Den prisbelönta somalisk-kenyanska journalisten Fatuma Noor publicerade i somras ett tre artiklar (1, 2, 3) långt reportage för Nairobi Star där hon med al-Shabaabs tillstånd följde en grupp nya rekryter till det heliga kriget in i Somalia.
En av rekryterna visade sig vara svensk. Och mannen som tog emot dem vid flyget var dansk.
"My trip to Hargeisa coincided with that of the nine Al Shabaab recruits who had left their homes in Canada, US and Sweden to join the militia group which is linked to the Al Qaeda.
I had interviewed some of them a week earlier. Now five of them were on the same plane headed to Hargeisa and then from there to Mogadishu.
We go through the security checks at the JKIA then we board the plane which lands in Hargeisa’s Egal International Airport two hours later. The immigration process is smooth and not as intense as it is in Nairobi. We each pay $50 (Sh4,000) for the visa. Immediately we all get a Somaliland Telecom SIM card which comes with a dollar as airtime. We exchange numbers with the recruits and I leave them to go and attend the swearing-in ceremony. Hours later, I joined the recruits at the lobby of the Star Hotel where they were waiting for their contact to arrive.
As we sip our soft drinks, the recruits are increasingly quiet. Twenty-year-old Omar Hassan who during our interview in Nairobi had been talkative and exuberant is now very quiet. He says little.
It is late afternoon when we are joined by an elderly man in his 50s whose long beard is dyed with red henna. He asks for a cup of coffee before greeting us. He is Mohammed Jimale, the recruit’s contact person in Hargeisa.
He is taken aback by my presence and demands to know who l am and what l am doing there. I tell him l had got permission from the Al Shabaab spokesman Mukhtar Rubow to interview the recruits and accompany them to Mogadishu.
He reaches for his phone, dials a number and walks away to talk. He returns smiling and in a more relaxed manner. “How are the young Somalis in Eastleigh. I have been there a lot you know,” he says. He abruptly turns to the recruits and tells them: “You all know why you are here; Allah will grant you heaven as you are protecting our religion. “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, and slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; unless they (first) fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them,” the old man continues quoting the Quran.
He tries to clear any doubts that any of the recruits may have by saying that their mission was godly. “Allah has said it. It is clear in the Quran that there is reward for all those Mujahideens who fight to protect Islam,” he says. “If any of you wants to go back they can do it now. I am sure most of you left when you were still young. All you know of Somalia is what you have seen on TV in the comfort of your lovely homes. The situation is not as it’s reported,” Jimale says. “They do not report how many of our sisters, mothers and wives that they have killed, they say we are oppressing women while all we are doing is protecting Islam. What is wrong with introducing Shariah law in an Islamic country,” he tells the new recruits.
Omar Hassan who is a Canadian citizen is worried and wants to know what they should expect in Mogadishu. “How bad are things there? What happens once we get there? Will there be security for us?” he asks. “You’re the soldiers; you’re going to protect Islam. Do not worry. You will have a place to stay but your mission is not to come back and stay but to fight,” Jimale says, adding with a chilling finality: “Mujahideen should not care much about this life but the after life.”
Jimale warns me that it is not safe to go to Mogadishu with the recruits even if l had been given permission by Rubow. “It’s not safe my daughter. I think you have your story already” he tells me in impeccable English. “I’m a Danish citizen. I came to Somalia six months ago and then moved to Hargeisa, I want to do some business here and also bring my family members,” Jimale tells me when l ask him where he is from.
He asks the recruits when their colleagues would be arriving. “They would be flying in by 3pm as we used different airlines,” said Adan Hussein in halting Somali. Jimale laughs and makes fun of the way Adan and the others speak the Somali language. “You boys need not to forget where you come from even if you have grown up around the wazungus,” he says.
Before he left, he said once the others arrive, the team will be picked by two Land Cruisers and travel to another base where they will get final debriefing before starting the jihad. “Mujahideens like you need to be fit and prepared for the battle,” he concludes.
Three other recruits— Ali Mohamud ‘Amad’ from Ohio, Khalif Abdi from Sweden and Mukhtar Abdi, a Kenyan — arrive an hour later and join their colleagues. “This place is developed; they have nice buildings and architecture. It’s completely different from what we expected,” says Amad in his American twang. “Even the hotels are state-of-the-art and the internet is fast,” says Abikar who was using his iPhone to stay connected to the net. They, however, agree that the presidential palace needs an upgrade and a facelift.
I still have a nagging question: Why leave the safety and comfort of home for a warzone? Is it only about religion or is the financial reward an added incentive? “We have been told we could be given $250 (Sh20,000) per month as foreign recruits which is a lot of money in Somalia,” Abikar says. “We all make more than that back home. Even those of us who don’t have jobs get that as pocket money, so it’s not about the money. It’s about what we believe in,” he tells me."I en artikel tecknas en bild av varför svensksomaliern sökt sig till al-Shabaab.
"Khalif Abdi’s story
Khalif Abdi’s decision to return to fight with Al Shabaab is rooted in his belief that there is a conspiracy in the West to get rid of Islam as a religion. The 24-year-old from Sweden cites the ban of the wearing of the burqa by some of the European governments, the banning of minarets on mosques as proof of this conspiracy.
“They have done it to us in Sweden and France. We cannot do much there but at home we can make a big difference and that is why I’ am going,” he told us as he waited for his contact in Nairobi to complete his travel arrangements to Mogadishu.
He admits he remembers very little of a country he left behind when he was barely ten years old. “I have no fear of going back. I have been following what is going on there and l have decided that l should join the Al Shaabab who are protecting Islam. I want to be part of that,” he says. He like many of the young people we have talked to moved with his single mother when he was just two years. “I had no idea of what was happening, all I knew is we were in Kenya and then moved from here, but that has never stopped me from learning about my home country,” he tells me, speaking the perfect English among all in the group. “We used to go to the Madrassa and we would learn so much about how the civil war started, what is happening now and although we have been absorbed in the US culture, it’s not home,” he tells me.
Dressed in a blue sweater and black shades with clearly very expensive Nike shoes, he tells me that the elders in Sweden told them that another group was coming from the United States. “We knew they were coming and am glad that it’s a big group, it will prove a point,” he said.
He also denied claims that they were recruited back home. He says they were just told of what is happening in Somalia and they made their own choices. “I have a son, they are now staying with my mother but they don’t know where I’m since I just left but I plan to call them and go back to my son,” he said. “You know there is a chance of you not going back once you are in Somalia,” I tell him, “I’m sure that this is a war that we will win and I will go back to my family and maybe once there is peace, I will come back with my son,” he says."