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Terrorism & Security

Leading opposition figure returns to Somalia

Sheikh Hassan Aweys, whom the US accuses of having ties to Al Qaeda, says he wants to unite warring Islamic factions.

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In addition to the progovernment and antigovernment factions of the Islamic Courts Union, other Islamist groups are present, and fueling internecine warfare in a country that has not had an effective government since warlords overthrew its dictator in 1991. The strongest such group is the hard-line militia Al Shabab, which has been waging an assassination campaign that targets moderate and progovernment Islamists, reports Voice of America this week.

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A senior member of an Islamist militia allied with Somalia's government has been killed in the capital, Mogadishu, in the second such attack in as many weeks....
Meanwhile, a leader of the Hawiye, Somalia's largest clan, said al-Shabab fighters attempted to assassinate him overnight in Mogadishu. Ahmed Dirie Ali said the group has drawn up a list of prominent political figures to assassinate.
Hawiye clan leaders and moderate Islamists have lent their support to President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who took office at the end of January, after his faction of the Islamist opposition signed an agreement with the government.

American officials are concerned that Aweys's ARS will join hands with Al Shabab, topple the government, and provide a safe haven for Al Qaeda. In addition, piracy (a phenomenon distinct from the Somali insurgency) is raging near Somalia's coasts. These developments are pushing Washington and other Western nations to increase the amount of aid to the country, reports The Wall Street Journal.

International donors led by the European Union pledged over $250 million Thursday to Somalia to pay for law enforcement, humanitarian aid and possibly a coast guard…
Officials didn't break down how the money will be spent. They said the funding will allow the African Union to expand its peacekeeping force in the country to 8,000 from 4,350. Though insufficient on their own, the African Union forces are the country's main guarantor of security. More importantly, the money will help Somalia build up his police force to 16,000 men, said EU officials.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that unless the general lawlessness and poor security conditions are addressed, the Islamists may join forces with the pirates.

[W]ith so many Western naval ships off the coast, radical Islamist groups such as Al Shabab, could turn to high-seas piracy as a means for striking Western – and especially American – interests and to bring on a confrontation with the West…
"The signal has been sent that the old approach of pay ransom and move on ... isn't going to work anymore," says [expert Iqbal] Jhazbhay. "The danger is that if Al Shabab want to dramatize the situation and bring another 'Black Hawk Down,' then it's likely to see that approach more often. It all depends on what the Islamists want to do next."

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