US warns al-Shabab assault on Ethiopia ‘not a fluke’

WASHINGTON – A concerted push by al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab to develop from Somalia into Ethiopia seems to have been “largely contained,” in response to a senior U.S. navy official, though he warned that the phobia group was possible planning extra such assaults in the approaching months.

Nearly 500 al-Shabab fighters first crossed into jap Ethiopia final week and clashed with Ethiopian forces alongside the border. US estimates recommend they could have penetrated as a lot as 150 kilometers into Ethiopia earlier than being stopped.

“It appears that the Ethiopians have largely contained and defeated this incursion,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, the outgoing head of US Africa Command, mentioned Thursday throughout a name with the Washington-based Defense Writers Group.

Ethiopian officers additionally confirmed on Thursday that the al-Shabab assault had been repelled.

“Our brave soldiers thwarted a plan that al-Shabab was working on for at least a year and defeated the fighters they sent to Ethiopia within three days,” Mustafe Omer, the president of Ethiopia’s Somali area, instructed reporters.

Omar additionally mentioned Ethiopia plans to create a “security buffer zone” aimed toward countering al-Shabab assaults.

“We cannot just see an open border where the militants mobilize on the other side [Somalia] to attack us,” he said. “We should stop such a risk and never wait till they arrive to our border.”

AFRICOM’s Townsend agreed that al-Shabab will strive once more.

“This is not a fluke. … I don’t believe this is a one-off,” he added in response to an issue from VOA.

“It’s only been less than a year since al-Shabab emir [Ahmed] Diriye called for an increased emphasis on external attacks and increased emphasis on attacking Western targets in the Horn of Africa,” Townsend said. “This is a solution.”

According to intelligence shared by UN member states, al-Shabab presently instructions between 7,000 and 12,000 fighters and spends roughly $24 million a yr – 1 / 4 of its funds – on weapons, explosives and, more and more, drones.

Townsend additional warned on Thursday that al-Shabab has been emboldened by current political turmoil in Somalia, which consumed the consideration of Somali officers and politicians for a lot of the previous 18 months, as properly because the December 2020 resolution by then-US President Donald Trump. to finish a US troop presence in Somalia.

That resolution has since been reversed, and the AFRICOM chief mentioned Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has additionally taken optimistic steps.

“Al-Shabab got bigger, bolder, stronger,” Townsend mentioned. “So now we’ve to blunt the initiative they’ve [al-Shabab] loved for 15 months or extra.

“We have already seen an increase in the operations of the Somali security forces,” he added.

US officers and a few analysts fear that along with Ethiopia, which al-Shabab beforehand attacked in 2013 and 2014, al-Shabab additionally plans to develop operations in Kenya, Djibouti and past.

“The militants have enjoyed their movements and military mobilizations due to the absence of Somali National Army offensives against their hideouts and the areas they still control,” mentioned Abdisalam Yusuf Guled, the previous deputy head of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency.

“Then they [al-Shabab militants] have been given the choice to attack where they want and when they want,” he mentioned. “For me, that [Ethiopia] was a rare attack, but always predictable.”

There can also be rising concern that al-Shabab is changing into extra highly effective and extra influential inside al-Qaeda itself.

Intelligence from the United States and from UN member states signifies that al-Shabab chief Ahmed Diriye, additionally generally known as Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, is an element of al-Qaeda’s Hittin Committee, which directs the group’s international operations.

The intelligence additional means that al-Shabab, relatively than taking cash from al-Qaida’s core management, is immediately funding it with a few of its revenues.

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