By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN, Associated Press Writer Peter James Spielmann, Associated Press Writer Sat Sep 26, 2009
UNITED NATIONS – Somalia is being hijacked by al-Qaida-linked terrorists who are better organized and more highly motivated than the ineffectual government in Mogadishu, and Sudan could be the next nation to fall under their influence, Ethiopia warned Saturday.
“It is time that we abandon the fiction that this is a war just among Somalis. It is not,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Ato Seyoum Mesfin said in a pessimistic speech before the General Assembly.
“Somalia is being hijacked by foreign fighters who have no inhibition in proclaiming that their agenda has nothing to do with Somalia. Theirs is an ambition that goes well beyond Somalia, and they say it out loud and clear,” said Mesfin.
“Today in Somalia, there is greater coordination and cooperation among those who assist the extremists than among those who profess support for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia,” Mesfin said.
Last week, two stolen U.N. vehicles packed with explosives blew up at an African Union peacekeeping base in Somalia, killing 21 people, including 17 Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers. Markings on the cars meant they were not subject to the usual security checks.
Al-Shabab, a local Islamic militia with foreign fighters in its ranks, said the Sept. 17 bombing was in retaliation for a U.S. commando raid on Sept. 14 that killed al-Qaida operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in southern Somalia. It has released a video pledging allegiance to al-Qaida and showing foreign trainers moving among its fighters.
“As the latest horrific suicide attack … has shown, those destroying Somalia are being emboldened, and their supporters rewarded,” Mesfin said.
On the other hand, “The international community is being stingy even with symbolic steps to show resolve against extremists and spoilers in Somalia,” he said.
“It is critical that the international community wakes up before the hijacking of Somalia by extremism is fully consummated,” Mesfin said, lamenting that “it appears, the Council does not consider Somalia is a priority.”
“What is missing is the political will. No one who knows Somalia well believes that Al-Shabab is popular in Somalia. Whatever gains they have made is a function of their brutality and the support they have from without.”
Mesfin warned Sudan could be the next domino.
“The Horn of Africa cannot afford the consequence of failure in the Sudan peace process. We are very close to both parties in the Sudan an asset which we want to use wisely,” Mesfin said.