A major foreign policy development is challenging the new US administration; ironically from a region where Obama has strong familial, political and ethnic ties. As the Washington Post and other news sources have been reporting, the radical Islamic group Al-Shabab is now tightening control over all of southern Somalia, eliminating the last remaining strongholds of government forces. But the group, is also threatening to expand its Jihad throughout Northeastern Africa, most especially into neighboring Kenya.
(Al-Shabab leader Abu Mansuur making a pronouncement of Jihad in photo).
The Al-Shabab are Muslim extremists, with strong ties to Al Qaeda. They support the imposition of strict Sharia Law throughout Somalia. According to CNN 4/18: Alshabab declared that it would continue fighting until Sharia law is imposed in Somalia... strict interpretation of Sharia forbids girls from attending school, requires veils for women and beards for men, and bans music and television.
Obama's growing predicament
From the Post, 04/11:
Obama Team mulls aims of Somali extremists: Sees potential terror threatKenya in Crisis
Senior Obama administration officials are debating how to address a potential terrorist threat to U.S. interests from a Somali extremist group, with some in the military advocating strikes against its training camps... Al-Shabab, whose fighters have battled Ethiopian occupiers and the tenuous Somali government, poses a dilemma for the administration, according to several senior national security officials who outlined the debate only on the condition of anonymity.
The organization's rapid expansion, ties between its leaders and al-Qaeda, and the presence of Americans and Europeans in its camps have raised the question of whether a preemptive strike is warranted.
An attack against al-Shabab camps in southern Somalia would mark the administration's first military strike outside the Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan war zones.
"There is increasing concern about what terrorists operating in Somalia might do," a U.S. counterterrorism official said. According to other senior officials, the camps have graduated hundreds of fighters.
This is all taking place at the same time as a Constitutional crisis is gripping the Kenyan Government. Prime Minister Raila Odinga, is making a power play to seize control of the governing board which will oversee the next elections. (Source: Kenya-Somali blog).
Odinga is first cousin to US President Barack Hussein Obama. Odinga and his supporters have been accused of being responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of non-Muslims in Northern Kenya villages prior to the 2006 elections.
Upon his ascension as Prime Minister, in 2007, PM Odinga invited "moderate" members of Mungiki to join in the new government known as the "Grand Coalition." Some African opposition blogs have alleged that Mungiki supporters now serve in high posts under Odinga. (Source - MajimboKenya.com)
The Mungiki are now leading a violent uprising in nothern and central regions of the Nation, while also fanning violence in the slums of the Capitol City in Nairobi. Mungiki rebels who support the imposition of strict Sharia Law, have brutally hacked to death hundreds of villagers in remote regions who've opposed their local rule. It is rumored that Odinga approves of the actions.
Some news reporters and bloggers out of Africa have also suggested that the Mungiki are being supported by outside Muslim extremists groups, from Somalia, Sudan, and Ethopia. The Mungiki's "Mafia style" operation is transporting weapons and funds from these sources into the hands of Mungiki fighters on the ground inside of Kenya. (More info on Mungiki weapons trade: "Mungiki infiltrate Kenyan Police" Kenyan Politics)
Al-Shabab Piracy near Kenyan waters
MajimboKenya.com (In Swahili - "Region News")is reporting:
Another Reason for the Increased Focus in Kenya is the Somalia Situation. Most of the Pirates that have been captured by International Naval Elements in the Gulf of Aden have been taken to Mombasa and handed over to Kenyan Authorities. In the Past a Somali Insurgent Group has threatened to attack Kenyan Interests for assisting the International Community in the Struggle to rein in the Acts of Piracy. Since Kenya has a Direct Border with Somalia this is a threat that cannot be taken lightly.Adding additional strain, a Maritime Boundary dispute is raging between the two countries. Kenyan and Somali officials tried to reach an agreement on a new Martime Boundary two weeks ago. But the tentative agreement reached is now in legal dispute. It is being roundly criticized by critics both from the Somali side, and from the opposition within the Kenyan government. This, in light of the recent incursions into Kenyan territorial waters by Al-Shabab Pirates.
From Xinhua www.chinaview.cn 4/11:
"What the Kenyan government want is to take advantage of the Somalia's current situation and take part of our land but we will defend it with all we can," Sheikh Hassan Turki, a senior insurgent leader in Kismanyu told local residents Friday.
Not the first time Somalians have intervened in its neighbor's affaris
Somali insurgents have had a long history of intervention in neighboring Kenya.
The Bush administration maintained that members of the current leadership of Al-Shahaab were among those who participated in the Al-Qaeda sponsored attacks on the US African Embassies in Mombassa and Dar es Salaam in 1998.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Conditions ripe for Terrorism in Horn of Africa," 04/22:
Al-Shabab ("The Youths"), a terrorist organization in the vein of the Taliban, is the landlocked answer for the "pirates" of the Indian Ocean...Which all points to an expanding conflict which the Obama administration will soon be forced to deal with. It remains to be seen whether Obama's ties to the region will be helpful, or enflame the growing conflict.
Osama bin Laden praised al-Shabab and others in an audio message released last month: "Your patience and resolve supports your brothers in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Islamic Maghreb, Pakistan, and the rest of the fields of jihad."
Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, a former al-Qaida operative in Nairobi who is wanted for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, is now among the al-Shabab corps. So, too, are Abu Taha al-Sudani, formerly an al-Qaida leader and financier in East Africa, and Salah Ali Salah Nabhan, wanted for questioning related to a 2002 hotel bombing in Mombasa, Kenya.
Editor's Note - I have visited the region on two occasions. While in the Navy in the 1980s I had two Port Calls to the tiny nation of Djibouti, wedged between Ethiopa and Somalia.
This article has been linked by UnreligiousRight blog.