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Foreigners Among Extremists Receiving Training In Mogadishu's Terrorist Camps
US Counter-Terror Intelligence In The Region Deliberately Ignored Warning Somaliland On Imminent Terrorist Attack In September 2005
Hargeysa, Somaliland, December 10, 2005 (SL Times) – The Somaliland Times has learnt that at least several dozens of religious extremists from countries in Europe and the Middle East have undergone training during this year in two Mogadishu based terrorist camps run by Hassan Aweys and Adan Hashi "Ayro". The trainees included at least 10 UK citizens of Somali and South Asian origin.
Apart from an intensive indoctrination in a new form of fundamentalist Islamic ideology advocating Jihad (holy war) for the establishment of a Caliphate (Islamic state) encompassing all the Somali-inhabited territories in the Horn of Africa, the recruits undergo a rigorous military training in commando assault and marksmanship before being taught how to make explosives from locally available material.
The two camps have been codenamed Baytul-Amn (Safe haven) and Salah Al-Diin, a Muslim military leader who liberated Jerusalem from the crusaders in the year 1187.
Baytul Amn is located near the Islamic Courts headquarters in Mogadishu . The other training facility has been established at Shikaro, a neighborhood in Somalia 's lawless capital.
The training program followed at the two camps has been based on known Al-Qaida manuals. Though most of the instructors are Somalis, however techniques for making powerful bombs and their timers from easily available material in the market is taught by Arab Afghans.
A training cycle might vary from one month to 3 months depending on the type of skills being learnt. Each trainee is identified by a codename and is required not to disclose his real identities to other members of the group or seek to know similar details concerning other recruits. Trainees are grouped into small size units and members of one group need not be aware of the existence of others in the same area of operation.
About 50 participants may undergo training at one particular period. Until now most of those who received training in the camps were Somalis from Somalia . However at least 15 Somalilanders are believed to have gone there since early this year.
Recruits from the UK are trained for future terrorist operations in Britain . The UK cell is also responsible for raising funds among Somalis and other Muslim communities living in Britain under the guise of charity.
The Hassan Aweys – Ayro group considers Somaliland 's ongoing stability and democratization process as a dangerous challenge to its goal of creating an Islamic state in the Horn. Somaliland is denoted in the camps as the "northern regions". Though the name " Somalia " is allowed to be used however pronouncing the word " Somaliland " is almost tantamount to a taboo. Somaliland is also referred to as the place where people worship a Sanam (fetish object) called "peace".
The Aweys – Ayro group is believed to have been founded in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001 . However despite its Jihadist rhetoric, the group's main activities in chaotic Somalia has so far centered on the running of Islamic courts in Mogadishu as well as securing of logistical support and hide-outs for international Muslim extremists operating against western interests in the wider region.
Frustrated with the lack of targets in Somalia and the inability to challenge the power of dominant militiamen belonging to various clans and gangs, the group shifted its attention toward Somaliland which started introducing multiparty politics in early 2002.
Hassan Aweys, a former colonel in the army of former dictator Siyad Barre, decreed in 2002 that a violent campaign targeting westerns working in Somaliland be launched. The campaign was initiated with a failed attempt to kidnap a vehicle owned by the United Nations World Food Programme in September 2002. The vehicle was transporting WFP staff from work to their homes when it was stopped at gun point by 5 men wrapping clothes around their faces. One of the attackers shot the driver for showing resistance. However, the kidnappers had to abandon the vehicle at a location within 10 kilometers to the south of Hargeysa as it ran out of fuel. The driver who survived the incident later informed the investigators that the attackers spoke Somali with a heavy Somalia accent.
In March 2004 it would be revealed that the objective of the group in this operation was to score local and international publicity from the kidnapping and execution of at least one of the WFP's foreign expatriate staff. However the failure of the operation prompted the leaders of the terrorist group to seek the collaboration of extremists elements living in Somaliland .
Towards the end of 2002 and with the help of 2 Somalilanders who previously fought in Afghanistan , a Somaliland cell was formed from former Al-Itihad militants.
On December 30, 2002 or 15 days after Somaliland 's first democratic municipal elections were held, Swiss businessman Juti Martin was assassinated in Hargeysa. The local council elections and a successful multiparty presidential election that followed in April 2003 had ushered in a general mood of optimism and hope when terrorists struck again first by killing Annalena Tonelli, an Italian women who ran a TB hospital in Borama, on October 5, 2003 and then Richard and Enid Eyeington, a British couple who managed the Sheikh secondary school, on October 20, 2003.
The killings not only shocked Somalilanders but their motives remained a puzzle until March 19, 2004 when Kenyan aid worker Flora Cheruiyot was shot dead while traveling in a vehicle from Hargeysa to Berbera. The killers were apprehended while trying to escape across the border with Ethiopia en-route to Somalia . Among those arrested was Ali Mussa Mohamed nicknamed "Ali Foal" who confessed that he took part in the operation against the WFP vehicle.
This group's leader, Jama Ali Ismail, better known as Jama Kutiye revealed to investigators that he went on at least 2 reconnaissance missions to Sheikh Secondary School before the killing of the Eyeingtons. Kutiye denied taking part in the killing, but he identified Ali Mohamed Essa as the man who gave him the assignment for information gathering. Mr. Essa who owned a pharmacy in Buroa was already crossing the border into Somalia when the Somaliland police mounted search for his arrest. Somaliland security authorities shared the information obtained from the 5 arrested terrorist suspects with officers from the American counter terror intelligence.
In less than one year after his escape from Buroa, Somaliland , American agents tracked down Essa to a hideout in Mogadishu . He was wounded and then abducted to an American base in Djibouti where he was interrogated. The Americans later accepted to hand him over to Somaliland through the Ethiopians. Ali Mohamed Essa revealed that he and another man by the name of Ahmed Elmi Samater had carried out the killing of the Eyeingtons. Samater who worked as a technician for Telesom (ex-Barakat) a local telecommunication company, was shocked when policemen came for his arrest at his Buroa apartment as no nobody else was aware about his involvement in the Eyeington's killing except Essa.
By early this year, 15 people went on trial before Hargeysa's regional court for the killings of Tonelli, the Eyeingtons and Cheruiyot. Four of the accused were tried in absentia while eleven suspects appeared before the court which was presided by judge Abdirahman Hayan. The prosecutor demanded the death penalty for the all the accused. The court concluded its hearings on August 30, 2005 with judge Hayan setting September 24 as the date for the announcement of the verdicts. Somaliland 's first multiparty parliamentary elections were scheduled to take place on September 29.
Meanwhile in Mogadishu , Hassan Aweys and Ayro were busily planning a major terrorist attack in the heart of Somaliland 's capital, Hargeysa. Besides causing a situation of maximum chaos and blood letting, the operation called for the kidnapping of John Drysdale, an elderly British who lives in Somaliland , Matt Brydon an analyst working for the International Crisis Group, and a number of international observers who were expected to arrive in Somaliland for monitoring the September 29 polls. A number of senior officials in the Somaliland government were also targeted for abduction or assassination.
The terrorists were to demand that the Somaliland authorities free their comrades facing the death penalty in exchange for the safe release of the hostages. But the taking of hostages was to be resorted to only if a more ambitious plan seeking the complete take over of the political power in Somaliland by fundamentalist militant forces, failed. Though US intelligence circles in the region were aware about the plan, they however refrained from passing the information to their counterparts in Somaliland .
By September 20, 2005 , at least 10 members of the group assigned to spearhead the planned attacks were already in Hargeysa. On the night of September 22, the Somaliland police raided the hide-out of the group in the most easterly suburb of Hargeysa city.
In the shoot out that ensued, 4 terrorist suspects were arrested while others escaped. During the firefighting 3 police officers were wounded while an assortment of lethal weapons such as plastic anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines and remote-controlled exploding devices were seized. The cache also included communication equipment mobile telephones, walkie-talkies and propaganda material glorifying Jihad against infidels. Among the suspected terrorists who fled the scene was Abdirahman Mahmud Jama better known as Indha-Ade, who was wanted for the murder of Annalena Tonelli and in connection with other terrorism-related activities. He fell into the hands of the police in the morning following the night raid as he was traveling in a car going to Buroa. At least 10 more arrests were believed to have been made by the police after Indha-Ade's capture.
Indha-Ade was among the group of 15 terrorist suspects already on trial by Hargeysa's regional court for the murder of four foreign aid workers and other unrelated counts of carjacking and armed robbery. He and other 3 suspects were being tried in absentia before the September 22 incident.
Eight of the defendants were sentenced to death for the killing of the Eyeingtons and Flora Cheruiyot while seven others were given life sentences for their part in the murders.
Judge Hayan ordered further investigation into the killing of Annalena Tonelli as there was no sufficient evidence to find any of the defendants guilty of her murder. The court also ruled that more investigation was needed to be done with regard to the accusations against defendants Adan Hashi Ayro and Abdi Aw Mahmud (Godane). The two are wanted for masterminding the murder of the four aid workers and still remain at large.
Meanwhile the Somaliland government has declined to meet a request by American counter-terror intelligence officers operating in the region to take custody of one of the terrorist suspects captured following the September 22 police raid. It wasn't yet clear why this particular suspect was so important for the Americans. But the Somaliland authorities justified their rejection of handing over the suspect to the Americans on the ground that he was a Somaliland national who was required to stand trial in Somaliland soon for terrorism.