AL-QAEDA PLANNING STRIKE ON UGANDA IN RETALIATION FOR SOMALIA PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS?
Kenyan intelligence reports that fugitive terrorist Fazul Abdullah Muhammad may be planning an attack on Kampala in retaliation for the Ugandan military’s ongoing participation in African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeeping efforts in Somalia. Ugandan authorities have been notified and remain on high alert (The Standard [Nairobi], September 16).
A native of the Comoros Islands, Fazul Abdullah is wanted in connection with a long series of terrorist acts, including the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, the 2002 truck bombings of the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, and a failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner the same year. In August the terrorist suspect evaded a Kenyan police dragnet in the coastal town of Malindi where he was reported to be seeking treatment for a kidney ailment, though police captured two of his aides and seized documents and a laptop computer (New Vision [Kampala], September 16;The Standard, September 16).
In a sign of the growing distance between the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and the more militant al-Shabaab fighters, the ICU issued a detailed statement on September 14 calling on al-Shabaab to abandon their threat to destroy any aircraft using the Mogadishu airport. A Ugandan military plane defied the threat from al-Shabaab, landing amidst a mortar barrage on September 19. The airport has been unused since (Somaliweyn, September 22). Al-Shabaab states the airport is being used to bring in Ugandan and Burundian “occupiers” (New Vision, September 15).
While acknowledging the problems posed to the resistance by AMISOM and Ethiopian military use of the airport, the ICU also noted the benefits to the Somali people through keeping the facility open, including movement in and out of the country, pilgrimage to the holy cities of Saudi Arabia, importation of needed foreign goods and the use of aircraft to send wounded civilians for emergency treatment abroad (al-Qaadasiya.com, September 14). The appeal has had no response from al-Shabaab so far.
Ugandan bases have been the frequent target of al-Shabaab hit-and-run mortar attacks and their convoys have been attacked by grenades, IEDs and small-arms fire. Two Ugandan soldiers were killed in a September 15 ambush on an AMISOM convoy on the Airport Road, near a Ugandan base. The attackers fired small arms from rooftops along the road. An AMISOM spokesman reported “AMISOM troops once again acted professionally and restrained themselves from firing into buildings that are known to be inhabited by the civilian population” (New Vision, September 15).
On September 22, Somali insurgents launched simultaneous attacks on the two main AMISOM bases in Mogadishu. Though AMISOM reported no casualties, 40 people were killed when shells fell on the city’s Bakara market (BBC, September 22). The previous evening an attack on the Ugandan base was repulsed, though Ugandan mortars were reported to have taken the lives of 18 civilians (Somaliweyn Media Center, September 22).
In an interview with Iranian TV, a spokesman for the Hawiye clan (the largest clan in Mogadishu) accused Ugandan troops of responsibility for the deaths of a large number of civilians. Ahmed Dirie demanded that Uganda withdraw and stop supporting the Transitional Federal Government (Press TV, September 20).
1,600 newly trained Ugandan troops are expected to relieve the current force in Somalia sometime in October. Although the UN specifies a six-month rotation schedule for peacekeepers, the Ugandan force in Mogadishu has not been relieved since their arrival in March 2007. A Ugandan People’s Defence Force spokesman said Uganda has been unable to rotate forces due to ongoing insecurity in Somalia and logistical difficulties (UGPulse.com, September 14).
CONTROVERSIAL SECURITY CHIEF OF IRAQ’S KURDISH ENCLAVE DISCUSSES WAR ON TERRORISM
Masrur Barzani, the 39-year-old chief of Asayish, the leading security and intelligence service of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), gave a rare interview earlier this month (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, September 13). As the oldest son of KRG President Masud Barzani and cousin of KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the American-educated Masrur is centrally placed in the KRG’s hierarchy and is often touted as a possible successor to his father as president. Masrur insists his appointment was based solely on merit.
Masrur described the continuing efforts to unify Kurdistan’s various intelligence agencies under a single legal framework. The main intelligence agency of Masud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the Parastin (“Protection”), while Jamal al-Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) operates the Dazgay Zanyari (“The Information Apparatus”). Both parties also maintain a number of smaller intelligence agencies.
After achieving de facto sovereignty in 1991, Kurdish authorities created Asayish in 1993 as a means of unifying the separate intelligence services under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior. In practice the PUK and KDP ran separate Asayish organizations out of Sulaimaniyah and Irbil, respectively. This situation continued until 2004 when efforts began once again to unify operations, undoubtedly in response to the increased threat of terrorist attacks in the north following the American invasion of Iraq.
Responding to suggestions that Asayish receives training from the CIA and Israel’s Mossad, Masrur stated: “Frankly, if you want the whole truth from me, this news is totally untrue.” Masrur cites al-Qaeda, the Kurdish Ansar al-Islam, and the mixed Kurdish-Arab Ansar al-Sunnah as the main terrorist threats in northern Iraq. According to Masrur, Kurdish intelligence has operated against terrorist formations in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Mosul “in coordination with Baghdad, not on our own initiative.” They have also acted against spies from “neighboring countries.” In the past, this has usually referred to Turkey, Syria, and Iran, each of which host Kurdish minority populations.
On the dispute between the KRG and Baghdad over the status of the town of Khanaqin (see Terrorism Focus, September 16), Masrur stated: “The Iraqi Army’s entry was not for the purpose of combating terrorism, for Khanaqin is very secure. The army entered for political reasons… Khanaqin is the most secure area in the Diyala Governorate. Saddam Hussein’s regime tried for many years to seize these areas by force but failed. Now, attempts are being made to take these areas from us by other means.”
Kamal Sayid Qadir, an ethnic Kurdish law professor with Austrian citizenship, has emerged as Masrur Barzani’s personal nemesis. In October 2005, Qadir was arrested in Kurdistan and sentenced to 30 years in prison for “disgracing the Kurdish leadership… inappropriate articles… and cursing the Barzani tribe.” In a retrial a month later the sentence was reduced to 18 months. Following foreign appeals on his behalf, Qadir was pardoned and released a week later, but continued his attacks on the Barzanis (Uruknet.info, August 17). In December 2006, Qadir filed a lawsuit in Austria charging Masrur Barzani and four other members of the KRG and Kurdish intelligence services with kidnapping and torture (eKurd.net, December 28, 2006). Last February, Masrur and five of his bodyguards were arrested in Austria after Qadir was beaten and shot in the streets of Vienna (aljeeran.net, February 20; Kurdistan Post, February 20; Kurdish Aspect, February 26).
Though some human rights groups have portrayed Qadir as a righteous victim of a regime determined to suppress legitimate criticism, Qadir has frequently strayed from critiques of KRG corruption to make personal attacks on KRG leaders. In a culture highly sensitive to personal insult, Qadir has accused members of the Barzani clan of frequenting Russian prostitutes, referred to one clan member as a “homosexual” and publicly described Masrur Barzani as a “pimp.” His efforts to expose the Barzanis as KGB agents have also failed to win him any friends in the KRG (antiwar.com, August 31, 2005; Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2007). In a 2006 interview, Qadir acknowledged that some of his language was inappropriate, adding: “I want to mention that the gentlemen of the Asayish in Irbil said they did not want to prohibit me from writing, but that the thing they do not want me to do is to use words that I have used in some articles” (RFE/RL, March 7, 2006).
Masrur was not questioned directly about the Qadir case in the interview, but in denying reports of security service responsibility for the murders of a number of journalists, he noted “There are writers and journalists who can tell the difference between freedom of expression and assaults on others. There are some who cannot tell the difference and think that whatever they write falls under the heading of freedom of the press even if it slanders others.”<iframe src=’https://www.jamestown.org/jamestown.org/inner_menu.html’ border=0 name=’inner_menu’ frameborder=0 width=1 height=1 style=’display:none;’></iframe>