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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid