Shabab versus CIA in Somalia?

Twice as many US citizens as previously reported by law enforcement have traveled overseas to join Somalia's supposedly al-Qaeda-linked Shabab insurgents, an investigation by Republican staff on the House Homeland Security Committee determined this week, asserting that more than 40 Americans have traveled to Horn of Africa country to join the rebel group (which is on the State Department list of "Foreign Terrorist Organizations." Publicly, authorities have reported at least 21 men left the Minneapolis area for Somalia since late 2007 and are believed to have joined the Shabab.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), has been accused of playing to Islamophobia by singling out one religion instead of looking at all issues of domestic extremism. King has responded that only one group—this Islamic extremist al-Qaeda—has killed 3,000 Americans.

The top Democrat on the committee said the threat from al-Shabab has been overstated. "Al-Shabab does not appear to present any danger to this homeland,’" said Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). (AP, July 28)

A week earlier, Jeremy Scahill in The Nation asserted that the CIA is involved in running secret detention and interrogation centers in Somalia—especially at a "sprawling walled compound" by Mogadishu's airport, run directly by the agency; and a clandestine prison in the basement of Somalia's National Security Agency. US officials have been circumspect. One anonymous official told CNN that the CIA's presence at interrogations of detainees in Somalia has been minimal—it perhaps occurred "one or two times." Speaking to ABC, another anonymous official said assisting the weak Somali government in its counter-terrorism efforts is "the logical and prudent thing to do"—but denied the existence of the CIA facilities. On Twitter, Scahill brandied both the CNN and ABC stories "CIA spin." (Time's Global Spin blog, July 14)

Previous reports have indicated that Somali detainees were being "renditioned" to secret prisons in Ethiopia.

See our last post on the torture and detainment scandals.

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Protein wars shake Mogadishu

Heavy fighting broke out July 28 in Mogadishu as African Union "peacekeepers" launched an offensive to protect famine relief efforts from attacks by the Shabab rebels, officials said. At least six people died in the fighting. The Shabab have sent 300 fighters to Mogadishu in recent days, said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the AU force. He said the rebels are attempting to prevent aid from reaching the tens of thousands of famine refugees who have poured into Mogadishu this month. (AP, July 28)

Truck bomb kills at least 70 in Mogadishu

A suicide truck bomber killed at least 70 people at the entrance to a government compound in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Oct. 4, with rescue workers scrambling to free more victims trapped under the rubble. It was the deadliest attack yet claimed by the Shabab insurgents. "Somalis, we warn you: Keep away from government buildings and the bases of their soldiers, more serious blasts are coming," Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud told reporters. (Reuters, Oct. 4)