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Vol 42 No 23

Published 23rd November 2001


Moving target

A state in turmoil offers no safe haven for terrorists feeling the onslaught in Afghanistan

If Usama bin Laden and his comrades headed for Somalia, they could find it even less comfortable than Afghanistan. American and French ships patrol the coastline and blockade some ports. There are reports of German troops joining them, a deployment unprecedented in modern times. Bossasso port in Puntland is a particular target. The unrecognised but de facto state is already at war. Heavy fighting broke out on 21 November between supporters of the deposed President, Colonel Abdullahi Yussef Ahmed, and backers of Jama Ali Jama, elected President by the Garowe conference of elders last week. Intelligence sources spoke of an Ethiopian invasion. Washington backs neighbouring Ethiopia, which is itching to defeat Islamists and Oromo rebels, and to settle old scores. Muslim Somalia itself, while plagued by its own Islamists, overflows with anti-Islamist militias with no love for Usama. So why is Somalia widely perceived as Usama's next base and an upcoming target for the US-led Coalition against Terrorism? So fragmented is the state, with its new Transitional National Government (AC Vol 42 No 22) forming only one authority among several, and such is the military experience of the numerous clan militias, that it would seem rash to seek refuge there. Yet the anti-terror warriors are interested for three reasons.

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