US lawmaker wants Eritrea added to terror

Shebab fighters
Shebab fighters in Mogadishu

WASHINGTON (AFP)— The United States should add Eritrea to a terrorism blacklist over its support for an Al-Qaeda-linked group tied to last week’s deadly bombings in Uganda, a senior US lawmaker urged Tuesday.

Representative Ed Royce, the top Republican on a House subcommittee on terrorism, nonproliferation and trade, urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a letter to designate Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism.

“The time to tackle state support of Shebab is now, before this menace becomes even more potent and reaches our shores,” he said, referring to the group that has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“That response must include an honest recognition of the destructive role the government of Eritrea is playing in the region by designating it as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Royce.

The designation — currently only applied to Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria — carries a range of economic and diplomatic sanctions.

The strikes in Uganda were the deadliest attacks in the region since the 1998 bombings against the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam also linked to Islamist militants.

At least 73 people, including one American, were killed in the two attacks, which targeted people watching the World Cup final.

The Shebab group said the attacks were in retaliation for the presence of about 3,000 Ugandan troops in an African Union force deployed in Somalia to prop up its fragile Western-backed transitional government.

Shebab has vowed further attacks, including on Burundi, which has around 2,500 troops in the embattled AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

The California lawmaker said “Eritrea’s support for Shebab is well documented” and that the Uganda attacks underscored “the group’s threat to the region, continent and even the United States.”