13,2010, titled "KAMPALA BLASTS: Indian Casualties?" at and article of December 4,2009, titled "The Somali Front of the Global Jihad" available at (23-8-10)

( 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: )