US planning to attack 'terrorists' in Somalia with help of Christian Ethiopia

Empowering Weak & Oppressed

M.S. Ahmed

Ramadan 01, 1422 2001-11-16


by M.S. Ahmed (World, Crescent International Vol. 30, No. 18, Ramadan, 1422)

US plans for attacking ‘terrorist bases’ in Somalia as the next stage of the ‘war on terrorism’ are well advanced, according to media reports that quote US intelligence and military officials.

The plans, which envisage a role for neighbouring ‘Christian Ethiopia’, target the alleged bases and personnel of Bin Ladin’s ‘Qaida network’; Ethiopia wants to exploit the ‘war on terrorism’ to destroy Islamic movements opposed to its continued occupation of Islamic territories. Ethiopia has already been fighting al-Ittihad al-Islami, the Somali Islamic movement, for some time, and the US has declared it a terrorist organisation since September 11. It has also closed down the North American operations of Barakaat, Somalia’s largest bank, for alleged links with Qaida.

If, as expected, Washington and Addis Ababa set up an anti-Somalia coalition, it will not be the first time that the two have engaged in an aggressive anti-Muslim conspiracy in the Horn of Africa. Both were members of the alliance, directed against ‘Islamic Sudan’, that included Eritrea and Uganda. That alliance was undone two years ago, when Ethiopia and Eritrea locked horns in a costly war that ended only recently. Addis Ababa is hoping that, by joining an anti-terrorism campaign in Somalia, it will receive the aid, equipment and training it wants to rebuild its economy and armed forces, as well as preventing a fallen foe from being resurrected.

But a joint campaign in Somalia against Islamic groups will be seen as a ‘Christian’ invasion of a Muslim country and will be interpreted as a deliberate decision by the US to side with Ethiopia in a longstanding territorial dispute. Such a perception will increase support for al-Ittihad al-Islami and may stir the Somali clans to end their bickering. Already, aid and relief agencies are warning that the closure of the operations of Barakaat in North America and the United Arab Emirates is affecting Somalis, and may turn them against the US. Most Somalis depend on the bank for the transmission of remittances from their relatives in the Gulf and North America.

That, however, is not deterring Washington from extending its ‘war on terrorism’ to Somalia or from designating Somali businesses abroad as terrorist organizations linked to Qaida. According to a report in the Washington Post and International Herald Tribune on November 5, the Bush administration considers Somalia one of the most likely “alternative havens” for Bin Ladin if he flees Afghanistan; this explains why its security officials have begun “to focus on terrorist centres in Somalia” during their debate over where to take the ‘anti-terrorism’ campaign next. The report concedes that other countries (Iraq and Indonesia, for instance) have been discussed more often as candidates for US action, but it confirms that “the preparations involving Somalia appear to be the most advanced”.

“An inter-agency working group involving intelligence analysts from the State Department, and Pentagon, CIA and National Security Council has been meeting for three weeks to discuss where and how Qaida operates in the East African country, according to several administration sources,” the report says. It asserts that Somalia has been a centre of Qaida activity since 1993, when Bin Ladin allegedly sent several ‘top lieutenants’ to assist general Muhammad Aideed, the leading warlord at that time, who controlled Mogadishu.

General Aideed’s forces killed 18 US soldiers serving in a UN peace-keeping force in October 1993, and the body of one of them was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. Television pictures of the incident caused the Clinton administration to withdraw the force, previously sent by president George Bush Sr. When Aideed was killed later by a member of his own clan, his son Hussein took over - a succession which must still rankle with the US , as Hussein was a US marine based in America before taking over.

Whatever the Bush administration’s plans for Somalia might be, a country that has been without government for a decade, and which is controlled largely by warlords or clan alliances, is in enough disarray to suit US allegations that it hosts ‘terrorist bases’. There are no foreign embassies there, and foreign journalists and staff of western agencies are rarely present. Washington is therefore tempted to use Somalia to give credence to its ‘global campaign’ against Islamic movements worldwide. And although the very factors that make the Horn of Africa country a convenient excuse should also make US intelligence reports unverifiable, and therefore unreliable, Washington’s allies back its claims as well as its preparations for attack against Islamic movements.

But when George Bush declared al-Ittihad al-Islami a terrorist organization in October, and followed this up with the ban on Barakat on November 7, saying that its operations earned millions of dollars for Qaida ‘murderers’, he succeeded only in convincing many Somalis that the ‘war on terrorism’ is in reality directed against Muslims and Islam. An assault on Islamic movements in conjunction with Ethiopia will convince the majority of Somalis that they are the victims of a ‘Christian’ conspiracy. A ‘religious’ war between Ethiopia and Somalia will destabilize all of Eastern Africa.

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