fredag, november 05, 2010

Allt du skulle vilja veta om Shabaab, men varit för skraj att fråga om

I Göteborg står två svensksomalier åtalade för terroristbrott. Hur kan det komma sig att somalisk terrorism är en fråga i Sverige?

I våras skrev forskarna Michael Taarnby och Lars Hallundbaek en utmärkt rapport till det danska justitieministeriet, Al-Shabaab – The Internationalization of Militant Islamism in Somalia and the Implications for Radicalisation Processes in Europe, om somalisk terrorism och hur den är kopplad till våra nordliga länder. Här beskrivs den militanta islamismens rötter – och den går långt tillbaka i historien – och här beskrivs kontakterna över sundet i den nordiska somaliska diasporan.

Det är mycket lärorik läsning.

En sak är dock tragisk. I notapparaten så hänvisar forskarna nästan hela tiden till annan forskning eller till etablerade nyhetsmedier. Men i de svenska delarna kommer flera hänvisningar till denna blogg. Smickrande för undertecknad, förvisso, men tyder inte det på att våra svenska nyhetsjournalister är sämre på att rapportera dessa frågor än i andra länder?

Rapporten innehåller mycket mer om Sverige, men nedan citerar jag bara det kapitel som har just den rubriken.

The Somali diaspora in Scandinavia has been comparatively more active in supporting ICU and al- Shabaab, particularly in Sweden and Denmark. Sweden takes a prominent role in the recruitment to Somalia because of the actual numbers of Swedish citizens or residents who have joined the insurgents. Equally interesting is the current role of a former imam in Sweden who presently occupies a senior position in al-Shabaab. According to SÄPO, the Swedish intelligence service, an estimated 20 individuals have left Sweden for Somali to train in militant camps or to fight with al- Shabaab. Of these, about five have been killed in fighting and ten are still believed to be active in Somalia. The security service added that this number might be higher, since the traffic is ongoing and increasing. The Swedish fighters are primarily of Somali origin but individuals with other ethnic backgrounds have also been attracted, and they were between the age of 20 and 30. Noteworthy is the fact that some of the young men have left without telling their families, which resembles the pattern of disappearance noted in other countries. Somali government officials who have visited Sweden have expressed their concern over the recruitment of Somalis in Sweden who take up arms with al-Shabaab ad have called for greater vigilance.

An early case from 2006 linked a Swedish citizen with Yemen and militant Islamist from the ICU in Somalia. Abdo Osman was arrested in October 2006 in Yemen where he had held meetings with a Yemeni arms dealer, Abdullah Awad al-Masri. Osman had expressed interest in purchasing surface-to-air missiles, sniper rifles, Kalashnikovs, and ammunition on behalf of his controller, known as Qarqaz from the ICU. Initially charged with weapons and explosives trafficking from Yemen to Somalia, Osman was later acquitted and released.

In January 2007, Somali government officials stated that Swedish citizens aligned with the ICU had been killed in the fighting. Another Swede would be killed in June the same year in northeastern Somalia when his group of foreign fighters was targeted in a U.S. air strike. Five different passports were recovered after the battle, identifying the deceased as coming from Sweden, the U.S., Eritrea, the UK and Yemen. Furthermore, a Swedish couple was arrested by the Ethiopians in 2007, but were later returned to Sweden after having been detained for three months in Ethiopia suspected of terrorist affiliations. They were trying to escape the fighting and the young pregnant women was in the company of Maldonado’s wife which attracted the interest of several intelligence agencies. Safia Benaouda and her husband, Munir Awad, would be arrested once again in Pakistan in August 2009 in the company of former Guantanamo inmate Mehdi Ghezali, also from Sweden. Pakistani authorities suspected the group of foreigners, who also included other nationaities, of travelling to a terrorist meeting in Waziristan.

Probably the most prominent foreign fighter from Europe left Sweden for good to resettle in Somalia in 2004. Fouad Mohamed Qalaf, better known as Fouad Shongole, had actively supported militant Islamists in Somalia for an extended period. He lived in Sweden from 1994 but decided to leave when he felt the unwanted attention of the security service. In the 1990s he served as the imam of a small mosque in Rinkeby outside Stockholm where he was known as a skilled orator who could capture his audience. In an interview with Swedish media, a Somali who knew Shongole while he lived in Sweden, described him as a hardcore guy who would preach Jihad from his mosque and also went to Afghanistan to fight. He was very clear in his views during the sermons and said that Americans and Jews should be exterminated. During the rule of the ICU, Shongole belonged to the inner circle of the leadership and actually occupied the position as minister of education. Sources inside al-Shabaab have indicated that at the time Shongole was centrally placed to handle the recruitment of foreign fighters. At an ICU rally outside Mogadishu in 2006, presided by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Shongole was also present to receive a financial donation from a delegation of Somalis who had travelled from Sweden. Shongole used the occasion to encourage all Somalis living in Europe to move back to Somalia. To live among the infidels was unacceptable and he used his own example of migration with his family to encourage others to follow. The exact role of Fouad Shongole was somewhat murky for a while, but he has since emerged as one of the principal leaders and ideologues of al-Shabaab. His influence and standing reached a new level when he appeared as the third on the list of al-Shabaab leaders who signed the declaration of the official merger with al-Turki’s Ras Komboni Brigade in late January 2010. He is currently residing in Kismayo where he has played a crucial role in the implementation of Sharia justice. The stoning of Asho Duhulow mentioned previously was conducted according to Shongole’s orders as was the punishment by amputation of convicted thieves.

Gouled Hassan Dourad, alias Guleed Hassan Ahmed and Hanad, was born in Somalia but his family sent him abroad when the civil war began in 1991. He arrived in Germany and subsequently relocated to Sweden in 1993 where he gained asylum. Dourad attended a mosque in Sweden where the imam facilitated his travel to the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan for ten months in 1996. It has not been established if the organizer was Fouad Shongole though this appears very likely. After finishing a course in assassination techniques, Dourad returned to Somalia in late 1996 where he joined up with al-Ittihad and became a full member of the group in 1997. He was committed to the Jihadi cause because he wanted to regain the Ogaden region from Ethiopia. He fought continuously between1997 and 2002 when he was not training al-Ittihad recruits. When Abu Talha as-Sudani went into hiding in Mogadishu following the Mombasa attacks in November 2002, he later recruited Dourad because of his Afghan experience, his language skills, and education. According to U.S. intelligence transcripts, Dourad was the head of an al-Ittihad cell in Mogadishu tasked with supporting al-Qaeda operatives in Somalia. He was involved in money transfers, arranging safe houses and procuring weapons and explosives and was intimately involved in various terrorist plots. His luck ran out in 2004 when he was captured in Mogadishu by U.S. backed warlords, and is presently held at Guantanamo as a high value detainee. The summary of evidence presented at the tribunal at Guantanamo stated that Dourad had been a prominent member of al- Ittihad who had received extensive training in Afghanistan and Somalia. He had personally taken part in al-Ittihad operations in Mogadishu in 2002 that targeted Ethiopians and those suspected of collaborating with them. Besides these charges, he was also identified as an al-Qaeda cell leader in Djibouti and a senior facilitator. In September and October 2003 he conducted surveillance at the U.S. base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti on behalf of as-Sudani in preparation for a vehicle suicide bombing.

Sweden has also played an important role in relation to fundraising and distribution of propaganda on behalf of Somali Jihadis. The website has distributed press releases from al- Shabaab in English and Arabic. This website is owned by Ralf Wadman, known as Abu Usama al- Swede, who is a Swedish convert and a former neo-Nazi. In September 2008, organized an online session on Paltalk with Sheikh Robow and Shongole who prematurely proclaimed that Somalia would very soon become an Islamic emirate. Several Swedes with Somali background have been arrested on suspicion of fundraising for al-Shabaab. In the best known case, Yassin Ali was arrested in April 2008 together with two other suspects, but the prosecutor dropped the case in September because of insufficient evidence. Ali moved to the UK where he was arrested once again in May 2009 on identical charges. After his release he returned to Somalia where he assumed a leadership position in Hizbul-Islam which was still allied with al-Shabaab at the time. The support to al-Shabaab in Scandinavia also involves transnational linkages, especially between Sweden and Denmark, and some of these will be highlighted in the following section.