The struggle against terrorism (P-II)

Gemeda Tussa
Part Two
The Transitional Federal Government’s troops and their AMISOM allies managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants in early August 2011. An ideological rift within the group’s leadership also emerged, and several of the organization’s senior commanders were assassinated.
Due to its Wahhabi roots, Al Shabaab is hostile to Sufi traditions and has often clashed with the militant Sufi group Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a. The group has also been suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram. Additionally, it attracted some members from western countries, notably Samantha Lewthwaite and Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki.
In August 2014, the Somali government-led Operation Indian Ocean was launched to clean up the remaining insurgent-held pockets in the countryside. On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubeyr.
U.S. authorities hailed the raid as a major symbolic and operational loss for Al-Shabaab, and the Somali government offered a 45-day amnesty to all moderate members of the militant group. Political analysts also suggested that the insurgent commander’s death will likely lead to Al-Shabaab’s fragmentation and eventual dissolution.
Al-Shabaab’s composition is multiethnic, with its leadership positions mainly occupied by Afghanistan- and Iraq-trained ethnic Somalis and foreigners. According to the National Counterterrorism Center, the group’s rank-and-file members hail from disparate local groups, sometimes recruited by force. Unlike most of the organization’s top leaders, its foot soldiers are primarily concerned with nationalist and clan-related affairs as opposed to the global jihad.
They are also prone to infighting and shifting alliances. According to the Jamestown Foundation, Al-Shabaab seeks to exploit these vulnerabilities by manipulating clan networks in order to retain power. The group itself is likewise not entirely immune to local politics. More recently, Muslim converts from neighbouring countries have been conscripted, typically to do undesirable or difficult work.
Although al-Shabaab’s leadership ultimately falls upon al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the internal leadership is not fully clear, and with foreign fighters trickling out of the country, its structure is increasingly decentralized. Ahmed Abdi Godane was publicly named as emir of al-Shabaab in December 2007.
In August 2011, Godane was heavily criticized by Al-Shabaab co-founder Hassan Dahir Aweys and others for not letting aid into the hunger stricken parts of southern Somalia. Although not formally announced, Shabaab was effectively split up into a “foreign legion,” led by Godane, and a coalition of factions forming a “national legion” under Aweys.
The latter group often refused to take orders from Godane and the two groups hardly talked to each other. In February 2012, Godane made Bay’ah, or an oath of allegiance, to al-Qaeda. With it he likely hoped to reclaim and extend his authority, and to encourage foreign fighters to stay.
This move will further complicate the cooperation with the “national legion” of al-Shabaab. Godane was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Somalia on September 1, 2014.  Ahmad Umar was named Godane’s successor on 6 September 2014, he is believed to have previously played a role in al-Shabaab’s internal secret service known as Amniya.
Al-Qa’ida) is a global militant Sunni Islamist organization founded by Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam, and several others at some point between August 1988 and late 1989, with origins traceable to the Arab volunteers who fought against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.
It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and an Islamist, extremist, wahhabi jihadist group. It has been designated as a terrorist group by the United Nations Security Council, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the European Union, the United States, Russia, India, and various other countries.
Al-Qaeda has mounted attacks on civilian and military targets in various countries, including the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings, the September 11 attacks, and the 2002 Bali bombings. The U.S. government responded to the September 11 attacks by launching the “War on Terror”.
With the loss of key leaders, culminating in the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s operations have devolved from actions that were controlled from the top down, to actions by franchise associated groups and lone-wolf operators. Characteristic techniques employed by al-Qaeda include suicide attacks and the simultaneous bombing of different targets.
Activities ascribed to it may involve members of the movement who have made a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden, or the much more numerous “al-Qaeda-linked” individuals who have undergone training in one of its camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq or Sudan who have not.
Al-Qaeda ideologues envision a complete break from all foreign influences in Muslim countries, and the creation of a new caliphate ruling over the entire Muslim world.  During the Syrian civil war, al-Qaeda factions started fighting each other, as well as the Kurds and the Syrian government.
Among the beliefs ascribed to al-Qaeda members is the conviction that a Christian–Jewish alliance is conspiring to destroy Islam.
As Salafist jihadists, they believe that the killing of non-combatants is religiously sanctioned, but they ignore any aspect of religious scripture which might be interpreted as forbidding the murder of non-combatants and internecine fighting.Al-Qaeda also opposes what it regards as man-made laws, and wants to replace them with a strict form of sharia law.
Al-Qaeda is also responsible for instigating sectarian violence among Muslims. Al-Qaeda leaders regard liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other sects as heretics and have attacked their mosques and gatherings.
Examples of sectarian attacks include the Yazidi community bombings, the Sadr City bombings, the Ashoura massacre and the April 2007 Baghdad bombings. Since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011 the group has been led by Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaeda’s management philosophy has been described as “centralization of decision and decentralization of execution.” It is thought that al-Qaeda’s leadership, following the War on Terror, has “become geographically isolated,” leading to the “emergence of decentralized leadership” of regional groups using the al-Qaeda “brand”.
Many terrorism experts do not believe that the global jihadist movement is driven at every level by al-Qaeda’s leadership. Although bin Laden still held considerable ideological sway over some Muslim extremists before his death, experts argue that al-Qaeda has fragmented over the years into a variety of regional movements that have little connection with one another.
Marc Sageman, a psychiatrist and former Central Intelligence Agency officer, said that al-Qaeda is now just a “loose label for a movement that seems to target the West.” “There is no umbrella organisation. We like to create a mythical entity called  in our minds, but that is not the reality we are dealing with.”
On March 11, 2004, Spain’s most horrific terrorist attack occurred: 202 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in bombings at Madrid’s railway station. Evidence soon emerged that al-Qaeda was responsible.
By April, a dozen suspects, most of them Moroccan, were arrested for the bombings. On April 4, several suspects blew themselves up during a police raid to avoid capture. Many Spaniards blamed their prime minister’s staunch support of the U.S. and the war in Iraq for making Spain an al-Qaeda target.
On July 7, 2005, London suffered a terrorist bombing, its worst attack since World War II. Four bombs exploded in three subway stations and on one double-decker bus during the morning rush hour, killing at least 52 and wounding more than 700.
A group calling itself the Secret Organization of al-Qaeda in Europe claimed responsibility on a Web site, asserting that the attacks were a retaliation for Britain’s involvement in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A year after the bombing, British investigators concluded that the links between the bombers and al-Qaeda were marginal. The four bombers, all born in Britain, had all visited Pakistan, but there was no evidence of any direct support from al-Qaeda.
As the Iraqi insurgency has continued, however, suspected al-Qaeda terrorists have moved into the country and are likely responsible for kidnappings and a string of suicide-bomb attacks. In February 2004, U.S. forces intercepted a letter believed to have been written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian radical.
The letter outlined plans to destabilize Iraq by igniting sectarian conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Al-Zarqawi is thought to have been the mastermind behind the 1,000 to 3,000 foreign insurgents fighting in Iraq. For a time, al-Zarqawi appeared to position himself as a rival to bin Laden, but in Oct. 2004 he officially declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, changing the name of his organization from Unification and Jihad to al-Qaeda in Iraq.
In an audiotape a few months later bin Laden declared that “the dear mujahed brother Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the prince of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and announced that “we, in al-Qaeda organization, welcome him joining forces with us.”
Despite the U.S. “war on terror,” al-Qaeda continues to be a threat worldwide. There have been continued attacks by al-Qaeda terrorists since September 11, 2001. Until his death, Osama bin Laden played an important role in shaping the group’s mission, and al-Zawahiri still does.
In April, 2004, bin Laden offered a truce to Europe, saying that al-Qaeda would not attack any country, with the exception of the U.S., that withdrew its troops from the Islamic world within three months. European leaders quickly rejected the offer.
In December 2007, Gen. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, reported that al-Qaeda in Iraq posed the greatest threat to Iraq’s security. Indeed, in January 2008, the U.S. military reported that in 2007, al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for some 4,500 attacks against civilians that killed 3,870 people and wounded almost 18,000. By September 2008, however, al-Qaeda in Iraq had been sharply weakened, if not diminished entirely.
The success in routing out the terrorist group has been attributed to Sunni Awakening Councils, former tribal leaders and insurgents who turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq as it became increasingly sectarian, and sided with the U.S.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq (see above), was killed in June 2006 when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-lb. bombs on his safe house. Zarqawi’s death is considered America’s single biggest victory in nearly five years of fighting Islamist terror. Zarqawi was responsible for many of the most brutal and horrific attacks in Iraqi.
In recent years, many of the most horrific bombings attributed to al-Qaeda—most notably Bali, Madrid, London, and Algeria—are believed to have been carried out by terrorist groups linked more in spirit than in substance to al-Qaeda. Al-Zarqawi, the most active terrorist in recent years, for example, only officially joined al-Qaeda in the years after he initiated his reign of terror in Iraq.
Al-Qaeda has been more than happy to take credit for the various bombings, but it is thought that it has offered philosophical motivation more than a direct support for the atrocities committed by these splinter groups.
While al-Qaeda encourages its reputation as a vast global network, many experts believe that at this stage al-Qaeda itself has just a small core of adherents, but serves as the virulent inspiration to countless violent Islamic extremists.
While the war on terror has cost the United States some $1 trillion, al-Qeada remains a global threat. In fact, in August 2008, Ted Gistaro, the U.S. government’s senior terrorism analyst, said in a report that by forging closer ties to Pakistani militants, al-Qaeda is more capable of launching an attack in the United States than it was in 2007. The Pakistani militants have given al-Qaeda leaders safe haven in remote areas to train recruits.
John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, said in August 2009 that although al-Qaeda “has been seriously damaged and forced to replace many of its top-tier leadership with less experienced and less capable individuals,” the terrorist group remains the country’s No. 1 threat.
In the wake of bin Laden’s death, analysts expressed concern that al-Qaeda may seek retaliation. U.S. embassies throughout the world were put on high alert, and the U.S. State Department issued a warning for travelers visiting dangerous countries, instructing them “to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.” Some Afghan officials expressed concern that bin Laden’s death might be seen as a reason for the U.S. to withdraw from Afghanistan, saying terrorism continues to plague the country and the region.
Al-Qaeda merged with a number of other militant Islamist organizations, including Egypt’s Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Group, and on several occasions its leaders declared holy war against the United States.
The organization established camps for Muslim militants from throughout the world, training tens of thousands in paramilitary skills, and its agents engaged in numerous terrorist attacks, including the destruction of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and a suicide bomb attack against the U.S. warship Cole in Aden, Yemen. In 2001, 19 militants associated with al-Qaeda staged the September 11 attacks against the United States.
Within weeks the U.S. government responded by attacking Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.  Thousands of militants were killed or captured, among them several key members and the remainder and their leaders were driven into hiding.
The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 challenged that country’s viability as an al-Qaeda sanctuary and training ground and compromised communication, operational, and financial linkages between al-Qaeda leadership and its militants. Rather than significantly weakening al-Qaeda, however, these realities prompted a structural evolution and the growth of “franchising.”
Increasingly, attacks were orchestrated not only from above by the centralized leadership but also by the localized, relatively autonomous cells it encouraged. Such grassroots independent groups, coalesced locally around a common agenda but subscribing to the al-Qaeda name and its broader ideology, thus meant a diffuse form of militancy, and one far more difficult to confront.
With this organizational shift, al-Qaeda was linked—whether directly or indirectly to more attacks in the six years following September 11 than it had been in the six years prior, including attacks in Jordan, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Israel, Algeria, and elsewhere.
At the same time, al-Qaeda increasingly utilized the Internet as an expansive venue for communication and recruitment and as a mouthpiece for video messages, broadcasts, and propaganda. Meanwhile, some observers expressed concern that U.S. strategy, centred primarily on attempts to overwhelm al-Qaeda militarily—was ineffectual, and at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, al-Qaeda was thought to have reached its greatest strength since the attacks of September 2001.
On May 2, 2011, bin Laden was killed by U.S. military forces after U.S. intelligence located him residing in a secure compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, 31 miles (50 km) from Islamabad. The operation was carried out by a small team that reached the compound in Abbottabad by helicopter.
After bin Laden’s death was confirmed, it was announced by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, who hailed the operation as a major success in the fight against al-Qaeda. On June 16, 2011, al-Qaeda released a statement announcing that Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s long-serving deputy, had been appointed to replace bin Laden as the organization’s leader.
Evidently, What the Paris and other terrorist attacks prove is that terrorism is not a labor intensive act, it doesn’t take many terrorists to cause a lot of harm. In an action by no more than ten suicidal maniacs, in a span of few hours have murdered more than 129 innocent civilians and brought France to its knees and unnerved,  the entire continent of Europe. The problems is as the securities of nations’ keep evolving so do the terrorists; and are able to crate public havoc by focusing on soft targets.
Much of the media is paying attention to the Paris attack, perhaps because of the European factor,  but it goes without saying, not a day passes without mass murder; market, school, mosque bombing at some corner of the globe. In fact nations that somehow have developed the semblance of immunity to the terror pandemic are a minority. Among them is Ethiopia.
The fact that Ethiopia hasn’t faces a major terrorist attack in the last few years is not for luck of trying. It is thanks to the dedicated members of the country’s intelligence community being a step ahead of the terrorists.
Nevertheless there is always the need for improvement. Security experts concur it was the French intelligence failure that let the Paris attack took place. If a resource reach country like France fails to detect and prevent terrorist plots… what is the likely hood poor country like Ethiopia having security lapses?
Yes, the security agents have kept the country safe: Despite threats by different terrorist groups, their plots have been detected and disrupted. But also, on many occasions, some terrorists have come too close for comfort.
Which means at the end of the day what should be a concern is what the country’s intelligence might not be picking up. That is why the nation’s security agency should constantly be changing and evolving.
It should be given new law enforcement mechanism which basically gives it new or better tools to work with. Concurrently, there should be pro-active application of the criminal law – the government doesn’t have to wait for the terrorists to initiate and prosecute a plot.
In other words, Ethiopia needs to enhance its intelligence resources. Today intelligence has positioned as the central role in all aspects of every country’s national security.
This unprecedented phenomenon arises as a response to every type of extremist ideology. In its terrorist and criminal form, extremism is a serious security risk in Ethiopia as well. Even in its non-violent ideological form, it is a threat to the nation’s security, stability, peace, and tolerance, which it [extremism] seeks to overturn.
The scary thing is extremists and terrorist have developed tentacles with wide reach. Using electronic communication and simple organization, they can plot, recruit, and act inflicting loss of life quite cheaply. Obviously, the resources necessary to pursue the perpetrators, counter their vile messages and protect the society at large are very extensive.
Moreover, since reliable overt channels of communication, is not feature of terrorist movements, governments are left uncomfortably dependent on intelligence as the primary, uncorroborated source of information for policy making.
On the face of it, while we remain in the digital world, this dependence would argue for further investments in security technological development and expansion of national intelligence budget. The intelligence agency would certainly need to continue to develop and safeguard its cryptographic capacity.
The nation’s aim of containing, degrading and destroying terrorists is urgent and ambitious. Success depends to a considerable extent on building and maintaining intelligence assets on the ground.
This means using Special Forces and training local and regional agents who can be deployed in combination with the national intelligence and the military. Once the above base is laid, however, the focus should be to cut at the terrorist’s source, their poisonous propaganda stream, and disrupt the two-way flow of infiltrators.
Factors the allowed terrorist groups to execute catastrophic attacks – they require physical sanctuaries giving them time space and ability to perform competent planning and staff work, as well as opportunities and space to recruit, train and select targets.
Al-Qaeda enjoyed such sanctuary in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen etc. ISIS has Iraq, Syria, and Libya etc. Anti-Ethiopian terrorists have Eritrean and Somalia.
It makes no sense, however, for the government to devote extra resources to overcoming the violent effect of extremism while neglecting to exploit intelligence available about the fundamental drives of the terrorists and their sponsors.
The flow will not stop until agencies in our neighboring counties have developed greater awareness of their domestic security scene are willing to exchange of information with the Ethiopian security agency. For the most part, Ethiopia has managed to acquire the cooperation of its neighboring countries except one.
The rogue Eritrean is in the business of sponsoring, facilitating and acting as a conduit to anti Ethiopian forces. It needs to be told it doesn’t have the right to do so and lease its territory to anyone willing to harm Ethiopia. Furthermore, Ethiopia should exercise its rights to protect itself by striking potential targets inside Eritrea.
The ability to scan and collect data communications nevertheless remain vital, and the way forward cannot lie in blocking it, so much as ensuring that the legal framework is clear and accountability rigorous; that agents are tasked only to genuine priorities: and the process involved in producing and using intelligence are operated proportionately.
And unless there is going to be whole sale resort to executive detention , which leads to create martyrs and is ultimately unproductive, security agents must be trained to obtain evidence that is both usable in court and robust enough to obtain conviction.
Paradoxically, the more government succeeds in threat reduction and the less apparent the threat, the more onerous the accompanying invasion of privacy and constraints on civil liberties can seem.
Every country irrespective its system of governance is employing the same methodology to safeguard its people. As a matter of fact countries like Ethiopia don’t even have the resources to implement the kind of surveillance entrapment employed by the western countries.
The claims by some hypocritical issue-advocacy western groups, in a free society, only so much, the most important of which is to make sure we remain a free society. Even so, exercising some vigilance isn’t inimical to freedom. Clearing house once in a while can be very salutary
In Kenya, another terror attack wasn’t shocking news. Indeed, the number of attacks in Kenya has more than doubled since 2013, and the assault on Garissa, which killed 148, was just the latest in a growing list of al-Shabab attacks outside Somalia.
In 2010, a suicide bombing in Uganda killed 74 people; last year, militants carried out the first suicide bombing in Djibouti’s history; and in April, Tanzanian authorities arrested 10 people carrying explosives, bomb detonators and an al-Shabab flag.
Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, a country with a longer history of military involvement in Somalia and a much longer border with the country than Kenya, the number of al-Shabab attacks in recent years is well, zero. The last attempted attack in the country happened two years ago and ended when two would-be suicide bombers blew themselves up in their safe house in the capital of Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia’s success at evading attacks might not seem so remarkable, except that even the most developed countries, including the United States, have generally floundered in their counterterrorism efforts.  Ethiopia is following to thwart al-Shabab attacks, and ultimately to help stall the Islamic State’s inroads into Africa, has its own set of civil rights issues. Indeed, the country sparked its own form of an ends-justify-the-means debate, with critics saying it relies on security and intelligence gathering that is too heavy-handed.
The struggle against terrorism has lacked consolidation. On one hand there are cooperation to fight it but on the other hand there are actions to support it. There is problem in comprehending that terrorism is the arch-foe of the people of the world. There are still states supporting terrorist groups with finance and other technical mechanisms such as training. In some cases there are countries harboring terrorist leaders who have been working to destabilize other countries and commit various terrorist activities. As a result of lack of confidence the struggle against terrorism has never become as fruitful as it is expected. The international community should come together and stand against terrorism if the world is effectively to dismantle terrorist groups in the world.

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