Dozens of Islamic extremists have returned to Britain from terror training camps in Somalia, the British security services believe, an investigation for Channel 4 News, to be broadcast tonight, Monday 02/16/2009, claims.

Intelligence analysts are worried that they may attempt to launch attacks in this country or use the kudos from having trained and fought in Somalia to try to attract new recruits. The issue was raised by Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, in his first interview last month (see – M.I5 01.08.09 ).

In the USA, the outgoing head of the CIA, Michael Hayden, has said that Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia in late 2006 “catalysed” expatriate Somalis around the world (see – Square-One).

Channel 4 News also reveals that a 21-year-old suicide bomber who grew up in Ealing, West London, U.K, is thought to have blown himself up in an attack in Somalia that killed more than 20 soldiers.

The British Somali who became a suicide bomber had abandoned a business studies course at Oxford Brookes University (Jonathan Rugman writes). He reportedly blew himself up at a checkpoint in the southern Somali town of Baidoa in October 2007 after crossing into Somalia by foot from Kenya.

The incident is the first reported case involving a Somali based in Britain and will add to pressure on Scotland Yard and the Home Office to tackle the problem within the Somali community, which, at about 250,000 people, is the biggest in Europe.

“Pakistan rightly gets the most attention in terms of external threats,” a senior counter-terrorism source said. “But we believe we should focus more on the Horn of Africa and Somalia in particular.”

The hard-line Islamist militia al-Shabab (CIC), treated as a terrorist organization by the USA, has taken advantage of Ethiopia’s withdrawal from Somalia, in 01/2009, to boost its control of the south. More than 16,000 people have been reported killed in the past two years of fighting.

Peter Neumann, a terrorism expert who runs the Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, told Channel 4 News: “The numbers I hear [going from Britain to Somalia] are 50, 60 or 70, but in reality we don’t know. You don’t need big numbers for terrorism. Somalia will never become another Pakistan, but that does not mean it is not a threat.”

Most Somalis in Britain entered the country as asylum-seekers within the past 20 years. They include Yassin Hassan Omar and Ramzi Mohamed, two of the four men convicted of the botched bombing of the London 7/21.

An audio message from Osama bin Laden last month urged Muslims to send money or go to fight themselves in Somalia. “Such references are usually a good indicator,” Dr Neumann said. “The place is seen as an opportunity, from a jihadist point of view.”


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