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Pentagon Warns of Rising Terror Threat in Horn of Africa

The head of U.S. troops in the Horn of Africa warns terrorists and insurgents may begin leaving battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq and head for east Africa. One of the main reasons for the move may be ongoing instability and lack of central governments in struggling nations like Somalia.

The Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa says officials remain concerned that instability and weak governments in east Africa may draw international terrorist groups seeking a safe base of operations.

Major General Timothy Ghormley adds he has already seen terrorists crossing through the region on the way to battlegrounds in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now, he warns terrorists may be leaving war zones in those countries and coming to east Africa.

"I see the terrorist threat coming south, at some point," General Ghormley says. "We're winning up north, we're winning in Afghanistan, we're winning in Iraq, they're going to have to go someplace. We see the possibility of them coming south. That's why it's so important for us to get our message out to people that there's an alternative, that we can protect them."

The joint task force based in Djibouti has been helping train foreign soldiers and build the anti-terrorist capacities of governments in the region, but U.S. forces have yet to enter Somalia, which has been without a functioning central government for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, warned an al-Qaida cell has been active for years in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and continues to operate there.

General Ghormley says Islam is on the rise in Somalia, but adds he has limited intelligence to confirm terrorist fears over that country.

"I know from reports I get that mosques are springing up rather rapidly in Mogadishu. But I don't know about the number of madrassas that that would involve or include. ... I don't know of any severe radicalism in the area that I operate," General Ghormley says.

General Ghormley says Somalia will remain a key concern for the United States, especially as a newly formed government seeks to establish itself alongside powerful warlords and clan leaders.

In the meantime, he says the joint task force will continue seeking to strengthen nations in the region to prevent future generations from turning to violence and radicalism.