Somalia is seedbed for terrorism, warns MI5

Mogadishu u(keydmedia)Britain is almost certain to experience a terrorist attack inspired by al-Shabaab, the Somali extremist group, according to the head of, MI5, the UK’s security service.
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Somalia is seedbed for terrorism, warns MI5

Delivering a rare public speech on Thursday, Jonathan Evans, MI5’s director-general, said conditions in Somalia, which has suffered decades of civil war, were similar to those in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.

Al-Shabaab, an armed group linked to al-Qaeda, is waging a violent struggle against Somalia’s official government in the capital, Mogadishu, and surrounding area. Al-Shabaab now controls large areas of southern and central Somalia, including small ports and airfields. It claimed responsibility in July for bomb attacks in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, which killed 74 people.

Uganda has deployed troops in Somalia to support the official government.

Mr Evans said “a significant number of UK residents” were training in al-Shabaab camps in Somalia. Independent experts suggested that the number of British residents involved can be numbered in the “tens, but might amount to more than 100 within one or two years.

Mr Evans said al-Shabaab’s campaign meant that Somalia “shows many of the characteristics that made Afghanistan so dangerous as a seedbed for terrorism in the period before the fall of the Taliban”.

He added: “I am concerned that it is only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab.”

Mr Evans said the activity inside Yemen of Anwar al-Awlaqi, an Islamist preacher, was also of growing concern.

He noted that Mr Awlaqi was the inspiration behind a failed attempt to bring down a US airliner over Detroit on Christmas day last year.

“There is a real risk that one of his adherents will respond to his urging to violence and mount an attack in the UK, possibly acting alone and with little formal training,” he said.

Mr Evans said the UK government had been careful to boost resources for counter-terrorist capabilities after the July 2005 bomb attacks in London. But he added: “There remains a serious risk of a lethal attack taking place”

One area which is of growing concern to MI5 is the possibility of more terrorist violence by dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, who have already this year carried out some 30 attacks or attempted attacks on national security targets

Mr Evans said while the UK did not face the scale of the threat posed by the Provisional IRA in the 1970s and 1980s, “there is a real and increasing security challenge in Northern Ireland”.

There are thought to be about 600 dissident republicans, roughly half the number of adherents that backed the Provisional IRA. They continue to focus their activity in Northern Ireland. But Mr Evans said: “We cannot exclude the possibility that they might seek to extend their attacks to Great Britain, as violent Republican groups have traditionally done.”

Source: financial times

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