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Somalia at Crossroads

23/09/2009

Yesterday and for the first time, Somali Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in a video which was spread through Jihadi blogs. In the video, militants can be seen shouting their support to Osama Bin Laden chanting: “At your service Osama!” and vow to avenge a US raid that killed one of their leaders this week.

Al-Shabaab militants have always officially denied links to al Qaeda and it is still unclear why this video was released at this particular time. But in the recent context of terrorist attacks by Islamist insurgents in the country, this video might be just another way for the insurgency to assert itself against the West.

Somalia’s President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed  has been growing ties with the international community and the US has shown more interest and implication towards Somalia. Sharif met last month with Hillary Clinton, who pledged to expand American support for Somalia’s government.

It may seem odd that the US would support a President who imposes the Sharia (Islamic law) on its people. But the US probably wouldn’t back an Islamic President unless its legitimacy and credibility made him the strongest ally the Obama administration can have in the region. “Washington has [...] labelled him a moderate, despite his imposition of sharia law, and sent his forces 40 tonnes of weapons, while the international community has committed more than $200m to train Somali security services” reports Daniel Howden in The Independent.

Listen to this interview with Jeffrey Gettleman of the New York Times which explains why Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed is the best thing that has happened to Somalia for decades.

Also the UN has just released a report stating that Somalia is facing its worst food crisis in the last 18 years.

I’m sure the international community, as well as sending weapons, will help the Somali government fight this battle against hunger. Right?