Shabaab vows to close Mogadishu's airport
Animated banner from Shabaab's website that shows an inbound plane being targeted by a shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile.
Mogadishu's critically important Aden-Adde International Airport came under warning this weekend after al Shabaab al Mujahideen, the Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, has vowed to attack inbound traffic. The threat, which will allegedly be implemented at midnight on Tuesday, Sept. 16, is an attempt to cut off supplies to the besieged capitol and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
The warning was posted in Somali on the official Shabaab Web site, Kataaib.net, and promoted with an animated banner that shows an inbound plane being targeted by a shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile. The banner ends with the words "Digniin" or "Warning."
"After a long period of surveillance," the warning states, "it has become unavoidable to close the entire services of the airport." The statement then lists six reasons for the closure, including claims that it has become a "military airport."
"Ugandan and Burundi mercenaries land there," the statement reads. "It is officially used by Somali infidel officers and elite members of apostate countries. Dead and injured soldiers of the Ethiopian, Ugandan and Burundi invaders are flown from the airport... American and Jewish intelligence personnel land there and take scholars and innocent people captive."
"For those reasons," the warning continues, "al Shabaab al Mujahideen is informing businessmen, especially those in charge of airline companies that use Aden-Adde International Airport that from the date of 16/Ramadaan/1429H, corresponding to September 16, 2008, in the Gregorian calendar, Aden-Adde International Airport will officially be closed. After this date any plane which lands at Aden-Adde International Airport will be considered as a legitimate military target that serves the enemy and they will be responsible for whatever happens to it."
The airport is used by government and commercial flights, including United Nations and African Union missions. Approximately 2,200 peacekeepers from Burundi and Uganda are deployed in Somalia as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which is mandated to support and train the TFG. The majority of the peacekeepers are based at the airport.
"The airport is not for AMISOM but for the Somali people," said African Union spokesman Barigye Ba-Hoku. "This threat means they don't care for the Somali people."
The threat also led to a strong rebuke from the Islamic Courts Council, which was ousted from Mogadishu by Ethiopian forces with US assistance in December 2006. The statement, which was signed by Courts spokesman Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Addow, said that although the Courts recognize that the airport is used for military flights, the other services that it provides to the Somali public are "indispensable."
"There is no reason that can cause the closure of the airport," the Courts stated
"The airport serves the interest of everybody," Addow writes, "and we know it is dominated by our enemies but we are not in anyway threatening to close the airport or target a passenger's plane flying overhead. ... Somalis in the Diaspora are willing to return to their motherland and invest their capital (at) home rather than any other place, or perhaps pay a visit to their next of kin. ... Some also want to takeoff from the airport to perform one of the strongest pillars in Islam - the Hajj - or even go for Ummrah. ... There are some ill people who need to be flown to other parts of the world and the only passage for all these groups of people is the airport."
The TFG has begun evacuating residents from neighborhoods close to the vicinity of the airport, a source close to the government told The Long War Journal. Yet, there is doubt that Shabaab has the capability that it claims. "It is just a scare tactic," the source said. Shabaab has attempted to shoot at aircraft without success, and in recent months have shot mortars at the airport.