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Al Qaeda in Somalia recruits Somali students in Pakistan
The Friday Times
Friday, August 24, 2012
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Groups linked to Al Qaeda in Somalia are using the international terror network to recruit Somali students in Pakistan and train them to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe, security analysts fear.
Al Qaeda chief Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri announced the merger of Somali terrorist group Al Shabab with his organization on February 10 this year, to create Al Qaeda in East Africa, or AQEA.
"They plan to move from their conventional base in the Afghanistan and Pakistan region to more vulnerable African countries," said Carl Adams, a counterterrorism expert based in Dubai.
In early 2012, hundreds of fighters from the Middle East and Pakistan left Somalia, apparently to help defend Al Qaeda territory in Yemen, where a new president is likely to use his popular mandate and American support to mount an offensive against the international terrorist network.
"Al Qaeda is weaker than it was 10 years ago, with Osama Bin Laden, Anwar Aulaki, and other key leaders no longer in the picture. But it remains a top threat," FBI Director Robert Mueller said a speech in July. "And in recent years, we have seen new threats from Al Qaeda affiliates in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen."
According to estimates from Security Foundation Inc, there were over 97 instances of Somalis being used by Al Qaeda to carry out attacks around the world since 2011 - a 300% increase.
In a recent plot, two Somali students were recruited from Karachi - being seen as the new financial and recruitment hub of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan - to carry out suicide attacks in Europe.
The two men were to be trained in weapons and explosives in a remote area of Balochistan, according to intelligence sources, by sectarian outfit Jandullah, originally formed by Jamaat-e-Islami activist Atiqur Rehman on the instruction of Al Qaeda number three Khaled Sheikh Muhammad in Karachi in 2002.
"They were to be sent to The Hague to carry out 26/11 type fidayeen attacks," the source said.
There are 5,000 to 8,000 Somali students in Pakistan, according to intelligence sources. "Most of them study medicine and pharmacy," said an official from the Intelligence Bureau (IB). "Yes, we have taken precautions and have registered all foreign students living in Pakistan. But nothing else."
Why would Al Qaeda use Somalis from Pakistan to carry out attacks in Europe? "Why not," responds Carl Adams. "Most Somalis in Pakistan are educated and their parents support them from Middle Eastern countries. They have easier access to the outside world compared to those living in the war-ravaged Somalia."
One of the two men intended to travel to Europe as Christians - one as David Azubuike, 21, with a Spanish passport, and the other as Jonathan Boipelo (no details) on stolen passports.
Al Qaeda's Hamburg cell chief Muhammad Atta also traveled to Karachi before 9/11 on a stolen passport.
"We take all these threats very seriously," the Netherlands embassy said in a comment. "We are working closely with our Pakistani counterparts to eliminate such threats."
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