Archive for Friday, March 20, 2009

Bin Laden exhorts Somali militants

March 20, 2009

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— Osama bin Laden urged Somalis on Thursday to overthrow their new president, issuing a statement that clearly outlines al-Qaida’s ambitions in a nation long feared to be a haven for the terrorist network.

Bin Laden’s 11 1/2-minute audiotape was entirely focused on Somalia, an impoverished country in the Horn of Africa that has been in chaos for nearly two decades, torn apart by warlords and Islamic militant groups. In January, parliament elected President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, in hopes that he would unify the country’s factions.

“I think people who were skeptical that al-Qaida has ambition in Somalia will now have to think twice,” Rashid Abdi, an analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank in Nairobi told The Associated Press.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have warned of al-Qaida’s growing ties with the powerful al-Shabab group, which frequently battles government troops and militia allies and attacks African Union peacekeepers in the country. Last year, the U.S. State Department added al-Shabab, which means “the Youth,” to its list of foreign terrorist organizations.

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