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Sunday, July 31, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

'Enormous' amount of air travel to, from Somalia concerns U.S.

WASHINGTON — Somalia has become an increasingly attractive venue for Americans recruited by Al Qaida.


More than 40 Americans have been recruited by Al Qaida-aligned militias, particularly Al Shabab, in Somalia. These Americans, one of them a Baptist Christian from Alabama, decided to leave their homes to fight and often die for the Al Qaida rebellion in the Horn of Africa state.

"Not Al Qaida, nor any of its other affiliates, have come close to drawing so many Muslim-Americans and Westerners to jihad," House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Peter King said. "We must face the reality that Al Shabab is a growing threat to our homeland."

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On July 27, the New York Republican held hearings in Congress on the recruitment of Canadians and Americans by Al Shabab, deemed by the late Osama bin Laden "one of the most important armies in Islam."

Officials told the committee that Americans recruited by Al Shabab — some of them in mosques in Minneapolis and San Diego — were being trained in Somalia in bombing and other skills, Middle East Newsline reported. They said the Americans could be ordered to return home and conduct mass-casualty strikes in the United States.

"There is an enormous amount of travel by Somali-Americans between U.S. cities and East Africa," King said. "While most of this travel is legitimate senior U.S. counterterror officials have told the committee they are very concerned about individuals they have not identified who have fallen in with Al Shabab during trips to Somalia, who could return to the U.S. undetected."

Leading U.S. commanders have agreed that Al Shabab represented the new strategy of Al Qaida in the wake of the U.S. assassination of bin Laden. They cited AQAP, the alleged patron of Al Shabab, as a network that utilizes dual nationals, including Americans.

"It [Al Qaida] will morph, it will disperse," Adm. Eric Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces, told the Aspen Security Forum on July 27. "It will become in some ways more westernized, [with] dual passport holders, fewer cave dwellers."

In all, 18 of the Americans and Canadians were killed fighting with Al Shabab. Three of the Americans were said to have become suicide bombers.

"They [Al Shabab] are engaged in an ongoing, successful effort to recruit and radicalize dozens of Muslim-American jihadis, who pose a direct threat to the U.S.," King said.

The committee, criticized by Muslim groups for its examination of Islamic radicalism, has assessed that Al Shabab was linked to Al Qaida. Staffers said the link was strongest with Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen.

"It is deeply troubling that from the very beginning, the Muslim-Americans in Somalia were trained by top Al Qaida operatives, including several who were tied to Yemen's Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which is now generally considered our biggest homeland threat," King said.

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