News / Africa

    Analysts Doubt al-Shabab Chemical Arms Capability

    Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 21, 2010 file photo.
    Al-Shabab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 21, 2010 file photo.
    In August 2012, African authorities arrested Mahdi Hashi, Ali Yassin Ahmed and Mohamed Yusuf, all in their twenties, as they were on their way to Yemen.
     
    Months later the three defendants were presented to a U.S. district court in Brooklyn, New York, to answer charges that they joined and trained with Somalia-based al-Shabab militants.
     
    The U.S. media outlet CBS News reports a court document related to the case indicates the men have substantial knowledge about al-Shabab plans to develop a chemical weapon for attacks western interests in the region against.
     
    While recent four-day assault on Nairobi's Westgate mall shows the organization can commit major acts of terrorism across international borders, whether it is capable of handling chemical weapons technology is another question.
     
    After steadily losing ground in Somalia, weakened by a concerted military effort by a multinational African Union force and Somali government troops, al-Shabab once controlled large portions of the country. More recently they have only been able to carry out hit-and-run attacks.
     
    According to Abdullahi Halakhe, a Horn of Africa researcher who formerly worked for the International Crisis Group, the group's losses make it difficult for them to obtain and use chemical weapons.
     
    “There are so many chemical engineers in the organization, but some of them have been killed," he said. "[A] high level of [personnel] and resources have been tracked down and killed, so it will be very hard.”
     
    Although migration of foreign terrorists into Somalia could alleviate that problem, Halakhe says, the rebel group would still face the challenge of storing and handling the chemicals.
     
    “The possibility is very much there, because the movements of people — ex-Soviet [fighters or Jihadists], and the Afghanistan and Pakistan movement is there [in Africa], and Somalia was their target in the Horn," he said. "The capacity could be there but the facilities would be really a big struggle for them to pull it off.”
     
    Despite the odds, however, Halakhe says one cannot dismiss the possibility that al-Shabab could one day possess a chemical weapon.
     
    And even without chemical arms, says Anneli Botha, senior terrorism researcher with the Institute for Security Studies, nothing can stop any terror group from trying to get chemical weapons, and that al-Shabab, in the meantime, will use any material at their disposal.
     
    “If they want, they will try to find a way," she said. "But by the same token, with what they have — AK-47s, hand grenades, and they also know how to build IED’s — they tend to go to their roots in some of this cases.”
     
    The Kenyan government has said the Nairobi mall attack was carried out by a group of multinational attackers with surprising sophistication.
     
    Halakhe said if the allegations about al-Shabab seeking chemical weapons are confirmed, it suggests east Africa is facing a new type of danger from terrorism.

    You May Like

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    September 28, 2013 7:28 AM
    Alshabab canot destroyed still the international communty did contextual frame work of somalia which include national peace building, implementing federalism, and devloping regional state capabality to curp the security problem and forming unity of national army which participate all somali people.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora