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Thursday, June 08, 2006

The "Mahakem al Islamiya" are connected to al Qaida

By Walid Phares

With the latest news confirming the control of Somali capital Mogadishu by the "Union of Islamic Tribunals" (UIT) a new era of Jihad has begun in the Horn of Africa. From my observation of the development of Islamists movements in Somalia, at least since the last US involvement in 1992-1993, it took more than a decade for the Jihadi networks to penetrate the previously existing militias formed by the tribes. The UIT, or "Ittihad al mahakem al Islamiya" is not just another Muslim militia in Somalia, as al jazeera is attempting to project, so that Western media would follow. The "Mahakem" (tribunals), although initially supported by some tribes are now a structured Islamist-Jihadist militia, fully controlled by the Salafi-Imams of the area. Former members of the "Mahakem" are revealing that behind this force, the hands of al Qaida (East Africa) are omnipresent. The former members said the prime objective of this organized force is to assert its power in the capital first. In other words, the "Mahakem" wants to "digest" this first victory first.

In fact, the Islamist militia, as soon as it took control of the city, contacted members of the official government and proposed to become the "legs" of the executive branch. This attractive proposition could be accepted by the current members as an interim solution. The "Mahakem" in fact have chased out members of the cabinet into the areas outside Mogadishu, claiming the latter are "War Lords" which in fact is true. But all members of the Government were warlords, including the leaders of the "Mahakem." One of the so-called warlords defeated by the Jihadist group was the minister in charge of disbanding the militias!

In short, the shrewd planners behind the "Mahakem" practiced the strategy of preemptive strike against the competitors and secured the capital. They prompted their move for fear of the "Union for Peace and Against Terrorism" said to be supported by the US. In reality, according to sources in Somalia, the Jihadists were moving steadily to secure the capital, which in turn forced their opponents to form the counter terrorism coalition. And as soon as this coalition began to act, the "Mahakem" moved swiftly to secure the center of the country. So, contrary to the Salafist "stories" circulating on the web and al jazeera's powerful news line since last week, it was the Jihadists (al Qaida inspired) who preempted the move of their adversaries. Nevertheless, a new "front" is now open in the Horn of Africa. Now, it is important that the new strategy promised by the US President takes into consideration that the move of the "Mahakem" is serious. More analysis is coming.
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