Dozens of Islamic extremists have returned to Britain from terror training camps in Somalia, the British security services believe.
Intelligence analysts are worried that they may attempt to launch attacks in this country or use the kudos from having trained and fought in Somalia to try to attract new recruits. The issue was raised by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, in his first interview last month.
In the US, the outgoing head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, has said that Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in late 2006 “catalysed” expatriate Somalis around the world.
An investigation for Channel 4 News, to be broadcast tonight, also reveals that a suicide bomber who grew up in Ealing is thought to have blown himself up in an attack in Somalia that killed more than 20 soldiers.
The incident is the first reported case involving a Somali based in Britain and will add to pressure on Scotland Yard and the Home Office to tackle the problem within the Somali community, which, at about 250,000 people, is the biggest in Europe.
“Pakistan rightly gets the most attention in terms of external threats,” a senior counter-terrorism source said. “But we believe we should focus more on the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular.” […]
Case study: From business student to suicide-bomber
Case study: When poverty and lack of education/opportunity don’t cause terrorism:
The British Somali who became a suicide bomber had abandoned a business studies course at Oxford Brookes University (Jonathan Rugman writes). The 21-year-old from Ealing, West London, reportedly blew himself up at a checkpoint in the southern Somali town of Baidoa in October 2007 after crossing into Somalia by foot from Kenya.
News reports at the time said that the Somali Prime Minister was staying at a nearby hotel but escaped. Somali jihadist websites claimed that more than 20 Ethiopian soldiers were killed. The bomber was a member of al-Shabaab — The Youth — militia, which is fighting to impose Islamic law. Its brutal tactics include decapitating alleged spies with knives. Six aid workers were reportedly killed by the group last December.
It is not clear whether Britain’s security services are aware of the Ealing student’s case. His family, who still live in London, want his name withheld to avoid reprisals.
The man had recorded a martyrdom video in which he urged Somalia’s refugee diaspora to join him in his jihad. “Oh my people, know that I am doing this martyrdom operation for the sake of Allah,” he said. “I advise you to migrate to Somalia and wage war against your enemies. Death in honour is better than life in humiliation.”
Sheikh Ahmed Aabi, a moderate Somali religious leader in Kentish Town, northwest London, said that he knew of the Ealing case and had heard from other families of sons travelling to Somalia to join warring Islamist groups. “I’m hearing it from parents,” he said. “They say they [their children] are joining the jihad. I am hearing there are a lot of people. This is a big problem facing our community.”
And what is Aabi doing about it?