Just over a month after the White House said its assassination of Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane delivered “a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa,” the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia has put citizens on alert for an Al-Shabaab attack.
Al-Shabaab quickly named Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah, aka Ahmed Diriye, a longtime senior adviser to Godane and former primary school Quran teacher, as its new leader and renewed its “pledge of allegiance” to al-Qaeda after the Labor Day attack.
Al-Shabaab vowed to ”not delay in punishing those who have perpetrated such heinous massacres,” and promised that the terror group would “only grow in strength and ferocity” after Godane’s death.
Yesterday, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa advised citizens “to avoid large crowds and places where both Ethiopians and westerners frequent.”
“The Embassy has received threat reports of al-Shabaab’s intent to target the Bole area. Restaurants, hotels, bars, places of worship, supermarkets, and shopping malls in the Bole Area should be avoided until further notice because they are possible targets for a potential imminent terrorist attack,” said the message to citizens. “While the exact location of this planned terrorist attack is not known, U.S. citizens should continue to maintain heightened personal security awareness.”
The Bole International Airport is about 5 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.
There is currently no State Department travel warning in effect for Ethiopia. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to regions at the Somali and Eritrean borders.
President Obama met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly last month.
“They focused on counterterrorism cooperation, where Ethiopia has been a strong partner, particularly in efforts against al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters.
The Somali government says its amnesty program for Al-Shabaab fighters to turn themselves in has resulted in “hundreds” of fighters leaving the group, but the government is now being linked to the “unauthorized diversion of government weapons to Islamist militants with ties to al-Qaeda.”
The president of Somalia told PJM in August that the threat of Al-Shabaab and other al-Qaeda affiliates in North Africa is not Somalia’s problem alone.
“Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, all of them, these are terrorist organizations — they are linked, they live for each other, they support each other and they are connected globally,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said. “It’s not just an issue of one country or one region — it’s a global phenomenon that needs to be addressed globally.”