Homeland Insecurity: Terrorist Fundraising in the Heartland
Nearly 15 years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 6 years after 9/11, the federal agencies responsible for our domestic security against terrorism appear to be entirely unaware, unequipped and unconcerned about the continued operations of Islamic terrorists inside the US.
Exhibit A in support of this thesis is the recent fundraising visit to the US by major Somali terrorist leader Zakaria Mahmoud Haji-Abdi. Abdi is deputy chairman of the Eritrean-based Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS). The ARS is organizationally integrated with the al-Qaeda-backed Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which is waging the deadly terrorist insurgency in Somalia against the UN and US recognized Transnational Federal Government (TFG). The insurgency is responsible for the violence that has caused the deaths of nearly 6,000 Somalis this year in Mogadishu alone and forced at least another half million refugees to flee from there.
Abdi was the keynote speaker at a fundraising event and conference hosted by the United Somali Diaspora and held at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Minneapolis on November 24. An article published the following day by SomaliTalk (in Somali) features numerous pictures of the event, documenting Abdi's attendance. (Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the country.) A follow-up conference was held the following weekend at the Days Inn in Falls Church, VA, (right outside Washington, D.C.) by United Somali Diaspora and several other US-based Somali groups.
Some in the US Somali community, however, are actively speaking out against the ARS terror campaign and their fundraising efforts in the West.
Abdirahman Warsame, Executive Director of the Terror Free Somalia Foundation, expressed his opposition to the conference agenda and Abdi's terrorist fundraising mission. "This event was definitely intended to organize and mobilize the extreme elements of the Somali community here to support the armed struggle against the internationally recognized Somali government and oppose US foreign policy," Warsame said. "Abdi was openly calling for jihad and directing supporters to use the underground hawala networks to circumvent US controls to prevent terrorism financing overseas. These funds will be used to support the insurgency that is killing civilians, civil servants and anyone who works for or with the government, in order to further weaken the country and open the doors for foreign terrorists to take control of the country. Why would this man be allowed in the US?"
Repeated phone calls and emails from this reporter to the Department of Homeland Security public affairs office asking for explanation on why Abdi was allowed in the country did not receive a reply.
The failure of Homeland Security to act in any way to keep Abdi out of the country prompted heated criticism of the agency by Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "It is absolutely scandalous that federal authorities cannot or will not stop jihadists from entering the US. Homeland Security should be called Homeland Insecurity," Emerson said.
He also noted that fundraising for terror is directly related to acts of terror:
To paraphrase the president, there is no difference between those that carry out acts of terrorism and those that protect them or enable them. Jihadist financiers are just as culpable for blowing up buses of children as those that strap bombs upon themselves. A jihadist is a jihadhist, and they are killers who have no place being allowed to operate in the US.
Equally as troubling is the fact that Abdi and the other guests at the conference were warmly greeted by a member of US Senator Norm Coleman's (R-MN) staff, Constituent Policy Liaison Mahmud Nuur Wadheere. Wadheere's welcome was noted in the SomaliTalk conference recap article.
Another ARS official, Abdirahman Haji Aden Ibbi, also joined Abdi as a speaker at the Minneapolis conference. The ARS was formed back in September during a conference held in Asmara, Eritrea to create an international coalition between the ICU, which was forced out of power in Somalia late last year by Ethiopian troops supporting the TFG, the Eritrean government, Islamist leaders from around the Middle East and the Somali diaspora community in the West. The US is currently considering listing Eritrea as a state sponsor of terrorism for its continued support of the insurgency in Somalia and for providing a haven for the ARS leadership.
Abdi was selected as the deputy chairman and official spokesman of the ARS, and the ICU's no. 2, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, was appointed chairman. Last year, when the ICU took control of the country and imposed its Taliban-style of shari'a law, Abdi openly applauded their arrival. "Yesterday the West was talking about lawlessness in Somalia. Today everything is better because the Islamic courts have taken over," Abdi said. "Let us give these people a chance."
The leader of the ICU, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, also appeared at the Asmara conference, emerging from hiding following the ICU's flight from Ethiopian forces. Aweys is wanted by the US and has been listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) on Meet the Press last year described Aweys as "an al-Qaeda operative or somebody that is connected to al-Qaeda."
During the Asmara conference, Abdi was quoted as saying that the Ethiopian troops supporting the UN-backed TFG should "surrender now" or face "extinction." He told the Associated Press : "We have enough and well-armed forces in every village of Somalia and they are ready to restore their sovereignty. We are in Eritrea to establish a control and command system so as we avoid confusion after the liberation."
Abdi did not explain, however, the contradiction of "liberating" Somalia from foreign domination while receiving Eritrean military assistance and welcoming foreign Arab fighters (including known al-Qaeda operatives) as part of the Somali insurgency.
This episode demonstrates that our national security in some areas is no better than what it was prior to 9/11. If Homeland Security can't or won't act to prevent terrorist leaders like Zakaria Mahmoud Haji-Abdi from entering the US, there may be very little standing between us and the next 9/11.
Patrick Poole is a counter-terror consultant to law enforcement and the Executive Director of Central Ohioans Against Terrorism.