Last week, the Department of Homeland Security warned Houston law enforcement that a Somali terrorist named Mohamed Ali could be in their area. Ali is a member of al-Shabaab, the terrorist group currently fighting for control of Somalia. Al-Shabaab has proven to be frighteningly effective at recruiting Westerners, including Americans.
Al-Shabaab has pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda and should be seen as branch of the organization. It is reinforced with arms and recruits from Yemen and is al-Qaeda’s best hope to score a battlefield victory and resurrect the safe haven it treasured prior to October 2001. If al-Shabaab succeeds in taking Somalia, it will be the first time that al-Qaeda controlled its own country. This affiliate’s networks in the U.S., Canada, and Europe provide the group with the capacity to launch attacks on our soil. It likely only chooses not to do so because of the fear that it would compromise the organization’s presence.
The alert says that Ali is thought to have arrived via Mexico. He is likely part of a group of hundreds of Somalis that have snuck in through the open borders. This information needs to be inserted into the debate over border security that is now raging because of Arizona’s bill to combat illegal immigration.
In February, the authorities arrested a man in Virginia named Anthony Joseph Tracy, who has admitted to having contact with al-Shabaab. Tracy is believed to have smuggled 270 Somalis into the U.S. through Mexico. Let me say it again: An associate of al-Shabaab has snuck in nearly 300 Somalis from where they operate into the country. They remain here and we don’t know what they are up to.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanine Linehan admitted, “We have not identified anyone. We believe all the individuals are present in the United States. But by the virtue of [the] successful smuggling scheme, we are having difficulty finding them.”
Two weeks ago, a Somali in San Antonio named Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane was indicted for leading a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” that brought in hundreds of people from Brazil, including “several AIAI-affiliated Somalis,” in reference to al-Ittihad al-Islami, a radical Islamic group that is tied to al-Qaeda. The government has not stated if Dhakane is connected to Tracy.
Tracy and/or Dhakane are likely connected to another batch of Somalis that were arrested in Mexico in January on their way to the United States. The Mexican authorities arrested them for illegally being in the country, but released them on January 21 after only 16 were identified. One of those was Mohamed Osman Noor, who is believed to be an al-Shabaab operative.
Al-Shabaab’s networks in the U.S. first came to light when over 20 young Somali-Americans in the Minneapolis area suddenly disappeared. Some were later found to have gone back to their homeland to fight alongside the terrorist group. Six of them have since died in Somalia. Among those killed is Shirwa Ahmed, who became the first American suicide bomber in 2008. At least 14 Americans have been indicted for their role in the group’s infrastructure in the United States, although recruiting has also gone on in Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and elsewhere.
In November 2007, terrorism expert Patrick Poole warned here at Pajamas Media of the sophistication of al-Shabaab’s American network: “[T]here exists an active recruiting and transportation network in the U.S. … In many instances, these same Somali leaders purporting ignorance and innocence for the local media are not only aware of these recruiting operations, but have actively participated in them,” he wrote.
The deputy chairman of the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, a group aligned with al-Qaeda, even attended a fundraiser in Minneapolis on November 24, 2007. The group that hosted him held a second fundraiser the next week near Falls Church, Virginia. Remarkably, the first fundraiser was attended by Mahmud Nuur Wadheere, then-Senator Norm Coleman’s constituent policy liaison.
Al-Shabaab’s reluctance to launch attacks on the United States shouldn’t be seen as an indication that the al-Qaeda affiliate is only concerned with Somalia. Al-Shabaab operatives have been involved in a terrorist plot in Australia and one tried to kill the Danish author of the infamous Mohammed cartoons. It has the West in its sights, and it must be seen as being no different than al-Qaeda.
The terrorist group is waiting to strike because it is using its network in the United States to recruit and fundraise for its overseas fight. Its activity in the U.S is seen as an investment that will pay higher returns if cashed out later. As al-Shabaab’s network in America grows, it will become more and more tempting to use its resources here to carry out a major attack. Remember, it only took 19 terrorists to execute the 9/11.