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Al Shabaab receiving weapons shipments!

Interesting Article: Arms Flying Into Somalia for Militants, Kenya Says By JOSH KRON / Mogadishu published Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An interesting article in The New York Times mentioned that two planes landed Tuesday in the Somali town of Baidoa, which is under the control of al Shabaab, a militant Islamist group that has claimed allegiance to Al Qaeda. The planes carried weapons destined for the group, the statement said, without specifying who had sent them. Kenya’s military launched a pre-meditated assault into Somalia last month with hundreds of troops backed by tanks and gunships to eradicate al Shabaab. Its military joined those of Uganda and Burundi, which are contributing to an African Union peacekeeping force that is fighting the insurgents. So who is delivering these weapons?

Although Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) did not name the origin of the aircraft, chatter on many Somali Internet sites, quoting Al Shabaab, said they were Eritrean. Kenya has accused Eritrea, often considered the most militarized nation in Africa, of joining the fray. Eritrea has long been accused of supporting the Shabab, and in 2009 the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on it, demanding that it “cease arming, training and equipping armed groups and their members.” During the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, Eritrea harbored leaders of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and its military wing, now Al Shabaab, and was accused by the United Nations of supplying them with weapons to fight a proxy war against Ethiopia (Eritrea’s interest in Somalia is mainly driven by the desire to weaken Ethiopian influence in the country). A Somali politician told Somali news media on Monday that Eritrea was funneling weapons to the Shabab into Baidoa. “Heavy artillery, bombs, light weapons,” the politician was quoted as saying. A U.N. arms monitoring group has documented many instances of money, fighters and weapons being given to militants or flown into areas of Somalia they control. Kenya's military said that two aircraft landed in the Somali town of Baidoa with weapons on board. Al-Shabab fighters closed down roads leading to Baidoa airport on Saturday, a Nairobi-based security official said. A few hours later, residents heard the sound of heavy weaponry being fired, he said, citing information from informants in the town. A July report by the U.N.'s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea said that al-Shabab controls two "international" sized airports and one former military airport with asphalt runways. The report also said it received a report it could not independently verify that an unknown aircraft flew from the tiny Horn of Africa country of Eritrea in March carrying 25 foreign fighters. A report also said Eritrea gives about $80,000 a month to al-Shabab-linked individuals in Nairobi. According to a July report by the United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, Eritrea may be providing financial and logistical support to armed opposition groups in Somalia, along with countries including Uganda, Djibouti and Ethiopia. In December 2009, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea, accusing the Horn of Africa country of arming and providing financial aid to militia groups in southern Somalia's conflict zones, including Al-Shabaab. More attention has been focused on recent months on the suspected alliance between the Eritrean government and Somalia's more militant contingent. Much of it is rooted in Eritrea's drawn-out and bloody relationship with Ethiopia, whom it accuses of violently imposing its imperialist agenda on minorities within and outside its borders. As part of an ongoing proxy war against the current regime, Eritrea has been mobilizing the resources of other groups in East Africa, including those in Somalia and among minority groups within Ethiopia. U.S. Congressman Ed Royce in 2010 advised Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to add Eritrea to the country's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Royce, the lead Republican on the Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, said Eritrea's support of al-Shabab was "well documented," and urged Secretary Clinton to take action before the group begins targeting the United States. In 2009, an influential Somali insurgent leader said that Eritrea supported the rebel fight against the government in a holy war that was as much an obligation for Muslims as prayer. Speaking in his office in northern Mogadishu, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys said a few Arab fighters had joined the rebellion, which is battling to overthrow Somalia's new government and President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. "Eritrea supports us and Ethiopia is our enemy -- we once helped both countries but Ethiopia did not reward us," Aweys, dressed in a dark suit, told Reuters in an interview. Aweys, who is on U.N. and U.S. terrorism lists for alleged links to al Qaeda, returned to Somalia from Eritrea in April 2009. According to the Human Security Report Project, Eritrea and Ethiopia are neighbors on the Horn of Africa and they share common languages, ethnicities, tribal structures and religious traditions. By outward appearances, they should co-exist symbiotically, like Canada and the United States. Instead, they resemble the Koreas – each at the other’s throat with no prospect for reconciliation on the horizon. Eritrean political culture over the past fifty years has spawned a national psyche consumed with fear and hatred of all things Ethiopian. That same culture has isolated Eritrea from the African Union (AU), the UN and the United States, and has driven the country into alignment with destabilizing regional forces for which it has no pre-ordained cultural affinity. Principal among Eritrea’s unlikely allies is Al Shabaab, ofcourse. If Eritrea is to blame for the shipments of weapons going to al Shabaab, it is time to look at who in Eritrea has the influence to funnel the weapons and money to al Shabaab, which at this time is still in a slightly grey area.

"Eritrea and Al Shabaab" Human Security Report Project. Small Wars Journal. 8-Sep-2010


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