Abu Hamza al Masri
Yesterday the Somali terror group Shabaab threatened to attack Britain for extraditing radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al Masri, who arrived in the US on Oct. 5 after being held for nine years in a British prison. The al Qaeda affiliate also pledged “to go to every possible length” to free the Blind Sheikh, another convicted terrorist, who is serving a life sentence in the US for murdering US citizens.
Shabaab threatened Britain and pledged to work to free the Blind Sheikh, in a series of 11 tweets on its Twitter account, HSM Press Office (@HSMPress, or Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen Press Office).
“The nightmare that surreptitiously looms on British shores is bound to eclipse the horrors of 7/7 and 21/7 combined,” one tweet said, referring to the July 7, 2005 coordinated suicide attacks in London, and the July 21, 2005 failed bombings at London train stations.
Shabaab warned that the British government’s “actions will be repaid in retaliatory measure” and said that “Britain will pay the heftiest price for its brazen role in the war against Islam and endless brutality against innocent Muslims.”
In another tweet, Shabaab said it “pledges to go to every possible length to attain the freedom of imprisoned Muslim scholars, starting with Sh. Omar Abdirahman,” or Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who is better known as the Blind Sheikh.
The group then urged Muslims in the West “to hasten towards the release of their Muslim brothers & sisters,” and specifically called on “the Muslims in the United States to make their stand.”
Shabaab activity in the UK and the US
The al Qaeda-linked Shabaab has established links with the Somali diaspora in various Western countries, including the US and Britain. In February this year, The Guardian reported that British and American agencies monitoring the situation “believe about 200 foreigners … have helped al-Shabaab wage an insurgency in Somalia, and plot attacks on other western targets in neighbouring countries.” Authorities are concerned that these homegrown jihadists who have gone to fight in Somalia and other Islamist battlefields will return to their home countries to continue the fight. An alarming number of them have simply disappeared off the radar.
In the UK, authorities acknowledge that increasing numbers of the Somali community are being recruited for jihadist activities abroad. In January this year, al Qaeda operative Bilal el Berjawi, from London, was killed while fighting in Somalia. [See LWJ report, British Shabaab operative killed in airstrike in Somalia.] Berjawi was likely involved in funneling fighters to Shabaab from the UK, according to The Guardian, which reported: “There had been claims that he helped oversee recruitment and training for al-Shabaab … and that he was a close associate of one of the masterminds of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.” The Guardian article also noted that “there are several hundred foreign fighters in Somalia…. [And an] unknown number of British-Somali dual nationals have returned to Somalia and joined the fighting on both sides.”
Jihadists who have fought in Somalia have been linked to at least one plot in Britain. In the run-up to the Summer Olympics in London, police arrested an alleged al Qaeda operative who had fought in Somalia. According to The Telegraph, the suspect was “linked to a group of six British nationals who received terror training from al Qaeda leader Saleh Nabhan,” or Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed by a US raid in Somalia in 2009. [See LWJ report, Detained UK suspect trained by Shabaab.]
US officials believe that more than 50 Somali-Americans have traveled to Somalia to train and fight with Shabaab. At least two of those have executed suicide attacks against African Union and Somali forces. [See LWJ report, American Shabaab fighter and commander pictured together, for more information on some of the Americans fighting in Somalia.]
A long investigation into a Minneapolis cell that funneled fighters to Shabaab in Somalia has finally resulted in a conviction. On Oct. 18, Mahamud Said Omar of Minneapolis, Minn., was convicted of recruiting Shabaab fighters from the Somali community in Minneapolis, the nation’s largest; funding their travel to Somalia and buying weapons for them; and traveling there himself to a Shabaab safe house.
Shabaab has shown that it is willing to conduct attacks outside of Somalia. On July 11, 2010, Shabaab executed the double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people. It was carried out by a suicide cell called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as Shabaab’s military commander before his death in a US special operations raid in September 2009. Additionally, Shabaab has conducted numerous small-scale attacks in neighboring Kenya.
Shabaab and its Kenyan branch, the Muslim Youth Center, formally joined al Qaeda in February. The east African terror groups were closely tied to al Qaeda for years prior, however; Shabaab leaders had openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda long before the official merger.
Background on Abu Hamza
Abu Hamza, a former imam at the radical Finsbury Park Mosque in London who spent years eluding the British government’s attempts to curb his extremist activities, has been a key inspiration for jihadists. The Egyptian-born Islamist fought in Bosnia and Afghanistan, was later involved in terror attacks in Yemen, and served as a vocal supporter of al Qaeda.
His open advocacy of violent jihad led to his arrest in Britain in 2004 on charges including the incitement of terrorism, and he was jailed while the British government prepared for his trial, which took place in 2006. He was found guilty of 11 of the 15 charges leveled at him, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
At the same time, the US began developing its case against Abu Hamza. In February 2008, the UK Home Secretary approved Hamza’s extradition to the US to face charges for crimes including his attempt to set up a terrorist training camp in Oregon. Hamza appealed against the deportation to the European Court of Human Rights, but the court ultimately found that the deportation could proceed as he would treated humanely in the US. He was finally charged in federal court in Manhattan earlier this month, and on Oct. 9 pled not guilty to the 11 terrorism charges against him, and was assigned a trial date of Aug. 26, 2013. He asked to be referred to by his birth name, Mustafa Kamel Mustafa. Four other terror suspects held in the UK – Babar Ahmad, Syed Talha Ahsan, Khaled al Fawwaz, and Adel Abdul Bary — were also transferred to US custody at the same time as Abu Hamza. Fawwaz and Bary were key aides to Osama bin Laden.
Abu Hamza maintained jihadist connections worldwide, and they may well have reached into Somalia. In 2007, The Guardian reported that a delegation from Shabaab’s predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), came to the UK on a fundraising trip and made a visit to Abu Hamza’s home base, the Finsbury Park Mosque. The ICU delegation also made a pitch for military support in its struggle in Somalia. The ICU was widely respected by Britain’s 43,000-strong Somali community at the time, according to the Guardian article. It also noted that “Abdirahman Warsame, the Finsbury Park mosque’s executive manager, denied claims that the Islamists had met supporters” at the Finsbury Park Mosque.
Background on the Blind Sheikh
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, a.k.a. the “Blind Sheikh,” a longtime ally of Osama bin Laden, is currently serving a life sentence in a US prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a follow-on plot against New York City landmarks. Arrested in 1993 and convicted in 1995, he has served as a rallying cause for jihadists for years.
Bin Laden credited a fatwa authored by Rahman for providing the religious justifications for the Sept. 11 attacks. Rahman has also served as the spiritual guide for Gamaa Islamiyya and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ), both of which are terrorist organizations that have been close allies of al Qaeda for decades. In addition, Rahman was instrumental in securing the merger of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) with al Qaeda under the leadership of Ayman al Zawahiri. Rahman has never renounced his jihadist path, and one of his sons was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan last year.
Newly elected Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi created a stir earlier this year when he made a rousing speech in Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for Rahman to be freed. [For more information, see LWJ report, Egyptian president wants ‘Blind Sheikh’ freed.] Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups often call for the release of Rahman.
Oct. 22 Tweets at HSM Press Office on Abu Hamza and Rahman:
The extradition and trial of Sheikh Abu Hamza Al-Misri is a testament to the reality of the west’s vicious war against Islam and the Muslims
We remind the British government that we’re a nation that doesn’t tolerate oppression & their actions will be repaid in retaliatory measure
Britain will pay the heftiest price for its brazen role in the war against Islam and endless brutality against innocent Muslims.
The nightmare that surreptitiously looms on British shores is bound to eclipse the horrors of 7/7 and 21/7 combined insha -allaah.
HSM leadership pledges to go to every possible length to attain the freedom of imprisoned Muslim scholars, starting with Sh. Omar Abdirahman
The Mujahideen will exert the most vigorous efforts and employ all necessary measures in order to secure the release of our Sheikh’s.
Muslims are united by the bond of faith and to liberate Muslim prisoners from the chains of oppression is an obligation upon all Muslims.
Therefore, HSM strongly urges Muslims, particularly those in the west, to hasten towards the release of their Muslim brothers & sisters.
It’s not befitting for a believing Muslim to rejoice in the land of kufr while his brothers are languishing in the prisons of the same quaffer
It is time especially for the Muslims in the United States to make their stand, for such a level of vulnerability is painfully insufferable.
The Prophet, Peace be upon Him, said in the hadeeth Narrated by Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari : (‘Free the captives/prisoners’) Bukhari