A former commander of the Somali al-Qaeda-linked organisation al-Shabab has said that dormant cells in the Netherlands are secretly preparing terrorist attacks.
The commander, who left al-Shabab because of a dispute with its leaders, said the militant Islamist group is actively recruiting and training members of the Somali diaspora in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States to launch attacks in the countries where they have a residence permit.
Dutch public broadcaster VPRO spoke to a BBC reporter, Mary Harper, on its radio programme Bureau Buitenland. Ms Harper had interviewed Mohamed Farah al Ansari who said Somalia was becoming the new hub of jihadism. Al Ansari joined up with government forces and entered a protection programme with the interim government after he stopped activities with Al Shabab.
The Somali commander was questioned by US security officials at the American embassy in Nairobi.
Al-Shabab is an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG’s Ethiopian military allies. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam”, and is engaged in combat against the TFG and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
The outfit controls large swathes of the southern parts of the country where it is said to have imposed its own strict form of Sharia Law. Its strength is estimated at around 14,000 militants. The group also targets foreign aid organisations, leading to a suspension of humanitarian operations and an exodus of relief agents.
The UN Security Council voted earlier this year to increase AU peacekeeping forces in Somalia. The fighting has shifted away from the capital Mogadishu and government troops have managed to take a strategic al-Shabab stronghold in south-western Somalia.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide