Somali Militants React to U.S. Airstrike with Threats and Roundup of “U.S. Spies”

Andrew McGregor

September 25, 2009

Fallout from the September 14 U.S. Special Forces raid on an al-Shabaab convoy in southern Somalia continues, with various Islamist factions vowing revenge strikes while pro-government militias approved of the killing of al-Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and a number of senior al-Shabaab members.

NabhanSaleh Ali Saleh Nabhan

Convinced that an inside source directed American helicopter gunships to the convoy, al-Shabaab organized an emergency meeting of its leadership in Mogadishu, where they decided to launch an investigation of anyone suspected of having links to Western countries. This could develop into a divisive obsession, as many of al-Shabaab’s fighters and leaders have not only lived in the West, but have also obtained citizenship in these countries.

Shaykh Hassan Abdullah Hirsi al-Turki announced to media sources in the Islamist stronghold of Kismayo that 15 Islamist fighters had been arrested for spying on behalf of the United States and other Western countries. Mu’askar Ras Kamboni, an Islamist insurgent group closely tied to al-Shabaab, claimed to have discovered a substantial Western intelligence network that had penetrated the Islamist insurgent groups. Digital cameras and other items were seized from a number of fighters (Radio Gaalkacyo, September 16).

On September 16, al-Shabaab spokesman Shaykh Ali Mahmud Raage (a.k.a. Shaykh Ali Dheere) declared that the group would strike U.S. government targets in retaliation for the raid, saying the strike would only provide the movement’s fighters with increased motivation. Two days later, two vehicles bearing UN markings drove unchallenged into the heart of AMISOM’s main base in Mogadishu. When the suicide bombers detonated their payloads, 9 AU peacekeepers and TFG soldiers were killed, with the toll later rising to 21 as the seriously injured succumbed to their wounds.  Among those who lost their lives were 12 Ugandans, five Burundians and four Somalis (Daily Nation [Nairobi], September 18; Daily Monitor [Kampala], September 22).  Gun battles broke out in several places in Mogadishu after the blast. Shaykh Ali Mahmud Raage claimed responsibility on behalf of al-Shabaab. “We have got our revenge for our brother Nabhan. Two suicide car bombs targeting the AU base, praise Allah” (al-Jazeera, September 18).

The leader of Hizb al-Islam, Shaykh Hassan Dahir al-Aweys, said of the raid, “The enemy of Allah is targeting Muslims all over the world, it is not only Nabhan that they killed recently but they are targeting many others. Such attacks will only increase hate and violence” (AFP, September 20). Al-Aweys, whose militia is fighting side by side with al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, also called for an increase in suicide attacks.

Not all Somalis were sorry to hear of the airstrike. A spokesman for the Sufi-based Ahlu Sunnah wa’l-Jama’a militia (a bitter enemy of al-Shabaab) announced that the group’s leadership was very pleased with the death of Nabhan and several senior members of al-Shabaab, adding that God had punished them. A Somali army spokesman also applauded the airstrike and called for further targeted killings of insurgent leaders (Radio Gaalkacyo, September 16).

This article first appeared in the September 25, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

U.S. Trained “Colonel Imam” Discusses Bin Laden, Stinger Missiles and the Taliban

Andrew McGregor

September 25, 2009

Karachi’s Geo News conducted an interview on September 13 with Colonel Imam, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer who is best known as “the Father of the Taliban” for his crucial role in helping establish the movement in Afghanistan. Colonel Imam’s real name is Amir Sultan Tarar, though he notes “My actual name has been forgotten by the people; I am mostly known as Colonel Imam now… The Afghan people gave me this name because I lead the prayers.”

Colonel ImamAmir Sultan Tarar, a.k.a. “Colonel Imam”

Colonel Imam spoke of his cultural integration into Afghan Pashtun society during his days as an ISI officer, but noted the continued survival of pre-Islamic Pashtun customs; the Pashtuns “have camouflaged the Pashtun culture [with Islam], except the Taliban, who have always practiced Islam in its true spirit. I have observed the Taliban closely; they are very simple, sincere, truthful and strong believers.”

Colonel Imam also recalled his training from U.S. Special Forces at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg in the 1970s. “A visit to the United States was as an incentive given by the Pakistan Army. We would get to study a more refined curriculum with the help of advanced technology. My subject was ‘explosive sabotage’… When I would perform prayers, they would look at me with amazement.”

The former ISI agent described the beginning of his association with Afghanistan in the 1970s, when he was asked by then-Brigadier Nasirullah Babar (later Major General and Interior Minister in the government of Benazir Bhutto) to organize and train Islamic students fleeing from a crackdown by the communist regime in Kabul. Among those trained by Colonel Imam were current Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the late ethnic-Tajik guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Masud and Islamist warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The Colonel complains that by 1988, the ISI’s authority over the Afghan mujahideen had been “hijacked” by the United States.

On the controversial issue of the distribution of U.S. supplied Stinger missiles, Colonel Imam denied accusations that he sold some of the stock of 2,000 American Stingers, saying this was done instead by Benazir Bhutto’s government after it had decided to reduce the size of the military mission in Afghanistan. “I was supposed to get the missiles back. We knew those Stinger missiles were being sold in the market. Six missiles were smuggled to Iran and three to North Korea, while the remaining stock was kept by the mujahideen themselves.”

The former ISI operative distanced himself from Osama Bin Laden, particularly during the period surrounding the 9/11 attacks. “He was not in contact with me at that time. It was the Jalalabad operation in 1990 when I last met Bin Laden… He was just an ordinary citizen who would get frightened by the sight of bombing.”

In December 2008, it was reported that Amir Sultan (Colonel Imam) was one of four names of former ISI officials sent by the United States to the U.N. Security Council for inclusion in the Security Council’s list of designated international terrorists (Islam Online, December 4, 2008). Colonel Imam responded, “By blaming the retired people, it is a conspiracy to tighten the noose around Pakistan’s ISI” (AKI, December 9, 2008).

The former ISI official is open about his support for the Taliban but denies that he and retired General Hamid Gul continue to fund the Taliban, saying, “As far as support is concerned, I said in front of Americans at a seminar that I do support the Taliban. I pray for their success but neither I nor General Hamid Gul has the money to give to the Taliban. We are retired people living hand to mouth. This is an electronic age—any transaction can be traced any time. If they have any proof, bring it forward” (AKI, December 9, 2008).

This article first appeared in the September 25, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Djibouti Facing Local Insurgency and Threats from Somali Islamists

Andrew McGregor

September 25, 2009

Few nations in the world are as strategically important but as little known as Djibouti, a small desert nation of half a million people in the heart of the Horn of Africa. A lingering insurgency by the ethnic-Afar Front pour la Restauration de l’Unité et de la Démocratie (Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy – FRUD) that many believed was over in 2001 has re-emerged as one of a number of security problems challenging Djibouti’s continued stability.
Djibouti MapFRUD is based in northern Djibouti, the traditional home of the nomadic Afar people. The Afar ethnic group represents roughly a third of the population in Djibouti, where the dominant ethnic Somali group is divided between the majority Issa clan and smaller groups from the Issaq clan and the Gadabursi, a Dir sub-clan. Most of the nomadic Afars live in the Danakil Desert of Ethiopia, giving them their alternate name of “Danakil.” The lack of Afar representation in the central government sparked the Djiboutian Civil War in 1991. France became involved in both mediation efforts and support missions for government troops, but the conflict continued until 2001, when the remaining radical faction signed a peace agreement with the government and joined the president’s governing coalition. Since then, however, it appears that a number of Afar militants have retaken the field, dissatisfied with the implementation of the peace treaty.  Most of the movement made peace with the government in 1994, with a group of hardliners under the late FRUD founder Ahmad Dini Ahmad holding out until 2001 before cutting their own deal with the government. Though certain roles at the highest level of the government have been reserved for Afars, the rest of the administration is still largely dominated by the ethnic-Somali Issa clan.

Hassan Mokbel, the FRUD spokesman, announced in early September that the movement had fought off an attack by the Djibouti military on one of their bases in the northern Mablas region. Though the attack was supported by two helicopter gunships that bombarded FRUD positions, Mokbel claims the rebels killed four soldiers and wounded 20 others in repulsing the government attack (FRUD communiqué, carried by, September 1; Middle East Online, September 1). The troops were units of the Armée Nationale Djiboutienne (AND) based at Gal Ela in Mablas, together with reinforcements from the barracks at Tadjourah and Obock. If the FRUD reports are accurate, the action would appear to be the Djibouti army’s biggest offensive against the Afar guerrillas since May, 2006, when Colonel Abdo Abdi Dembil of the Presidential Guard led 2000 men through the Tadjourah and Obock districts  (FRUD communiqué, May 17, 2006, carried by, May 22, 2006).

The FRUD militants term the present Djibouti regime a 32-year-old dictatorship characterized by a refusal to conduct free and transparent elections, a refusal to honor peace agreements, the repression of social movements (including trade unions) and the killing of innocent civilians, citing the killing of five people during the November 2005 clearance of the slum district Arhiba in Djibouti City (FRUD communiqué, June 26, carried by the Sudan Tribune, July 3; FRUD communiqué, May 17, 2006, carried by, May 22, 2006).

Djibouti AfarAfar Tribesman

According to spokesman Hassan Mokbel, “FRUD, which has a politico-military approach, does not exclude any option. For FRUD, armed struggle was never the only solution. These options come in a wide range, combining social actions and mass actions and diplomatic policies… FRUD has until today ensured its military presence on the ground and is able to respond to any aggression on the part of the AND. In addition, FRUD has considerably strengthened its positions in the Djibouti diaspora in Europe, North America and Oceania [including New Zealand and Australia]” (Les, January 24, 2006).

Mokbel complains that “international forces” are placing advanced technology such as satellite surveillance at the disposal of President Guelleh, who uses it to thwart the development of “true democracy” in Djibouti. Guelleh is also accused of playing the French army against the U.S. military to extract the greatest concessions from each (Les, January 24, 2006). The FRUD spokesman maintains that the movement has never been equated with terrorism because it has never targeted civilians – “I would even add that the activities of FRUD are the antithesis of religious proselytism (Les, January 24, 2006). In June, FRUD appealed to the people of Djibouti to “end the lifetime presidency of Ismael Omar Guelleh” and join FRUD’s struggle for “justice, for a real national state and for authentic democracy” (FRUD communiqué, June 26, carried by the Sudan Tribune, July 3).

France first arrived in the region in 1862, when it acquired the port of Obock from the local Sultans. By 1888, the Djibouti region had become the colony of French Somaliland, giving France a strategic presence in the Horn of Africa that was largely unaffected by independence in 1977 (French Somaliland was known as “The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas” from 1967 to 1977). France continues to guarantee Djibouti’s territorial integrity from foreign aggression, but now finds itself competing for the attention of Djibouti’s leaders with the powerful new American military presence based at Camp Lemonier since 2002. Camp Lemonier, once a French Foreign Legion base, now hosts the American Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), which focuses on coordinating U.S. military activity in the region, including anti-terrorism operations. In recent years China has emerged as a new suitor, seeking to establish diplomatic and economic ties with Djibouti.

Though Djibouti’s ethnic-Somalis have so far escaped being dragged into the interminable conflict raging between their ethnic-Somali cousins in Somalia, Djibouti’s role as a host of French and American training of Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces and its own offer of peacekeeping troops for Somalia have incensed Somalia’s al-Shabaab Islamist militants. Al-Shabaab, which has carried out a number of deadly suicide bomb attacks against AMISOM targets, has promised to prepare a similar welcome for the Djiboutians (Garowe Online, September 18).

Djibouti’s rapidly deteriorating economy and massive unemployment in an increasingly urban population is another threat to its future stability. Djibouti also has a simmering border conflict with Eritrea in the Ras Doumeira region on the Red Sea coast. Nine members of the AND were killed when fighting broke out with Eritrean forces in June, 2008.

This article first appeared in the September 25, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Demolition of Infamous Prison Marks Libyan Regime’s Reconciliation with Libyan Islamic Fighting Group

Andrew McGregor

September 17, 2009

In the depths of Tripoli’s notorious Abu Salim prison, imprisoned leaders of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (al-Jama’a al-Islamiya al-Muqatila bi-Libya – LIFG) are ready to release a lengthy refutation of the extreme approach to the Islamic concept of jihad that put them behind bars. Their work, entitled Revisionist Studies of the Concepts of Jihad, Hisbah and Takfir, is expected to be published later this month after being reviewed by a number of leading Islamic scholars.

JabirLibyan Defense Minister Abu Bakr Yunus Jabir

The LIFG leaders already issued a public apology to President Muammar Qadhafi on September 1st, the 40th anniversary of the Libyan revolution that brought Colonel Qadhafi to power.

With the publication of the Revisions, Libya is expected to release 50 LIFG prisoners, with the rest expected to follow soon after. These former militants may be among the last to be kept at Abu Salim, home to a quiet massacre in 1996 that may have taken the lives of as many as 1,200 Islamist prisoners (Libyan Jamahiriya Broadcasting Corporation, July 26, 2008). Run by Libya’s Internal Security Agency rather than the Justice Department, Abu Salim has a reputation for torture and summary executions. Libyan authorities have announced their intention to demolish the prison and provide compensation to the families of the victims of the 1996 slaughter following the release of the last LIFG prisoners (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 10). To this end, a judge has been appointed (Muhammad Bashir al-Khaddar), together with six legal assistants.

The decision to open compensation tribunals is reported to have come from the acting Defense Minister, Major General Abu Bakr Yunus Jabir, after a Benghazi court responded to the law suits brought by family members of missing prisoners by ordering the government to disclose the fate of the missing militants (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 10).

Libya’s experiment in rehabilitating former Islamists differs from similar experiments in Saudi Arabia and Yemen (and the mixed results obtained there) in one major way – Libya has the full institutional participation of the LIFG and its leadership in preparing a reconciliation instead of relying on the conversion of militant individuals who may remain drawn (willingly or otherwise) to their former organizations.

This article first appeared in the September 17, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Yemen’s President Accuses Iraq’s Sadrists of Backing the Houthi Insurgency

Andrew McGregor

September 17, 2009

Offers from the Iranian government and Iraq’s militant Shi’ite leader Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr to mediate the ongoing and seemingly intractable struggle between the Sana’a regime and the Zaydi Shi’ite Houthist rebels of northern Yemen have been interpreted by Yemen’s government as proof that Iran and the Sadrists are providing guidance and support to the rebel movement.

Muqtada al-Muqtada al-Sadr (AFP)

The issue was raised in a September 11 al-Jazeera interview with Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who said, “We cannot accuse the Iranian official side, but the Iranians are contacting us, saying that they are prepared for a mediation. This means that the Iranians have contacts with them [the Houthists], given that they want to mediate between the Yemeni government and them. Also, Muqtada al-Sadr in al-Najaf in Iraq is asking that he be accepted as a mediator. This means they have a link.” President Saleh also said that two Houthist cells had been arrested and the suspects had admitted receiving $100,000 from Iranian sources. While the accusations of Iranian support for the Shi’ite Houthists are not new, the suggestion that Iraq’s Sadrist movement is supporting the rebels came as a surprise to many.

Yemeni authorities say they have seized caches of weapons made in Iran, while the Houthists claim to have captured Yemeni equipment with Saudi Arabian markings, accusing Sana’a of acting as a Saudi proxy. Iran’s embassy in Sana’a rejected claims that Iranian weapons were found in north Yemen and described all claims of material or financial support to  the rebels as baseless (NewsYemen, September 8; Yemen Observer, September 10).

Iskandar al-Asbahi of Yemen’s ruling General People’s Congress suggested the rebels had asked for diplomatic intervention from their alleged Shi’ite allies. “Despite [the Houthists’] continued attacks on villages and houses, they are calling for a ceasefire and pleading with Iran and Muqtada al-Sadr, the sides which are helping and financing them, to stop the war on them.” Any effort at mediation by al-Sadr or Iran is proof “that the insurgents are agents and serving foreign agendas” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 11).

In Iraq, Saleh’s claims were denounced by Sadrist MP Zaynab al-Kenani, who declared that the Yemeni president’s “accusations against Sayyid Muqtada al-Sadr are wrong, otherwise the Yemeni leader should provide evidence supporting his claims” (Aswat al-Iraq, September 12).

A spokesman for Abdul Malik al-Houthi, the rebel commander in Sa’ada Governate, said the president’s allegations of foreign support had a familiar ring. “These remarks are not new for us and the same was said during the previous wars. They are lies by the state. We challenge him to prove what he says” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 11).

While the Zaydi Shi’ites are one of the three main branches of the Shi’a movement, they have little in common theologically with the Shi’ites of Iran and Iraq and have developed in relative isolation from their fellow Shi’ites in the mountains of northern Yemen. The Zaydis have more in common with the Sunnis and even share a preference for the Sunni Hanafi school of Islamic jurisprudence. In the al-Jazeera interview, President Saleh dismissed claims that the Zaydis were fighting religious oppression. “They accuse the regime of being against the Zaydi community, even though we are Zaydis. I am a Zaydi. Nobody says that the Zaydi books or the Zaydi denominations are wrong at all. All this is intended to deceive the public.”

This article first appeared in the September 17, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Somali Mujahideen Confirm al-Qaeda Suspect Abu Talha al-Sudani Killed Last Year

Andrew McGregor

September 10, 2008

In a 24-minute audio statement, Salih al-Nabhan (a.k.a. Abu Yusuf), the leader of Somalia’s Shabaab al-Mujahideen movement, has confirmed the death of alleged leading al-Qaeda member Abu Talha al-Sudani (al-Sahab Media, August 31). Al-Nabhan is a Kenyan-born suspected al-Qaeda leader wanted for involvement in a Kenya hotel bombing in 2002 and an attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in Mombassa.

Nairobi Bombing1998 US Embassy Bombing in Nairobi

Abu Talha ranked near the top of the American list of wanted terrorists since his alleged involvement in the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya, and a 2003-2004 plot to attack U.S. forces at Djibouti’s Camp Lemonier. Abu Talha was a resident of Somalia since 1993 and was married to a Somali woman. He is alleged to have played a major part in arranging financing for al-Qaeda operations in East Africa.

Al-Nabhan confirmed the death of Abu Talha al-Sudani but provided few details: “A leader was martyred while he was leading one of the battalions of the mujahideen more than one year ago: Abu Talha al-Sudani, the leader of the mujahideen in Somalia. This is the first time that we have made this public.” Though no official claim for his death was made by American officials, Time learned last year from an anonymous Pentagon official that U.S. and Ethiopian intelligence had learned months later of his death during Ethiopian airstrikes along the Somali-Kenyan border in January 2007 (Time, November 29, 2007). Abu Talha had escaped an earlier targeted attack by U.S. AC-130 gunships (Independent, January 13, 2007).

The admission of his death came in an audiotape intended to attract African Muslims to the ranks of the Somali mujahideen, especially recruits from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Chad, and Nigeria: “Here are the training camps in Somalia and elsewhere that have opened their doors so that you join them. Hence, be truthful with God, answer the call of jihad, and prefer the lasting over the perishing and the next life over the present life.” The tape opened with a greeting from al-Nabhan to “the courageous commander and my honorable leader, Shaykh Osama bin Laden.”

Referring to the recent death of Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Ayro in a May 1 airstrike, al-Nabhan denounces American and Ethiopian attempts to target Somali resistance leaders: “They think, may God fight them, that the martyrdom of a commander shakes the pillars of jihad. They do not know that we are longing for death; the death of the martyrs.” Al-Nabhan claims the Somali mujahideen are awaiting reinforcement from Sudan and Yemen to combat the “Abyssinian [Ethiopian] rabble” occupying Somalia.

Al-Nabhan’s exhortations to the Somali people bear some of the ruthless approach to jihad found in the writings of the late Palestinian jihadist Abdullah Azzam (1941-1989), the inspiration for al-Qaeda: “It is not possible that the tree of jihad becomes steady on its trunk, except by sacrificing heads and souls cheap in the path of Allah, and the edifice of glory is not constructed, except with skulls and limbs, and indeed forfeiture, humiliation and degradation is in leaving jihad and succumbing to the colonialist Crusaders or contentment with fair [i.e. negotiated] solutions.”

The greeting to Bin Laden contained in the opening of the message raises new questions about Somali insurgent ties to al-Qaeda. Contrary to many reports that allege Somalia’s militants are closely tied to al-Qaeda if not controlled by them, U.S. ambassador to Somalia Michael E. Ranneberger has expressed reservations about a direct line of command from the al-Qaeda leadership to the Islamist militants in Somalia: “There are indications of a fairly close Shabaab-Al Qaeda connection, though it’s not clear to what extent they’ve been operationalized… Shabaab taking orders from Al Qaeda? I would say no. They are still running their own show” (Mareeg Online, September 2).

This article first appeared in the September 10 2008 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Focus

South Sudanese Military Vows to Destroy the Lord’s Resistance Army

Andrew McGregor

September 10, 2009

After being accused of inactivity by residents of Western Equatoria and various humanitarian NGOs, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) will commit additional troops including its Special Forces to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army threat to South Sudan. The northern Ugandan group was formed in 1987 and claims to seek the establishment of a Ugandan government based on the Bible and the Ten Commandments. The movement, led by Joseph Kony, has employed remarkable levels of violence and cruelty in its pursuit of these aims. Since being driven from Uganda it has spread out over South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR).

SPLA TroopsSPLA Troops in the Field (AFP)

The LRA, once intended to represent Acholi interests in northern Uganda, now appears to have lost the last vestiges of ideological purpose, carrying out atrocities without provocation in several African states but no longer operating in Uganda. Despite determined efforts by Uganda and its regional partners to resolve the conflict, LRA leader Joseph Kony has backed away from every effort to negotiate a settlement.

At present, the 8th Brigade of the SPLA’s 2nd Division (about 3,000 troops) is hunting the Ugandan rebels in platoon-strength units meant to intercept LRA groups of 5 to 10 people over wide swathes of bush country. According to SPLA spokesman Major General Kuol Deim Kuol, the LRA “come to attack the people and take the food and escape back to hide inside the forest in the DRC, like rats… we are seriously planning to track them down and attack them inside their den in the Garamba forests where they run to” (Sudan Radio Service, September 3).

The SPLA is responsible for security in South Sudan under the terms of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement with Khartoum. The Khartoum regime’s former sponsorship of the LRA as a counter to Uganda’s sponsorship of the SPLA during the civil war (1983-2005) has created suspicion in some Southerners that the ruling Islamist National Congress Party (NCP) continues to use the LRA to spread insecurity in the South as the region nears a crucial 2011 referendum on independence. SPLA Major General Kuol Deim Kuol is among them. “We [the SPLA] are saying that the NCP is still keeping up their old good relationship with the LRA. As you know, Joseph Kony [the LRA leader] is the NCP’s darling; he was residing here in Juba [capital of Equatoria Province] until the SPLA came to Juba in 2005 – all this time Kony was staying here with the NCP.” The rebel movement suspended all peace talks in Juba on September 4 (Daily Nation [Nairobi], September 4).

Following the revision of AMISOM’s mandate in Somalia, which changed from “peacekeeping” to “peace-enforcement” in early September to allow it to engage in combat against insurgent forces, the United Nations is considering a similar revision to the mandate of the Mission de l’Organisation des Nations Unies en République démocratique du Congo (MONUC), which would allow it to join the military campaign against the LRA (Garowe Online [Puntland], September 2; New Vision [Kampala], August 27). Changes to the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) are also being contemplated.

The fighting in Western Equatoria is particularly brutal – reportedly short on ammunition, the LRA continues to practice mutilations and amputations with weapons such as machetes to terrify helpless civilians. Local militias that formed to fend off the LRA marauders have also taken to mutilating LRA prisoners in revenge and to dissuade their comrades from returning (Sudan Tribune, March 6).  Known as the “Arrow Boys,” the militias use traditional weapons such as bows and arrows, spears, machetes and clubs to defend their homes from the LRA (Sudan Tribune, January 14, 2008).

The operation against the LRA has now been extended to the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) (The Monitor [Kampala], September 8). According to a UPDF spokesman, the CAR invited the Ugandans to pursue LRA units in the CAR, where the administration controls little of the country outside the capital of Bangui (New Vision [Kampala], September 7). Kony led nearly 200 followers into the southeastern CAR in February 2008, forming a base at Gbassiguri for forays into South Sudan.

A bipartisan bill, the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act, introduced in the U.S. Senate in May, would require the Obama administration to act on the elimination of the LRA threat and the apprehension or removal of Joseph Kony and his top commanders. Over 50 UPDF officers arrived in Djibouti on September 8 to receive advanced training from the U.S. military (Monitor [Kampala], September 8). Most of the officers are expected to join Ugandan forces in Somalia after the training, but some might be committed to the two decade-old campaign to destroy the LRA.

This article first appeared in the September 10, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor

Islamists Warn France against Military Role in Somalia

Andrew McGregor

September 10, 2009

With al-Shabaab extremists threatening to try a captured French security advisor in Somalia under their version of Islamic law, the radical Islamist movement appears ready to provoke a French military intervention. The man is one of two Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) agents abducted in a July 14 raid on a Mogadishu hotel (see Terrorism Monitor, July 30). The other agent claims to have escaped his captors on August 26.
France - Somalia 1

DGSE Agent Marc Aubrière after His Escape (NYT)

Shaykh Muhammad Ibrahim Bilal, chairman of the Islamic Council of Amal (Hope), a former leading member of the ICU and al-Shabaab, condemned France’s military and security support for Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) on August 29, adding that any other French officials coming to Somalia will be kidnapped (Daily Nation [Kampala], August 31). On August 28, an al-Shabaab official announced that the remaining French hostage would be sentenced for spying under Islamic law.  Two days later Shaykh Bilal told Iranian TV that al-Shabaab was ready to execute their prisoner (Press TV, August 30).

The agent who escaped, identified as Marc Aubrière (probably not his real name), provided a dramatic but highly improbable account of navigating his way by the stars to Mogadishu’s Presidential Palace after escaping his Hizb al-Islam captors and evading armed gunmen shooting at him for five hours in Shabaab-controlled neighborhoods (Shabelle Media Network, August 26; Somaliland Times, August 29). More likely are reports circulating in Mogadishu that Aubrière was released after the French government agreed to a ransom. The second DGSE agent is being held by al-Shabaab, which has assured reporters that the man is heavily guarded and unlikely to escape (AFP, August 28).

A senior al-Shabaab official described the agent’s tale as absurd and accused the movement’s Hizb al-Islam allies of accepting money for the agent’s release. “Even if he escaped, how was it possible for him to walk all the way to the presidential palace without being noticed by the mujahideen?” (Hillaac, August 26). Al-Shabaab may feel it necessary to deal harshly with the French prisoner to preserve its image in light of their Islamist ally’s alleged perfidy in releasing their prisoner in exchange for a ransom (as is widely believed in Mogadishu).

France - Somalia 2

5e Régiment Interarmes d’Outre-Mer Training in Djibouti (Ministére de la Défense)

150 of an expected 500 TFG soldiers are now in Djibouti receiving military training from the 5e Régiment Interarmes d’Outre-Mer (5e RIAOM), a mixed-arms Marine regiment permanently stationed in Africa. There are reports that some of the TFG recruits were returned to Somalia for being too young (Libération, August 28). The government of Djibouti has also announced its readiness to send an estimated 500 soldiers with French assistance to Somalia to join the badly undermanned African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping force (Garowe Online, September 2).

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has indicated France will not be deterred by hostage-takings. “We will mobilize to support Africa faced with the growing threat from al-Qaeda, whether in the Sahel or in Somalia… France will not let al-Qaeda set up a sanctuary on our doorstep in Africa. That message, too, must be clearly heard” (AFP, August 27).


This article first appeared in the September 10, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor