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

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Audio Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional More

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.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid