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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Indian Mujahadeen Among Shabaab Foreign Fighters

NEW DELHI: A freak blast in Mogadishu has sent tremors all the way to New Delhi, with indications that Indian terrorists might be fighting for al-Qaida's group Al Shabaab in Somalia.

Over the weekend, the Somali ministry of information announced that two Indians, three Pakistanis and an Afghan were among 10 Al Shabaab terrorists killed while trying to put together a suicide car bomb in Mogadishu.

The dead even included one leader ''who was in charge of praying for suicide bombers before they are dispatched''.

If the Indians' identity is borne out, this would be a first. Th us far, Indian terrorists have stopped short of venturing out that far for transnational jihadi terrorism.

Al Shabaab is no ordinary Islamist terror group. In February, the group publicly declared its allegiance to al-Qaida, though that linkage had long been suspected by western terrorism analysts.

Harkat-al-Shabaab started work in 2005 in Somalia;

  • the Islamist group succeeded in bringing a few months of quiet in an unending spate of civil war in the country.
  • By the time the US declared Al Shabaab a terrorist organization in 2008, the group was well on its way to establishing an Islamist terror movement in the region.
  • It was also when the group got its new leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, aka Abu Zubeyr.
  • Other top leaders in the organization like Abu Mansoor and Ibrahim Jaama earned their spurs apparently fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Whether they actually fought in Kashmir is not confirmed but certainly, Al Shabaab has in the past declared its intention of seeing Kashmir "liberated".

Terrorism analyst B Raman says Pakistan's Tablighi Jamaat has been very active in Somalia, including sending terror fighters to Al Shabaab. "If Indians have gone there, it's possible they have gone with the Tablighis," he said.

Al Shabaab has seen a significant increase in "foreign fighters" in recent years. As with the Taliban in Afghanistan, it preaches a severely radical ideology of jihad.

Interestingly, Al Shabaab has more than its share of US and European jihadis, most prominent among them being Al-Amriki. According to terrorism analyst Daveed Gartenstein Ross, around 20 US citizens from Minnesota, US, are believed to have joined Al Shabaab. Analysts say more than 100 Britons have travelled to Somalia to fight for Al Shabaab.

Thus far, Indian terrorism watchers have paid scant attention to Al Shabaab, but Saturday's incident should be an eye-opener. Al Shabaab has openly declared its global ambitions and though a lot of that is focused on the US and Europe, India and other such countries may not escape their jihadi heat either.

If Taliban is considered to be the heir apparent of al-Qaida, Al Shabaab is gaining prominence in the Islamist jihad hierarchy.

According to Critical Threats by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), "Al Shabaab currently controls much of southern and central Somalia, including large portions of the capital, Mogadishu. It has evolved into a group resembling a hybrid of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaida.

It provides government services to its constituents, enforces a strict interpretation of Sharia law, and maintains its grip on power by using violence and intimidation.

The group also conducts terror operations, including suicide bombings, against its perceived enemies and views itself as part of the global jihad movement. It has established an effective recruiting strategy to attract militants from throughout Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, as well as the US and Europe."

The Rest @ The Times of India

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