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Costa Rica’s Unexpected Guest: The unlikely capture of an al Shabab terrorist suspect

The Costa Rican Times
Saturday December 9, 2023


Costa Rican authorities made headlines with the arrest of Ali Abdinuur Ahmed, a Somali national linked to the radical Islamist organization Al Shabab. This somewhat startling capture occurred in the serene southern region of Costa Rica, a far cry from the tumultuous Horn of Africa where Al Shabab is predominantly active.

The Scene of the Arrest: A Migrant Center Near the Panama Border

Ahmed was detained on November 30 at the Temporary Care Center for Migrant Persons (CATEM), merely 10 km from the Costa Rican border with Panama. This center, often a pit stop for migrants, primarily Venezuelans, who’ve braved the treacherous Darien jungle between Panama and Colombia, turned into the backdrop for an international security operation.

FBI’s Most Wanted: A Surprise Discovery

The plot thickened when Costa Rican immigration authorities, presumably expecting nothing out of the ordinary, discovered that Ahmed was on the FBI’s most-wanted list. This revelation was akin to finding a shark in your swimming pool – unexpected and a bit alarming. Security Minister Mario Zamora, in a statement to the press, confirmed this international intrigue, noting Ahmed’s suspected ties to terrorist activities.

The Deportation Dilemma: From San José to…?

Post-arrest, Ahmed was whisked away to San José, where he faces deportation for his irregular status in Costa Rica. This raises the question: Would the US border have been as welcoming, or would he have slipped through the cracks? It’s the kind of query that keeps border security officials up at night.

A Brief Primer on Al Shabab

For those unfamiliar, Al Shabab has been waging a violent rebellion in Somalia for over 15 years, making headlines for attacks against security forces, politicians, and civilians. Though ousted from major Somali cities between 2011 and 2012, this jihadist organization still has a stronghold in vast rural areas, not just in Somalia but in other nations of the Horn of Africa.

Costa Rica, known more for its lush rainforests and pristine beaches than international counter-terrorism operations, found itself in the global security spotlight with the arrest of Abdinuur. This incident serves as a reminder of the interconnected nature of our world; a place where international fugitives can end up in the most unexpected locations, and a routine check at a migrant center can turn into a matter of international security.


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