"Somalis fear US attacks"

War on terrorism
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Somalia living under the threat of a US strike 

11.10.2001 - Report of the UN Secretary-General on the situation in Somalia 

Somalia Archive 
War on Terrorism 
News, Africa

In Internet
Sunday Times  

afrol News, 5 December - According to press reports from the Somali capital Mogadishu, "people talk about leaving town" in fear of US strikes against Somalia. Rumours have it Somalia will be the next target in the "War against terrorism".

As afrol News earlier has reported, many indications point to US strikes against Somalia in the confirmed "Phase two" of the US lead war on terrorism. Organisations close to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, especially the Somali al-Itihaad, have been isolated as being involved in terrorism. US closure of Somali financial organisations also underlines the US suspects Somali links to al Qa'ida.

The news of possible strikes against Somalia indeed has reached the Somali capital, press reports from Mogadishu confirm. A BBC team visiting Mogadishu last week however "found everyone united in asserting that there were no terrorist training camps in the country." 

Somalis also assure that al-Itihaad, which earlier had been a mighty organisation, now was "fragmented" and had lost its capability to host terrorist or being involved with terrorism. 1997 Ethiopian attacks on its assumed training camps several years ago had destroyed al-Itihaad's infrastructure. 

Al-Itihaad, together with al Qa'ida, was held responsible for the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing 200 persons. According to US government allegations, al-Itihaad's camps in Somalia had been the base of operation for these bomb attacks. 

Both Somalis and UN specialists warn against US strikes against Somalia. Somalis claim that, if there are terrorists in the country, they are isolated and few, most international terrorists already having left. "Any American attack would be a great mistake," frightened Somalis told the BBC, claiming such an attack might provoke the establishment of real terrorist groups.

Also the UN secretary general's special representative for Somalia, David Stephen, warns against US attacks against Somalia. "No one has come up with evidence which I have found convincing that there are, for example, terrorist camps in Somalia," he says. 

A US attack would "be a mistake of great proportions," says Stephen. "Of course the reaction will be negative. It will be a breeding ground for all sorts of terrorists, who may pretend to defend the state and come to Somalia after that intervention." 

Also the German and French governments have warned the US that attacks on Iraq or Somalia would be seen as negative by European governments as it would jeopardise the existing alliance against terrorism. Also Arab countries warn against such a development.

The US however maintains the war on terrorism will not be over after a victory is assured in Afghanistan. "Targets linked to Osama Bin Laden in Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will be at the top of the hit list," the 'Sunday Times' recently wrote, quoting "senior sources" in Washington.

Military preparations had also begun, "though plans to strike specific targets have not yet been finalised. The first targets, according to British sources, could be hit as early as late January if the war in Afghanistan is nearing its final stages by then." 

Meanwhile, Somalis are making their preparations. Mogadishu media talk about people leaving the capital. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with al-Qa'ida or associated groups is "discreetly arranging to be elsewhere," BBC reports. 

David Steven still hopes US strikes against Somali can be avoided. He would prefer the increased attention on Somalia to be directed towards helping the fragile Mogadishu government establish itself as a real central government. The UN specialist hopes "the world will revisit its attitude toward failed states and be more wholehearted in getting them back on their feet.".

Sources: UN, press reports and afrol archives Texts and graphics may be reproduced freely, under the condition that their origin is clearly referred to, see Conditions.

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