The United States government has classified al-Shabaab, an Islamic militant group based in Somalia, as a terrorist organization. This comes after the group reportedly committed various acts of terrorism, including beheading three government soldiers during an ambush on a checkpoint outside the capital, Mogadishu and praising Osama Bin Laden in the process. The militant group recently claimed responsibility for a series of bombings and attacks on Somali government and Ethiopian soldiers.
James Swan is Deputy Assistant secretary of State for African Affairs. From Washington, he tells reporter Peter Clottey the terrorist group’s presence in Somalia is detrimental to the ordinary Somali.
“This group known as al-Shabab has been designated a foreign terrorist organization after a very careful review of information concerning this group. There are documented indications of their close links to al Qaeda, including a number of senior officials in this group who have trained with al Qaeda. They’ve issued statements praising Osama Bin Laden, inviting foreign fighters to come to Somalia. And so for a host of reasons after a very careful review, this group has been designated a foreign organization by the United States,” Swan pointed out.
He said the militant group’s presence in Somalia poses a significant danger to Somalis.
“I think that is very much correct. We see this organization as a threat to the Somali people. The organization has conducted a number of attacks whose victims have been principally Somalis. Moreover, the group is an impediment, and it’s violent acts have proven an impediment to the reconciliation process in Somalia that in our view is essential to the restoration of peace, stability and prosperity of the country,” he said.
Swan said the US government has plans underway to stop the terrorist group’s negative influence.
“We believe this designation as a foreign terrorist organization will allow additional tools to be applied to constrain and curtail the activities of what is known as the al-Shabab. Under the provisions of the foreign terrorist organization designation, there would be additional restrictions on financial transfers to al-Shabab. There will be further restrictions on access to property and other resources that they may have, and there will be provisions on travel and immigration for example to the United States. So there are a host of provisions under the foreign terrorist designation that would further limit the activities of al-Shabab. And then more generally, we believe that the designation formally of this organization as a foreign terrorist organization will bring additional publics attention to al- Shabab and help underscore and signal the importance of curtailing its activities,” Swan noted.
Somalia has not had a stable central government since the overthrow of President Siad Bare in bloody coup de’tat in 1991.