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  • [SW Country] (WIC-Al-Hayat ) Somalia Between the Fire of the United States, The Allegations of Bin Laden and the Obscurity Of “El Itihad El Islami” (Islamic Union)   Part I - Major Arab Newspaper Reveals, Arta Group-Al-Itihad-Bin-Laden Connections - :Posted on [22 Dec 2001]

Major Arab Newspaper Reveals, Arta Group-Al-Itihad-Bin-Laden Connections
Addis Ababa, December 21, 2001 (WIC)- A major Arab Newspaper, the “Al-Hayat” says it has obtained documents revealing the strong bonds between the Arta Group represented by its leader, Abdy-Kassem Salad Hassan, the Al-Itihad Al-Islami group in Somalia and Bin Laden’s El-Qaeda movement.              
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Somalia Between the Fire of the United States, The Allegations of Bin Laden and the Obscurity Of “El Itihad El Islami” (Islamic Union)   

Part I            

WIC  December 21, 2001

Source Al-Hayat News paper
December 10, 2001  

Part 2     Part 3     Part 4

Who Shot Down the “Black American Hawk”  In Mogadishu : Was it General/Aidid, Bin Laden Or El Itihad El Islami??

The grip around Osama Bin Laden whom Washington believes to be perhaps still hiding in one of the caves dug in the mountains surrounding Kandahar, is currently being tightened. However, at the same time Washington did not deny that its Naval Forces are in the Indian Ocean monitoring the Somalian coasts where it is probable for the leader of El Qaeda to land as a refugee to Somalia.

Although American officials stress on the fact that they have no information whatsoever pointing out that Bin Laden has left Afghanistan, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Malas Zinawi lately told Al Hayat Newspaper that he does not rule out the arrival of the leader of El Qaeda to Somalia. He adds “Americans may say that perhaps El Qaeda Organization was present there (in Somalia), but we do not say perhaps because we know for sure that such organization is present in this country.”

The name of Somalia as harbor for terrorism was not missing from the statements of American and British officials in numerous occasions since the occurrence of the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001; sometimes mentioned associated with Iraq or Sudan, some other times with Yemen and Cuba and sometimes with South Philippines, but it was always present in the minds of those officials as it was present in media or intelligence reports upon talking about terrorism, about Bin Laden or the countries which one day harbored his organization or cooperated with him. However, Somalia was also mentioned as a probable retreat for him, to which he may resort to hide under the shelter of El Itihad El Islami (the Islamic Union) movement in Somalia which name was mentioned among his network in the American list, if he was able to escape from Afghanistan.

It is not strange for the name Somalia to be mentioned on the list of small countries referred to by president George Bush himself as a probable target after ending the war against Afghanistan, for the simple reason that Bin Laden, who had never before confessed his responsibility for killing Americans, declared that his followers did so in Somalia. He explicitly mentioned, and perhaps for the first time, in an interview conducted with him by “Al Kodss Al Arabi” (the Arab Jerusalem) newspaper in the mountains of Afghanistan which was published on Nov. 27, 1996 that his forces fought the American forces in Somalia in 1993.

He said ““The only non-Somalian group that fought the Americans in Mogadishu was the Arab Mojahedin brothers who were in Afghanistan. The American administration knew pretty well that we were fighting them and declared that there were non-Somalian extremist forces that were fighting. They meant us. These were successful battles in which we inflicted large casualties on the Americans. We used to hunt them down inside Mogadishu. The leader of the Somalian National Alliance, General/Mohamed Fareh Aidid used to declare that he was not responsible for such acts. He was true, because the war in which we are currently engaged with the Americans is not the first one. We ask God to give us victory as He did before....”.

Did Bin Laden actually “hunt down Americans” in Somalia? Was he the one responsible for killing the 12 American servicemen after shooting down two American Helicopters in Mogadishu city on Oct. 3, 1993? Was he also responsible for killing eight American servicemen in August of the same year in the city? Where was El Itihad El Islami (the Islamic Union) movement then, what role did it play?

I recall when I was in the Somalian capital at that time that two American “Black Hawk” helicopters crashed in Hamarawen District, west of Mogadishu, and with them the American might was crashed; especially when the American president at that time Bill Clinton declared that he will withdraw his forces from Somalia within six months. What increased the American frustration that day was the appearance of the American prisoner pilot Michael Dorant with his head down on the television screens, imprisoned in one of the headquarters of General/Aidid. This scene was preceded by the pictures of the body of a pilot from the victims of the two helicopters dragged along the streets of the capital by Somalis, which invoked the disgust of Americans and others around the world.

General/Mohamed Fareh Aidid did not declare his responsibility for the incident at that time, and he also did not accuse any other party. However, his son and successor Eng/Hussein Aidid who was a corporal at that time in the American Marines which landed in Somalia within the framework of the operation “Restore Hope” strongly denied, in two interviews with him some days before in Addis Ababa, the involvement of Bin Laden in the killing of the American servicemen or the shooting down of the two “Black Hawk” helicopters.

Who is responsible then?

Hussein Aidid answers saying “ It was something like a spontaneous revolution in which a big number of the capital’s population heavily armed with weapons, took part. They belonged to the different tribes. They fought the Americans after their frequently attacks on civilians and killing hundreds of them.”

I asked him “Is not probable that professional elements affiliated to Bin Laden or to El Itihad El Islami movement were among these spontaneous revolting crowds?”

He answered after one minute as if trying to recall something “I don’t believe that Bin Laden had anything to do with the killing of the Americans in spite of declaring his responsibility..... perhaps he was aiming at publicity by declaring his responsibility!.”

Hussein Aidid was one of tens of Somalis belonging to different tribes who witnessed this period whom I met recently in Mogadishu, Addis Ababa and London. They all strongly denied the involvement of Bin Laden in military actions against Americans in Somalia in 1993.

One of them says “You were there during this period and you know well that there are no secrets in Mogadishu and this is a phenomenon among the traditions of the Somalian community, and that most population of the city must know the finest details about the movements of any foreign person or Somali who arrives from outside the city”.

My speaker adds “We did nor hear nor see at this period what points out to the presence of armed Arab elements in Mogadishu, and the 18 thousand American servicemen who landed in the city at that time knew this. They had their own private intelligence and their helicopters photographed each street and corner in Mogadishu, besides recruiting thousands of Somalis to gather information; in addition to the spread of thousands of foreign reporters in the city”.  

The Somali follows by saying “Based on all this, the United States did not announce till date that Bin Laden was involved in killing its servicemen in 1993; and during the last ten years more than 60 books were published about Somalia by foreign reporters most of whom were in Mogadishu at that time, and none of these books referred to Bin Laden or to Al Qaeda organization”.

The answers to many questions about this period are still unclear, in spite of Bin Laden declaring the responsibility of his network for killing the Americans in 1993.

However, one thing is certain and that is that the Islamic Union movement was at the peak of its militant activity at that time inside Somalia and across its borders till the depth of neighboring Ethiopia where it later executed explosion operations in the capital Addis Ababa. The activity of the armed movement increased after the final departure of the Americans and all forces of the United Nations from Somalia on March 25, 1995.

But does all this activity proves any relationship between the Somalian Islamic Union and Bin Laden in one hand, and between these two organizations and the attacks on Washington and New York on Sept. 11, 2001 on the other hand?

Al Hayat obtained documents from Mogadishu pointing out to a relation that links the Union to Bin Laden and hints to the probable locations that the leader of El Qaeda may resort to in case of his escape from Afghanistan. Besides these documents, it will review the origin of the Islamic movements and their configuration in Somalia, and their extension to Ethiopia. It will also review the war that was waged by the government of Addis Ababa on terrorism since the assassination attempt on the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in the Ethiopian capital in 1995 till date.

Here is the first episode.

The Configuration of Fundamentalist Islam in Somalia ..... Its Roots in Arab Countries!

The first document which Al Hayat obtained in Mogadishu talks about the rise of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in Somalia, especially El Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) movement, which the United States believes to rotate around the orbit of Osama Bin Laden’s network. President Bush on Sept. 24, 2001 declared this movement to be among the list of 27 establishments, organizations and individuals suspected to be associated with Bin Laden and his organization El Qaeda, and ordered the freezing of their funds.

The document came under the title “Very Confidential : The Extreme Somalian Islamic Union Group” and was published on the same day in which Bush declared freezing the funds; i.e. two weeks after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States. The quarter which prepared this document is an active Somalian party in Mogadishu concerned with the details of the Somalian affairs. This party is neither a friend of the Islamic Union movement nor one of its sympathizers, but a fierce political opponent which had and still has a big role in deciding the future of the country.

The document starts by trying to show the strong relationship that connects between Somalian Islamic movements, and in particular El Itihad (Union) and the transitional government headed by Abdy Kassem Salad Hassan. It also reviewed the history of the appearance of the Islamic movements in Somalia and their most significant leaders. It focused on the Islamic Union (El Itihad El Islami) movement, pointing out to its targets and the positions of its bases. It also tried to establish and confirm what is suspected by Washington to the effect of a relation that links the activity of this movement with El Qaeda organization.

The First Part of the documents narrates the rise of political fundamentalist Islam in Somalia and its configuration. It relates its roots to a number of Arab countries, especially some Gulf states and Egypt. It says “The first penetrations of the traditional Islamic school in Somalia started in the mid sixties on the hands of the late famous Somali religious scientist Sheikh/Nour Aly Elow who graduated from one of the Gulf universities. This Sheikh succeeded in influencing the Somali security official at that time General/M.A.M. who is still till date one of the sincere followers of global Islamic fundamentalism and one of the big activists among political fundamentalist Islamic groups in Somalia.

Al Azhar religious teaching institutions in Egypt and Somalia participated by graduating a number of religious scientists who were influenced by the Egyptian “Islamic Brotherhood” movement. Among the most distinguished Somalis who graduated from Al Azhar Egyptian University was Sheikh/Mohamed Moalam Hassan (he passed away last year) who laid the basis for the modern Islamic movement in Somalia.

Political Islam grew inside this background during the reign of president Mohamed Siad Berry the socialist, as an entity opposing scientific socialism and the spread of atheist principles in this period. Such growth took the form of a secret movement that was financed by charitable Islamic organizations in Gulf states, and with the expansion of such financing the number of followers of the fundamentalist Islamic principle increased, among whom the number of those  searching for an alternative political option for the regime of Siad Berry doubled.

The fundamentalist Islamic movement was able in this period to recruit new followers therefor through the opportunities made available by Gulf Islamic academic and teaching institutions which political philosophy included the principle of Islamic renewal, blemished by inclinations opposing the west in general and the United States in particular.

The continued civil war in Somalia since more than ten years made the country a fertile soil for the growth of Islamic movements from all directions. These movements received support from Gulf Islamic charitable organizations which exploited the conditions of misery and extreme poverty lived by the Somalis to recruit followers thereto. The constitutional void which was experienced by the country contributed to strengthening the ambitions of Islamists who formed a network of strong connections with global Islamic movements in Europe, North America and Australia, and some Asian countries such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Malaysia.

The most distinguished fundamentalist Islamic organizations consecutively according to their significance are El Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) movement, El Eslah El Islami (Islamic Reform) movement and El Tableegh El Islami (Islamic Conveyance) movement.

The owners of the document believe that the fundamentalist Islamic movements in Somalia emerged from the Moslem Brotherhood group in Arab countries. They complement each other, each with a specific role; for El Itihad El Islami movement assumes the political leadership role, El Eslah movement plays the role of diplomatic and cultural work while El Tableegh assumes social survey and gathering intelligence information. The last two movements practice the operations of penetrating and neutralizing the trend of Islamic traditional school and the tolerant Islamic inclination which are both largely accepted in Somalia and which adopt the Shafe’i Sunni Doctrine.

The document mentions the names of some prominent Islamic figures, without denoting that such names are associated with terrorist activities or relations with El Qaeda organization.

  Perhaps the most distinguished persons who were active in the last ten years as mentioned by the document are the

following :

- Sheikh (A.F) (member of the Somalian Parliament).

- Dr/Ibrahim El Dessouky, the Secretary General of the El         Eslah El Islami (Islamic Reform) movement.

- Colonel/Hassan Dhaher Eweiss, the Commander General of El       Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) Forces.

- Sheikh/(M.A) the Judicial System official in Islamic Courts     (member of the Parliament)

- Sheikh/(H.M.A.) Shari’a Courts official (member of the          Parliament)

- Sheikh/(A.D.), Shari’a Courts official in Mogadishu.

- Sheikh/(A.W.), member of the Parliament.

- Mr/(H.T.) the military commander of the southern sector of      the El Itihad El Islami

- (A.H.W.) The political affairs official at the southern         sector of the El Itihad El Islami

In the same movements some businessmen appeared who assumed leading positions in the Islamic movement or sympathized with it, and used to finance them, most significant of whom are the following :

- (M.D.) a contractor with one of the international relief        organizations (El Eslah Movement).

- (H.Gh) a contractor with one of the international relief        organizations (El Eslah Movement).

- (M.A.) a contractor with one of the international relief        organizations (El Eslah Movement).

- Eng/(A.) a partner in one of the non-governmental               international relief organizations (El Eslah Movement).

- (S.A.) Director of (A.T.) Establishment working in import       and export (El Eslah Movement).

- (S.N.G.) a businessman working in import and export (El         Eslah Movement).

- (M.D.) a businessman working in import and export (El Eslah     Movement).

- (M.H.) an official in El Barakat Company which Washington       ordered the freezing of its funds last month for suspecting     its involvement with terrorist groups. However the president    of the Company denied any relation to terror organizations      and offered to put all the documents of his company under       investigation in this matter.

- (A.A.) owner of (A.S.) Company and Hotel (R.), (El Itihad El    Islami)

- Ahmed Nour Gamaaly, Chairman of the Board of Directors of El    Barakat Company El Itihad El Islami). The manager of the        Company’s branch in Mogadishu denied to Al Hayat any            relationship to El Barakat with El Itihad El Islami movement    or other organizations suspected of being involved in           terrorist acts.

Targets of El Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) :

The document sees that the main targets of El Itihad El Islami (Islamic Union) are to establish an Islamic state in the African Horn similar to Iran or Afghanistan (former Taliban regime) by means of reaching power through armed work and strengthening the ties of financial reliance with global extreme Islamic organizations in order to stabilize the base of its power and to block the road for democratic or moderate forces and prevent them from ruling the country.

It considered that the Islamic Union aims at shaking the stability of the countries neighboring Somalia where organizations similar to its own are present, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Eritrea. The most important example for this are the terrorist attacks which were executed against the two embassies of the United States in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, after its forces succeeded in forcing the United Nation’s second operation in Somalia (UNOSOM-2) to withdraw its forces from this country in 1995.

The Relationship with ARTA Group (The Transitional

Government) :

The document then tries to link between the Islamic Union movement and the current transitional government headed by Abdy Kassem Salad Hassan and says “After the ambitions of the fundamentalist Islamic movements thrived to power and  guaranteed global financing for themselves, and after their military power increased gradually during the last ten years, they started to adopt a new strategy in order to become an active and decisive element in any political effort to settle the crisis in Somalia as a temporary tactical step prior to the full seizure of power. The arrangement of holding the Somalian Reconciliation Conference in Arta Resort in Djibouti which was invited for by the Djibouti Government (mid 2000) came as a golden opportunity for these fundamentalist groups which participated intensively in this conference beside unorganized groups which attended in their capacity as representatives of the civil community, but they lacked  legitimacy and popular mandate”.

The conference was a chance to eliminate the role of political powers and to isolate the leaders of armed Somalian factions and those who head separatist administrative entities such as the Republic of the Land of Somalia (north east, Bont Land (the land of Bont in north western Somalia) and Bakul Bay and Hayran Region. This was arranged in advance with top and strict secrecy to ensure the success of the conference and to annul the legitimacy of factions’ leaders and leaders of self-rule entities to make peace, and show them through an organized media campaign to be politically margined, and picture them as a group of disabled warlords.

The quarter which laid the document believes that El Itihad El Islami obtained funds from a global Islamic movement in order to ensure the success of Arta Conference. The powers opposing the results of the Conference directed the same accusation to the conferees in the Djiboutian resort. This was denied by members of the conference at that time.

In this context, the document considers “the limited financial aids which were obtained from the United Nations development program and from Italy insufficient to bring in hundreds of participants for several months to Djibouti to participate in a play that misled local and international public opinion”.

It added“..... under this financing cover a legitimate government was born in Somalia backed by global fundamentalist movements which had adverse effects on the real reconciliation process in the country. The economic role of the fundamentalist Islamic groups in Somalia developed during the last ten years through transferring funds, printing currencies and their counterfeiting; through communication establishments, trading in fuel and cattle, and importing goods and foods through Arab charitable humanitarian funds. The Somalis in the countries of emigration were the main target for the recruitment campaigns which were executed by fundamentalist Islamic groups, for the majority of these Somali Islamists were among the asylum applicants in Europe, the Middle East, United States, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Pakistan”.

“.... accordingly the main element participating in the Arta Conference was among those working in fundamentalist Islamic groups and it came in the form of delegations representing emigrant Somali communities. About 60% of Arta Group and the Somalian transitional government are from those who sympathize with global fundamentalist Islamic establishments who aim at transforming Somalia into a starting point for their activities...”.

The document believes that “.... Somalia is considered an alternative emergency base for Bin Laden and his close followers, where basis to achieve this purpose were laid during the last 11 years comprising chaos and war until a strong economic, political and military network was established that is capable of executing secret sabotage operations aiming at shaking the stability of the region...”.

“...... Shari’a Courts and mosques were used to achieve this political influence, and the fear of people from the status of lack of security and law in Somalian cities and rural areas was utilized to achieve this purpose”.

The document considered the current transitional government which is supported by Islamic movements has politically failed, especially that it was only able to tighten its control on parts of the capital Mogadishu and some regions south of the country. The continuation of the government of Salad Hussein in power in spite of its failure “is attributed to the military and financial support it receives from Islamic organizations in Arab countries. This has assisted it in recruiting former military personnel some of whom are from the militias of tribes cooperating with extreme Islamic organizations”.

“... the seizure of Kismayo city which has a strategic importance came to show clearly the existence of a strong coalition between Arta group and the Union, especially that Kismayo is a basic center for receiving arms and trade shipments sent to extreme Islamic businessmen who would like to exploit this strategic port to achieve financial benefits, where such businessmen dump the markets of east Africa with products exported from outside South Africa States Development Group (SADEC) making use of the tax facilities in Somalia.”  

Part 2    Part 3        Part 4


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