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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More