Al Qaeda Urges Somalis To Attack Ships
A senior Saudi Arabian al Qaeda operative has called on Somali jihadists to step up their attacks on "crusader" forces at sea in the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, and on land in neighboring Djibouti, which hosts France's largest military base in Africa.
"To our steadfast brethren in Somalia, take caution and prepare yourselves," Sa'id Ali Jabir Al Khathim Al Shihri (aka Abu Sufian al-Azdi) says in a new audiotape acquired by CBS News. "Increase your strikes against the crusaders at sea and in Djibouti."
Shihri warns Somali militants against a conspiracy led by "the crusaders, the Jews and traitor Arab rulers," to put an end to the Muslim extremists' progress in Somalia.
"The crusaders, the Jews and the traitorous rulers did not come to the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden except to wage war against you in Somalia and abolish your newly established emirate, and by Allah, they shall be defeated. They shall bring a curse upon their people," Shihri said.
"We shall not leave them this time until we get to their own countries with the help of Allah."
It was the first clear sign since the U.S. and French navies thwarted recent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden that al Qaeda is trying to take advantage of anti-Western sentiment, and a ready supply of well-armed young men with access to boats and maritime skills, in the restive country.
Al Qaeda does have links to Islamic extremist groups operating in Somalia but, thus far, piracy and al Qaeda's brand of terrorism have remained largely separate. The pirates in the Gulf of Aden have always sought ransom payments or loot — they have not been motivated by Islamic fundamentalism.
A maritime intelligence source tells CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar that interaction between pirate groups and Somalia's al Qaeda-linked groups was first noticed about nine months ago, and has been on the rise.
The source said it was now "inconceivable" to Western intelligence agencies that al Qaeda would not be getting some financial reward from the successful hijackings. The question, says the intelligence source, is whether that cut will remain sufficient to keep the Islamic extremist group satisfied as piracy gains public attention, and bigger ransoms.
Following the rescue of the Maersk Alabama by the U.S. Navy, during which three pirates were killed and another captured, there were threats made by pirates in Somalia against any American crew members found in future hijackings.
Shihri is a Saudi Arabian who was captured near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan in December of 2001. He was one of the first U.S. detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba, arriving on January 21, 2002.
After being held at Guantanamo without charge for almost six years, he was released to Saudi authorities and enrolled in a repatriation and rehabilitation program there.
Following his release, he traveled to Yemen and was subsequently described as a deputy leader in a press release from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Shihri opened his message by addressing the Jihadi leader trio: Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri. He assured them that the militants in the Arabian Peninsula were not letting them down, and pledged to open a new front in the region.
"We say to you, we are not just sitting there watching you as the crusader countries prepare themselves to eradicate you and wipe out your group. By Allah we shall open against them a major front in the Arabian Peninsula which would, Allah willing, be the key to victory that would purge the crusader campaign and put an end to the ambitions of the crusaders and the Jews in the region."
It was a vow to try and take the heat off al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where NATO and domestic forces are putting increasing pressure on militants.
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