* According to the hadith, Muhammad had a “white complexion..”
NAIROBI (AFP) â€“ Egged on byÂ Osama bin LadenÂ and drawn in byEthiopia‘s pullout, foreign jihadists have flocked toÂ SomaliaÂ in recent months, joining forces with local fighters to turn the country into anÂ Al-QaedaÂ haven.
*Â Watch Low BandÂ
Somali Muslims have beenÂ disappearing off the streets, returning to Somalia to get terror training, then coming back to the States. Somalis here have beenÂ violently trying to impose Islam on the American workplace. I have been covering the disruptive dangerous jihad caused by the forced settling ofÂ Somali Muslims into small towns by the State department here.
Despite all this, the State department has stepped up its efforts to import jihad into America. And why bring in hostile forces that take American jobs away from American workers at a time when employment is approaching record highs?
Somalia now shelters an estimated 450 foreign fighters who are working with the Shebab, a home-grown hardline Islamist group that has spearheaded a bloody insurgency since 2006.
While foreign fighters wanted for links to Al-Qaeda have long used Somalia as a backyard, their numbers have swollen dramatically in 2009, experts say.
“There were maybe 100 foreigners last year but now our estimate is up to 450,” said Ismail Haji Noor, a formerÂ SomaliÂ security official who has established a secular militia bent on rooting out the Shebab and their foreign allies.
Noor said the foreign jihadists come from the United States, Europe, theÂ Middle EastÂ and Asia and often enter the country on regular airlines from the northern semi-autonomous state ofÂ Somaliland.
Most of them are concentrated inÂ Garowe, in the northern breakaway state ofÂ Puntland, and the southern towns of Baidoa, Merka and Kismayo.
“The risk is being taken increasingly seriously that they will look outside Somalia for their operations now,” said one Nairobi-based diplomat.
Stripped of their arch-enemy Ethiopia, which ended its two-yearÂ military occupationÂ in January, the Shebab have revamped their organisation and moved closer to Al-Qaeda, intelligence officials said.
A 10-member “cabinet” includes several known Somali members who have trained inÂ Afghanistan, including Mukhtar Robow who has been the group’s main spokesman.
But it is also believed to include several foreigners, fromÂ Saudi ArabiaÂ andÂ Sudan, as well as Fazul Abdullah, a Comoran-born Al-Qaeda operative wanted over the 1998 US embassy bombings inÂ KenyaÂ andÂ Tanzania.
“They will be targeting Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia. Western powers will focus their efforts on protecting those neighbouring countries instead of tackling the problems inside Somalia,” Noor warned.
He said Somalia’s new moderate Islamist president, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, needed to be urgently shored up if the threat was to be neutralised.
In a recent Internet audio message addressed to “the champions of Somalia”, bin Laden urged the Shebab to topple Sharif, heightening fears the group could seek to gain an Al-Qaeda “franchise” with spectacular operations.
In the meantime, the Shebab are consolidating their grip on key towns.
“Everyone here knows that many foreign fighters are among those who fought us in Bay and Bakol regions,” said Colonel Adan Abdullahi, a police officer from the Baidoa region, where clashes have killed dozens in recent months.
“A young man who talked to me said he was fromÂ MoroccoÂ but the group leader is called Mohamed and he is a white American,” a local shop owner who said his life would be in danger if his name was published told AFP.
Residents say many white men are among the newly-arrived Islamic fighters in Baidoa, a town 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of Mogadishu where the country’s transitional parliament normally sits.
“These white men are heavily armed with hand grenades and machine guns. They sometimes come to the mosque and pray with us,” resident Ahmed Hasan said.
“They are more disciplined than local fighters, they look very religious, but I don’t know why they are here, there is noÂ jihadÂ now that the Ethiopians have left,” said 28 year-old Mohamud.
One of the pictures featuring prominently on the Shebab website’s gallery of “martyrs” is that of “Abu Horriya” (Father of freedom), aÂ Hispanic AmericanÂ also known as the “Seattle Barber” who was killed in combat in 2008.
His real name is Ruben Shumpert and he was once jailed on gun and counterfeiting charges. He was also wanted for showing jihadist videos to children in hisÂ SeattleÂ hair salon.
Washington earlier this month voiced concern that Somali youths in the diaspora were being recruited by hardline groups to fight in their homeland, notably among the large Somali community in the US city of Minneapolis.
Britain, which is also home to a large Somali community, warned in a report unveiling its counter-terrorism strategy and released earlier this week that Al-Qaeda activity could be heating up in Somalia.
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- America has lost its war against terrorism in Afghanistan: Aslam Baig (Pakistani Newspaper)
- B?desh approves SAARC convention to combat terrorism (Daily News)
- Jamrud suicide blast is ferocious act of terrorism: Iftikhar (The Pakistan Link)
- IT industry welcomes Government’s new Anti-Terrorism strategy (PublicTechnology.net)
- Danish T-shirt sellers convicted of terrorism (Guardian Unlimited)
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