afrol News, 19 December - After the NATO meeting in Brussels yesterday, "well informed" sources told the German press agency DPA that Somalia would be the next target of the US led war against terrorism. The question was not "if" but "when" Phase two would commence.
The renowned German news agency had interviewed sources participating in the meeting of the Western defence alliance NATO in Brussels. The sources, demanding anonymity, confirmed attacks in Somalia had been discussed and were agreed upon.
According to the sources, the reason was that some of the terrorists that had escaped Afghanistan are believed to have found shelter in Somalia. Infamous Somali warlord Hussein Aided, who boycotts the present Somali peace talks in Nairobi, last week claimed "the al-Itihaad and the al Qa'ida terrorists who escaped from Afghanistan are already trickling back into Somalia."
- The question now is not if one is going to intervene there, but only when and with which means, the NATO source told DPA, referring to Somalia.
While US General Chief of Staff Richard Myers yesterday confirmed that Somalia could be one possible next target in the fight against terrorism, "though not necessarily a military target," their German allies know of nothing.
The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims it has no indications of such an enlargement of the conflict. Government spokesman Andreas Michaelis characterised the news an "odd message" and claimed the war against terrorism was confined to Afghanistan only.
The German and French governments earlier had warned against US attacks on named countries, such as Somalia and Iraq, saying this would seriously endanger the fragile international coalition fighting against terrorism.
Yesterday, several African countries also encouraged the US to desist from attacks on Somalia and rather cooperate with the Mogadishu transitional government.
The Somali transitional government, which has lived under the fear of possible US led attacks against its territory for some while, has offered all possible cooperation in fighting terrorists that may take shelter in their country. The government however claims there are no international terrorists in Somalia.
Somalia's new interim Prime Minister, Hassan Abshir Farah, last week even invited the US to deploy troops in the country to monitor and track down alleged terrorists activities. Not controlling the country, the transitional government needed international help to monitor and detect any possible "terrorist infiltration".
According to local broadcasters, a US government official currently is engaged in talks with Somali interim President Abdiqassim Salad Hassan in Mogadishu. According to these sources, the talks held were about how to conduct the fight against terrorism in Somalia.
The clear and repeated message by the Somali transitional government that the al Qa'ida network is routed out in the country and that Somalia is willing to assist in operations against international terrorism seems to have reached the US government.
When US Defence Minister Rumsfeld in Brussels was asked whether he was happy with the cooperation of several governments in Africa and the Middle East, he answered; "Well, there are, obviously, a number of countries that have active al Qa'ida cells, and Yemen is one. Sudan is, obviously, one. Somalia used to be a location where senior al Qa'ida officials spent time."
Further, most calls for a US attack on Somalia have come by Somali warlords and separatists, opposing the transition government that only controls parts of the capital. Information about al Qa'ida cells in Somalia also have come from sources wishing to overthrow the Mogadishu government, which has offered all possible help to the US and the UN on tracking down possible terrorist activities in Somalia.
The latest US statements, together with the cooperative stance of the Mogadishu government, therefore seem to point towards limited operations involving Somali government assistance. The interim government playing its cards well, this could very well mean it finally has a chance to gain control of Somali territory outside the capital.