INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO.601
An as yet unnamed (by the Danish Police) 28-year-old Somali, resident in Denmark, was arrested by the Danish Police on New Year's Day after they had promptly intervened and thwarted an attempt made by him to trespass into the house of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in the city of Aarhus with an alleged intent to kill him with an axe and a knife. He allegedly tried to attack the intervenig police party before he was overpowered. He thus faces two charges of attempting to kill the cartoonist and attacking the police.
2.The cartoonist had incurred the wrath of some sections of the Muslim Ummah in 2005 for drawing a cartoon of Prophet Mohammad sporting a bomb in his hair. Since then, the cartoonist has been under high protection by the Danish Police and Intelligence. He escaped the attempt on January 1,2010, thanks to his alertness in noticing the intending assailant and calling the police through a pre-arranged drill. The credit for the failure of the attempt should go to the cartoonist himself as well as to the Police. Both acted as per the drill for physical security laid down by the police after he started receiving threats in 2005.
3. It goes to the credit of the police and the Danish intelligence that they had not allowed the absence of any attack since 2005 to make them self-complacent. Moreover, the Danish Police and intelligence were doubly alert after the arrest of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana of the Chicago cell of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) by the USA's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October,2009.
4. The pre-arrest electronic surveillance of these two LET operatives----- both of Pakistani origin, with Headley holding the US nationality and Rana the Canadian nationality--- and their post-arrest interrogation brought out that the 313 Brigade of Pakistan headed by Ilyas Kashmiri and the LET were planning to use Headley for another major terrorist strike in India and for an attack on the Danish paper, which had published the cartoons in 2005. The LET was keen on the Indian attack and the 313 Brigade on the Danish attack, which had been code-named Operation Micky Mouse.
5. At the instance of Ilyas Kashmiri, Headley had visited Denmark twice to collect operational information to facilitate the attack. He was arrested by the FBI on October 3,2009, before he could leave Chicago for Pakistan along with the operational details collected by him. A perusal of the affidavits filed by the FBI before a Chicago court showed that while Ilyas Kashmiri was interested in a spectacular strike in Copenhagen similar to Mumbai 26/11, Headley himself preferred an assassination of the journalists responsible which, he felt, would be more feasible.
6. What Ilyas and Headley failed to achieve due to the alertness of the FBI, the Somali, not yet named by the Danish police, sought to achieve on New Year's Day. The thwarted attempt of the Somali illustrates once again the homing pigeon tactics of Al Qaeda, which keeps persisting in its jihadi trajectory despite failures and set-backs. The timely arrest of Headley did not lead to its giving up its objective of taking revenge against the cartoonist.
7. The following details of the arrested Somali are presently available:
(a), He has been residing in Denmark for some time with a legal permit, but one does not know when he moved to Denmark and from where.
(b).The media has quoted Jakob Scharf, who heads the Danish intelligence service PET, as saying that the attack was "terror related" and that the assailant had close contacts with Al Shabaab. He had been under surveillance for activities unrelated to Westergaard. Al Shabaab is considered the Somali wing of Al Qaeda. Scharf added : "The incident once again confirms the terrorist threat that is directed against Denmark and against cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, in particular".
8.At a news conference in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, who has been described by the media as a spokesman of Al Shabaab, reportedly said, "We are very happy with the Somali national who attacked the house of the Danish cartoonist who previously insulted our prophet Mohammed. This is an honor for the Somali people. We are telling that we are glad that anyone who insults Islam should be attacked wherever they are." Thus, the organisation has expressed its approval of the attempted attack without claiming responsibility for it.
9. The Danish Police and Intelligence will now be investigating the background and links of the arrested Somali. A question, which should be of interest to investigators in Denmark, the US and India is: Did he have any contacts with Headley? Did Headley meet him during his two visits to Denmark?
10. This may be read in continuation of my earlier article of December 4,2009, titled "The Somali Front of the Global Jihad" at
http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/papers36/paper3534.html , which is annexed for easy reference (3-1-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org )
The Somali Front of the Global Jihad -- International Terrorism Monitor --- Paper No.584 ( December 4,2009)
By B. Raman
Al Qaeda looks upon its continuing jihad against the so-called Crusaders --- thereby meaning essentially the US, Israel and their supporters--- as a global intifada waged on many fronts and through many means. In this global jihad, Afghanistan, Somalia and Algeria are seen as battle fronts, which will determine the ultimate outcome. Afghanistan is seen as the core of the battle, Somalia as its southern front and Algeria as the Western front.
2. In a message disseminated on December 20, 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, said: “Brothers in Islam and Jihad in Somalia: know that you are on the southern garrison of Islam, so don’t allow Islam to be attacked from your flank, and know that we are with you, and that the entire Muslim Ummah is with you. So don’t lose heart, or fall into despair, for you must dominate if you are true in faith. And know that you are fending off the same Crusade which is fighting your brothers in Islam in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon. So be resolute, be patient and be optimistic, for by Allah beside whom there is no other God, even if your enemies possess thousands of tons of iron and explosives, in their chests lie the hearts of mice. So be severe against them like Muhammad was. "
3. To keep the jihad going in Somalia is one of its important objectives. For this purpose, it uses not only recruits from the impoverished local population, but also from the Somali diaspora in the West----including the US--- as well as jihad-hardened cadres sent from the battle fronts in the Af-Pak region. The Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) of Pakistan has had a long history of contacts with the Muslim population in Somalia and East African countries just as it has with the Muslim population of Chechnya and Dagestan. Though the TJ itself does not indulge in acts of terrorism, it plays an important role in facilitating the ideological motivation of the population on behalf of Al Qaeda.
4. In September 2009, Al Shabaab, meaning “The Lads”, an organization of Somali youths, was reported to have disseminated through Islamic web sites usually identified with Al Qaeda a 48-minute video documentary in which it proclaimed its allegiance to Osama bin Laden. It derives its name “The Lads” from the fact that it used to be the youth wing of a fundamentalist organization called the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had established control over some parts of Somalia and was ultimately crushed by invading Ethiopian troops in 2006. While the elders of the UIC disappeared after being defeated by the better trained and better armed Ethiopian troops allegedly inspired and aided by the US, the Al Shabaab replaced the UIC as a born-again jihadi organization, which was determined to continue the jihad against the troops of the African Union, which had replaced the Ethiopian troops, and of the UN-backed local Government, which it viewed as apostate.
5. Though Somalis had participated in acts of suicide terrorism on behalf of Al Qaeda in other countries, suicide terrorism was unknown in Somalia itself till Al Shabaab made its appearance in 2006. Even though it proclaimed its loyalty to bin Laden only in September, 2009, it had carried out a number of acts of suicide terrorism against local Government targets as well as the peace-keeping troops of the African Union ever since the AU troops took over their peace-keeping responsibility in Somalia. Al Shabaab has been waging a two-front jihad---- against the AU troops and the local Government being protected by the AU troops. The first act of suicide terrorism took place on September 18, 2006. Since then, there have been 13 suicide attacks--- two in 2006, four in 2007, two in 2008 and five this year.
6. The Al Shabaab cadres, many of whom had allegedly served with the Afghan Mujahideen, the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the Af-Pak region, look upon their jihad as similar to the jihad waged by the Afghan Mujahideen against the Soviet troops and those of the Government of the then President Najibullah in the 1980s and the early 1990s.
7. In a serious attack of suicide terrorism, a male suicide bomber dressed as a woman managed to find his way into a graduation ceremony of medical students in a Mogadishu hotel on December 3, 2009, and blew himself up killing 19 persons, including three Ministers of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke of the UN-backed Government. Even though no organization has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, Al Shabaab is strongly suspected by the local authorities.
8. Though there is so far no evidence of any nexus between Al Shabaab and the Somali pirates, the dangers of money earned from piracy going to the coffers of Al Qaeda and the availability in Somalia of sea-faring people who could be used by Al Qaeda for future acts of maritime terrorism cannot be ignored.
9. A Reuters report carried on December 4, 2009, by the “Daily Times” of Lahore has quoted Bethuel Kiplagat, who used to be Kenya’s special envoy to the Somalia peace process from 2003 to 2005, as saying as follows: “Suicide bombings are a worrying trend not only for Somalia but also the region. There has been a rise in fundamentalism in Somalia coming from the Middle East and Pakistan. There’s a worry Al Qaeda may be looking at Somalia as a new sanctuary.”
10. On March 16, 2009, Mohamed Mohamed of the BBC’s Somali section, reported as follows: “As well as alleged links to al-Qaeda it is said to have Arabs, Asians, other Africans and - America's FBI believes - Westerners among its ranks. These foreigners are said to be involved in training Al Sabaab recruits in various aspects of guerrilla warfare, including suicide bombings and booby traps.”
11. On February 29, 2008, the then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice designated Al Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com)