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Friday, June 1, 2012

Anti-Christian group’s influence growing in East Africa


There were ethnic Somalis who had grown up in Australia, Britain, France and the United States. But there was also a large number of fellow Kenyans in the group's ranks. They included, unexpectedly, dozens of young men who did not share his Somali ancestry or language but came instead from the green, tropical heartland of Kenya where Christianity is the dominant religion.

Abdullahi, then aged about 20, initially dismissed those men as opportunists who had pretended to convert to Islam to win work as guns for hire.
Then he saw them in battle.

"They were good fighters. I saw the way they would advise us to fight, to defend ourselves," Abdullahi said of his two years in al Shabaab, during which time he fought Somalia's weak United Nations-backed government. "I fought one battle outside Mogadishu. Half of us died... (The Kenyans) were very brave, the way they ran towards gunfire."

That's exactly what worries Kenyan and Western security agencies. Al Shabaab has been waging an insurgency against Somalia's fragile interim government since 2007 and formally became part of al Qaeda earlier this year. Abdullahi's account is part of a mounting body of evidence - including intelligence picked up by security agencies, research by the United Nations and accounts by Muslim Kenyans interviewed for this story - that suggests al Shabaab is mentoring a new and increasingly multi-ethnic generation of militants in the region.

That could have major ramifications not just for Somalia, which has been without a working government for two decades, but also for countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, relatively stable democracies whose economies are among the steadiest in Africa. This week, Kenyan politicians blamed a bombing in central Nairobi on al Shabaab, which means "Youth" or "Boys" in Arabic.

Al Shabaab seeks to impose a strict version of Sharia or Islamic law. The group emerged as a force in 2006 as part of a movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. It remains Somalia's most powerful non-government armed group and in its propaganda, promotes the idea that many Muslims are flocking to its cause around Africa.
Washington and London have long worried the Somali group aimed to expand its influence in Africa. That suspicion was confirmed last July when a United Nations investigation found al Shabaab had created extensive funding, recruiting and training networks in Kenya.


Zanzibar Islamists burn churches, riot - police


Hundreds of supporters of a separatist Islamist group set fire to two churches and clashed with police during protests in Zanzibar over the weekend against the arrest of senior members of the movement, police and witnesses said.
Police accused the Uamsho (Awakening) group of ordering its supporters on to the streets - but the movement's leadership denied having any part in the unrest.

Clashes broke out in the historic commercial and tourism centre of Stone Town on Saturday night and continued until Sunday afternoon, witnesses told Reuters.

The reports of attacks on churches will raise fears of an escalation in religious tensions in the predominantly Muslim island ruled by a semi-autonomous secular government. Several bars were attacked last year.

Shops remained closed and people stayed in their homes on Sunday as riot police patrolled the streets of Stone Town, witnesses said.

"There is a lot of tension, people are hiding in their houses. All the streets are empty, it's the only the police who are out there," resident Mai Zuberi told Reuters by phone.

"There were clashes all night on Saturday and the violence continued until noon today. All the roads were blocked in the Stone Town area," Zuberi added.


Young woman sentenced to death by stoning in Sudan


A Sudanese woman, believed to be around 20, has been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, and is being held near Khartoum, shackled in prison with her baby son, rights groups and lawyers said on Thursday.

Campaigners condemned the ruling, saying it violated international standards and raised concerns that Sudan might start applying sharia, or Islamic law, more strictly following the secession of mostly non-Muslim South Sudan last year.
The woman, Intisar Sharif Abdalla, was sentenced by the Ombada criminal court on April 22, court documents seen by Reuters showed.

Two lawyers assigned to her case, who declined to be named, said they were launching an appeal adding Abdalla appeared to be under severe psychological strain.

"She's in dire need of a psychiatrist because she appears to be in a state of shock from the social and family pressures she's under," one lawyer said.
Abdalla was illiterate and did not have a lawyer or interpreter in the courtroom, although Arabic is not her native language, the lawyers and activists added.


Somali immigrants finance terror with 3.3 million dollars each year


JYLLANDS-POSTEN, DENMARK

Only 43.3 percent of male Somali immigrants and 33 percent of female Somali immigrants in Denmark have a job. It is therefore fair to guess that social benefits from the Danish states finance terror against Denmark. On May 27, two Somali immigrants were arrested for planning terror against Denmark.

Every day an average of between 27,000 and 55,000 Danish kroner (4,500 - 9,000 USD) is sent to terrorist organizations abroad, according to the Police Intelligence Service (PET). The donors do not necessarily know that they finance terror.

"It is not easy to find the exact amount of money spent on financing terrorism in Denmark, but it is PET's assessment that 10-20 million Danish kroners are transferred to terrorists annually. PET is working together with other authorities to address the transfer of funds to terrorism," said the head of PET, Jakob Scharf. 

Jyllands-Posten recently described how Somali immigrants send large sums out of Denmark every year. ... Danish authorities have determined that 1.4 billion kroner (233 million USD) are sent from Somalis in Denmark to Dubai, from which the money is probably sent to Somalia.