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British Citizens Training in Somalia for Operations in the West!

Interesting Article: "Al-Shabaab: the growing menace of the al-Qaeda affiliate" by Aislinn Laing / Johannesburg published Thursday, March 1st, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that in the eyes of Western intelligence, the growing threat of Somalia's al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab movement and its British ties makes it the new Afghanistan. For militant young Britons looking for a cause, Somalia is currently the hottest ticket. An estimated 200 Britons and Americans have travelled to the Horn of Africa in the past six years, intelligence agencies say, to help al-Shabaab wage terror attacks against government troops in Somalia and plan assaults further afield. Would you like to know more?

Al-Shabaab was formed in 2006 from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Union which had been fighting the Somali transitional government for control of the country. Estimates of al-Shabaab's size vary, but it is believed to consist of several thousand fighters, including foreigners from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Gulf region as well as the US and Britain. Today, having been forced out of the capital Mogadishu by African Union troops, it exercises control over vast swathes of the south towards the Kenyan border, where it imposes Sharia law. Earlier this month, al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri formally welcomed al-Shabaab to the terror network's ranks.

In July 2010, al-Shabaab claimed twin suicide bombings that killed 74 football fans watching the World Cup Final in Uganda's capital Kampala. At present, up to 50 Briton of Somali, Pakistani, Yemeni, Bangladeshi and North African heritage are thought to be among its ranks. Their British passports mean they can join the many immigrants who travel to East Africa and back to the UK without raising too many flags.

Al Shabaab draws them in with the help of a sophisticated media arm which is thought to now have three to four people working on it full-time – among them a British Pakistani whose London accent is heard voicing documentary reports of military battles. The group has also taken to Twitter where it engages in regular spats with spokesman for the Kenyan government, which late last year invaded Somalia.

But British security forces are paying close attention amid concerns that, given its newly-forged links to al Qaeda, a proponent of global campaigns, British recruits might bring their new-found terror skills to wreak havoc. In 2010 Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, said it was "only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al Shabaab".

At a court hearing on Monday in the port city of Mombasa, a young British man in a black T-shirt stood in front of a judge and heard prosecutors claim he was a member of a terrorist group, planning attacks against targets in Kenya. As far as the police in Nairobi are concerned, Jermaine Grant, 29, is involved with al-Shabaab, which has been responsible for numerous bombings in Mogadishu and northern Somalia, and is seemingly determined to export its violence further afield.

Over the last six years, various government agencies have monitored a number of Britons and Americans flying to the horn of Africa, seeking al-Shabaab training camps in the vast ungoverned spaces of Somalia, in much the same way as their counterparts did on trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Al-Shabaab, which means "the youth" in Arabic, is not Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida. It evolved into a clan-based Islamic insurgency that became prominent in southern Somalia in 2006, rebelling against the country's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its Ethiopian and western supporters. Experts say the group is nominally led by Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar Abdirahman – "Abu Zubeyr" – but most analysts insist it is a disparate coalition with divisions at all levels.

Andre Le Sage, a leading authority on al-Shabaab at the National Defense University in Washington, recently told the New York Times: "What I'd be most concerned about is whether Aqap could transfer to Shabaab its knowledge of building IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and sophisticated plots and Shabaab could make available to Aqap recruits with western passports." There is some evidence of links between al-Shabaab and Somali pirates, who sometimes launch their attacks from areas run by the group. They have developed working business arrangements – the pirates pay a stipend to be left in peace.

Shortly before Christmas, the chief of the defense staff, General Sir David Richards, made the most intriguing comments of all – with words that suggested some kind of more direct military intervention by the UK was being considered.

Talking to an audience at RUSI, he reflected on the campaign in Libya, and then turned to Somalia. "While we were essentially able to rely on Arab partners and the National Transitional Council in Libya, and can assist, for example, Amisom's vital mission in Somalia indirectly, it would be foolhardy indeed and against all the lessons of history to imagine that we will never deploy combat troops again." He added: "Treating the causes of instability and terrorism at source is better and cheaper than dealing with the consequences, as Somalia's piracy demonstrates."

Though the al-Shabaab camps are not on the scale of those seen a decade ago, the National Security Council has been warned that it only takes one extremist to return home unnoticed to create potential havoc.



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