U.S. kills Al Qaeda-linked militant, but elsewhere terrorism grows
News of an airstrike on Aden Hashi Ayro came on the heels of the State Department's annual report on terrorism, which concluded that Al Qaeda was rebuilding in Pakistan.
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"This development is going to undermine theability of the Shabab to carry out attacks in Somalia until they canreorganize themselves," he says. "But I just don't see it having animpact on overall peace in Somalia."Skip to next paragraph
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Al Qaeda-linked Somali leader killed
Ayrorose to prominence as a military commander with the UIC. Ayro's youngfollowers in the Shabab – the name means "youth" – had a key role inhelping the Islamists seize much of southern and central Somalia in2006.
Neighboring countries and Western governments alikefeared the presence of people like Ayro – along with suspects wantedfor the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – wouldturn Somalia into a haven for Al Qaeda. When the courts lost control ofthe capital, Mogadishu, in December 2006, much of their support meltedaway.
But Ayro soon resurfaced to declare holy war onEthiopian forces who had helped Somalia's feeble Transitional FederalGovernment (TFG) defeat the Islamists. He used tactics pioneered inIraq to mount an Islamist insurgency. His fighters have used roadsidebombs and mounted hit-and-run raids.
In recent weeks theyhave seized control of a series of towns and signaled their intentionto take Baidoa, seat of the TFG. The fighting forced hundreds ofthousands to flee the city in the past year and brought the country tothe brink of yet another humanitarian emergency.
"Ourbrother martyr Aden Hashi has received what he was looking for – deathfor the sake of Allah – at the hands of the United States," SheikhMuqtar Robow, spokesman for Shabab militia, told the Associated Pressby phone.
But Richard Cornwall, an analyst with theInstitute for Security Studies in South Africa, says, "I don't thinkthere's many people who will mourn him beyond his close band offollowers." Ayro's demise could help moderate Islamists seek peace withthe TFG, he adds, or "it could aggravate the situation by highlightingthe US role" supporting the government.
Another analystwho asked not to be named said: "The only way out for Somalia is agenuine peace and reconciliation effort. Counterterrorism activity willnot bring peace."
Why militants flourish in Pakistan
InPakistan, security has been caught in a vicious, downward cycle,largely because neither Pakistan nor the US has come up with aneffective plan to deal with extremism along the Afghan border. TheState Department report counted attacks in Pakistan jumping from 375 in2006 to 887 in 2007, with the number of deaths quadrupling, to 1,335.
InAfghanistan, where the report states that attacks were up 16 percent,the number of fatalities more than doubled in 2007 to 1,966.
After9/11, Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fleeing Afghanistan found sanctuaryin Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt where they benefited from theloyalty of local leaders and a lack of government presence.
The Pakistani government has see-sawed between half-hearted assaults and hopeful cease-fires.
But after each cease-fire, militants have regrouped and emerged stronger.
"Thereneeds to be a significant political and economic part of the program,"says Seth Jones, an analyst at RAND Corp., a security consultancy inArlington, Va. "But there also needs to be sustained operations againstmilitant groups."
The near-total focus on Iraq hasprevented the US from helping Pakistan devise such a two-prongedstrategy. "Afghanistan and Pakistan have not received anywhere near theattention they deserve – especially given the threat they pose," Dr.Jones adds.
He says the current attempt to broker a cease-fire with militants has a familiar ring.
"Therehave to be very frank discussions with the Pakistan government," hesays. "Unless there are changes, this will go the same way as [thecease-fire] of 2005-06 and will strengthen a range of militant groups."
• Mark Sappenfield contributed from New Delhi.