Sunday, July 11, 2010

Breaking News:

Three synchronized bombs exploded in Kampala today during the World Cup final, killing at least fifty (some reports range to over 60). While many will turn their eyes to the LRA and Kony, there is another, game-changing possibility.

D&D Snap Analysis:

Synchronized explosions in crowded soft targets are not typical for the LRA, they are more typical to traditional AQ actions. This possibility is further magnified by comments made tonight by Sheik Yousuf Sheik Issa (al Shabaab Commander) in Mogadishu to an AP reporter:

"Uganda is one of our enemies...whatever makes them cry makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us."
If this is an Al Shabaab operation, it will mark their first outside of Somalia, and a clear shifting in both their capabilities and aims within the region. It may also signal that they are seeking some form of horizontal escalation of their conflict inside of Somalia.

More on this soon, as more details emerge.

3 comments:

Catie Corbin said...

Jeff,
In what way is Uganda contributing to the issues in Somalia? I know they give a lot of troops to the AU, but I'm wondering why they are all of a sudden becoming a target.
Can you tell me a little bit more about Al Shabaab? I mean, the words from Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, "Uganda is one of our enemies. Whatever makes them cry, makes us happy. May Allah's anger be upon those who are against us.." are pretty strong words. You don't say those things unless there's a pretty big reason.
Thoughts on their relationship? Religious motives? Political? Historical?
Thanks. I'll appreciate your insight.
Catie

Jeff Schneider said...

Hi Catie -- Thanks for your questions! I think for a long term view on the Ugandan/Somali tensions I will have to defer to Dave or Louisa, who are by far better schooled than I on these issues -- but the Al Shabaab motivation most likely results from the following:
1. Uganda is one of the largest contributors to the AU stabilization/peacekeeping forces in Mogadishu right now, placing Uganda square in their crosshairs

and

2. The attack may be a confluence of interests. Al Shabaab has been seeking more international attention -- both to inspire the willing to donate funds and/or come join the struggle in Somalia. Their recruitment of foreign fighters has been severely hampered in recent years, with FBI/RCMP arrests of recruiters targeting the Somali Dyaspora in the US and Canada. This, coupled with their inability to draw foreign media attention for their operations inside of Somalia (a bomb in Mogidishu doesn't make the front page much anymore) has certainly strained their ability to remain "relevant" within the international Jihad movement. Shabaab has sought to remedy this by allying themselves more directly to Al Qaeda core (their leadership swore bayat to bin Laden a while back) -- but they have been consistently overshadowed by AQ's two other regional affiliates (AQAP in Yemen and AQIM in Algeria/Mali).

This attack (if it is proven to be an al Shabaab operation) may be their play to move closer to AQ's good graces. It not only would serve their own purposes of striking Uganda, and horizontally escalating their conflict (and making front pages both in the broadsheets and the dijihad), but it would also ingratiate the movement with AQ in two key ways: firstly, it shows they have the capability to plan and carry out multiple simultaneous bombings in a foreign (albeit regional) nation, but it would also allow AQ to make good on its promise to strike a World Cup event in Africa (something the group vowed to do, but had its own cells comprimised inside of South Africa).

Suffice to say, I am speculating here, but there are alot of reasons for Shabaab to try this kind of operation. They very well may be seeking to duplicate (in Somalia) the political results of the 2004 M-11 attacks in Madrid, which drove the Spanish out of the Coalition of the Willing in Iraq as well.

That's my two cents -- thanks for such a great question... in fact, I may make this comment my next post on the subject!

Thanks for reading!

Catie Corbin said...

Jeff, that was a terrific 2 cents! Thanks for directly addressing my questions. As an avid reader of D&D now (no seriously, I love you guys), can I request a comprehensive run down on Al-Qaeda....the basics, what their cause is, what are the different factions are and where...
I'm quite embarrassed that all I know about this terrorist organization is that they call for global jihad. What that actually means and why and how...is muggy. What are their tactics? Where in the Qur'an are they basing their claims? I'm living in Pakistan now working on projects in the FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. We just use the term "militants," mostly referencing the Taliban, but I'd really like to have a bit deeper knowledge of this. Asking my colleagues might raise eyebrows.
Dave Reidy, I need to read that book you gave me on the Politics of Islam (shamefully have not gotten to it yet).
Anyway, just a suggestion.
Thanks!
Catie

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