FBI probed Obama inauguration threats by Somali militant group

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In late 2006, the US approved and assisted Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in what is in fact America’s most recent covert war. The operational aim of the invasion was to terminate the local grass roots leadership of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and prevent the solidification of its rule in the country. Soon after the Ethiopian invasion, which also received Kenyan support, rank-and-file members of the ICU went underground in an attempt to organize a guerilla war against the Ethiopian troops. The most militant segment of the new underground movement is arguably al-Shabaab (The Party of Youth), which used to be the youth organization of the pre-invasion ICU. Al-Shabaab shares the ICU’s mission of turning Somalia into an Islamic khalifat. The strength of al-Shabaab and other al-Qaeda-linked militant groups in Somalia has reportedly been increased by what one informed observer has termed the severe blowback of the US secret rendition program in the country. 

The US State Department, which last February designated al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization, has been aware for some time of the presence of numerous non-Somali mujahedeen, mostly from Arab nations, fighting the holy war in Somalia. In recent months, however, US intelligence agencies have reportedly become aware of several Somali-born Americans who have apparently traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab in its guerilla war against Ethiopian and Kenyan forces. One of them, Shirwa Ahmed, from Minnesota, even appears to have successfully carried out a suicide-bombing mission, last October.

Earlier this month, as FBI officials notified Ahmed’s family of his death, the Bureau began to investigate Ahmed’s circle of contacts in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. They discovered that many of Ahmed’s contacts –most of them Somali-American youth– had “gone missing” from their respective homes. Almost simultaneously, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) began receiving information “of limited specificity and uncertain credibility” that the disappearance of the Somali-American youths may be connected with a plot targeting Barack Obama during the January 20 Presidential inauguration. The logic behind the information rested partly on Mr. Obama’s Kenyan roots, which made him a double target for al-Shabaab. So far nothing substantial has come out of the investigation, and the Somali-American youths have yet to be found. Some investigators suggest they may in fact have already joined al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Addressing the situation in Somalia, which has deteriorated after the US-supported invasion, will undoubtedly be one of Barack Obama’s most urgent foreign policy tasks in the coming months. Last November, Matt Bryden, “one of the world’s leading scholars of the Somali insurgency who has access to intelligence regarding it”, stated that the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia “was a stupid idea, [which] actually strengthened the hand of the Islamists and helped trigger the crisis we’re in today”.

About intelNews
Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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