A website affiliated with Shabaab celebrated a Somali-American from Seattle as one of the suicide bombers who conducted a complex assault against the African Union peacekeeper base in Mogadishu last week.
The suicide bombers easily entered the AMISOM military compound while driving two white vehicles with United Nations markings. “We thought they were real UN cars carrying white people,” a witness told Reuters. The drivers of the car “spoke English and identified themselves as being from the United Nations,” Somalia’s information minister said.
Shabaab cannot rely on its usual, illiterate cannon fodder to target well protected objectives in Somalia, so it has decided to deploy Somali-Americans as qualified suicide bombers. Western volunteers are fluent in spoken English and able to pretend they are authentic United Nations officers.
The attack was successful. The deputy military commander for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was among the 21 people killed.
The bomber – in his 20s – had lived in the United States until as recently as 2007. He’s the seventh American thought to have been killed while fighting with Shabaab in Somalia.
Last October, another Somali American, 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up along with 29 others in a strikingly similar suicide bombing at a United Nations checkpoint in in Northern Somalia.
The FBI has arrested at least one person for aiding Shabaab. In July, another American named Abdifatah Yusuf Isse pleaded guilty to terrorism-related charges, including aiding in recruitment for Shabaab, in Minneapolis. “He was a nice young man who aspired to work for the United Nations,” Isse’s academic adviser said.
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