It's been a week since Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States (twice).
One bit of good news about the inauguration was the nobody from Somalia blew up at the festivities: or somewhere else, in a spot calculated to cast a pall over the opening day of Obama's administration. There was reason to be concerned:
"The FBI was investigating two 'streams of intelligence' suggesting that Somalia-based terrorist organization Al Shabaab may have been plotting an attack timed to coincide with the event, the FBI and Homeland Security said in a joint threat advisory obtained by CNN...." (CNN)
Isn't that "Al Shibab?"I've been over this before. Spelling names as used in one language in another is tricky: and it gets a lot trickier when the languages don't used the same alphabet.
"Al Shabaab" is one way of expressing the name of an Islamic 'militant' group, or 'Islamist' group in Sudan. "Al Shabaab" is roughly the way it sounds. Translated, it means "youth," or "the youth." Latinized spellings of the name that I've run into are: the Shibab, al-Shabab, the Shebab, or Al-Shabaab. I've tended to go with "Al Shabaab."
Americans: You Think it's Bad Here? Check Out SomaliaAbout ten days ago, Ethiopia was pulling out of Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, and Islamic 'militants,' 'Islamists,' or whatever, were moving into the facilities Ethiopian troops had been using. I'm not clear on details, but today we've heard that Al Shabaab is holding key parts of Mogadishu. They've raided the Somali Parliament building, and apparently are demanding that several lawmakers surrender.
Al Shabaab may not get its way, though.
"...The situation left Somali lawmakers stranded in the neighboring country of Djibouti, where they often convene and where talks on forming a new government are under way...." (CNN)
I'm happy for them: Al Shabaab doesn't sound like a bunch any sensible person would surrender to, given a choice.
On the other hand, It says quite a bit about Somalia that its lawmakers - apparently all of them, except for the 'Islamists' - were meeting in another country. That'd be like the U.S. House and Senate meeting in Quebec.
Somebody Knocked Over Somalia's Alleged Government - So What?Somalia is far from a major player on the world stage, but it's in an important position: that's why Somali pirates were - and are - such a problem. Who's running the country does make a difference. Particularly if the people running it decide to make it into another safe haven for terrorists.
And, I've got a more personal reason.
Quite a few people from Somalia come to Minnesota. It's not the climate that draws them here: It's the jobs. As far as I know, nobody from that part of the world's moved into my town yet, but I've run into some of these new Minnesotans in the nearest small city, about an hour down the road.
I haven't asked anyone, but my guess is that many of them are concerned about what's happening, back in the 'old country.' And, I'd be a lousy neighbor if I wasn't at least a bit concerned, too.
Al Shabaab: Not a Very Nice GroupAl Shabaab isn't the sort of organization that fits well in a civilized world. The top Al Shabaab leaders seem to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, it's killed Somali peace activists, and the American government has identified Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
And, Al Shabaab may be involved in the disappearance of a dozen or so Minnesotans. Some of them may have ducked out willingly. Others should probably, under the circumstances, be considered victims.
The Distressing Case of the Disappearing MinnesotansOne of the young men was found in Somalia. His name was Shirwa Ahmed. He was from a Somali-Minnesotan family, and apparently was the star performer in a suicide bombing back in Somalia. It took DNA testing to figure out who the pieces belonged to, but he's been returned to his family, and buried.
Victim? A suicide bomber?! As I wrote last December, "I think it's very possible that Shirwa Ahmed was a suicide bomber: and I'm not excusing that act. But I also think that people can be persuaded: Particularly if the persuader claims to be using the authority of their religious beliefs."
The last I heard, the Somali connection with the disappearance of between 10 and 40 young Minnesotans hadn't been established. But it's not all that unreasonable: particularly since what seems to be another bunch dropped out of sight after Homeland Security found out that one Somali suicide bomber had been a Somali-American:
"...One homeland security official told the Financial Times investigators were trying to ascertain whether it had any connection to a group of Somali-American youths who had gone missing from Minnesota. The men disappeared from their homes after authorities determined a suicide bomber who had attacked a target in Somaliland, east Africa, was a Somali-American...." (Financial Times)
It's not 'That Trouble Over There'The odds are very good that Al Shabaab, or a like-minded group, convinced Shirwa Ahmed to leave Minnesota, and kill himself in Somalia. Units of the National Guard from Minnesota, and the other states, have been serving long, hard, tours of duty abroad. And, despite the best efforts of those who try to stop terrorists, it's possible that Al Qaeda or some other group will succeed in another attack like 9/11.
The War on Terror is very real, it isn't something that can be safely ignored, and it isn't 'over there.' It's every place where people aren't living quite the way that the Taliban or Al Qaeda - or Al Shabaab - think they should.
More-or-less related posts:
- "Recruiting for Terror? Somali Minnesotans Missing, One Found Dead"
(December 4, 2008)
- "Somali Piracy, Islamic Law, and Maybe a Piece of the Action"
(November 23, 2008)
- "Islamist fighters seize Somali government seat"
CNN (January 26, 2009)
- "TIMELINE-Ethiopians quit Somalia, Islamists seize parliament"
Reuters (January 26, 2009)
- "...a timeline of events since Islamists were driven from the capital, Mogadishu, in December 2006:..."
- "U.S. warns of possible attack on embassy in Yemen"
CNN (January 26, 2009)
- "Ethiopia pulls its troops from Somalia"
CNN (January 25, 2009)
- "Security tight, movement slow on Inauguration Day"
(January 20, 2009)
- "Late threat probed by security agencies"
Financial Times (January 20, 2009)
- "Security officials investigate Inauguration Day threat"
(January 20, 2009)
- "Islamists Take Over Ethiopian Bases in Mogadishu"
GlobalSecurity.org (January 16, 2009)
- "Somali Peace Talks Agreed to Tackle Issue of National Unity Government"
GlobalSecuity.org (November 24, 2009) Al-Shabaab"
- "Somalia's Islamic Courts Fighters Abandon Kismayo"
GlobalSecurity.org (January 1, 2007)
- "The Supreme Islamic Courts Union / al-Ittihad Mahakem al-Islamiya (ICU)"
National Counter Terrorism Center(2008)