Somalia Govt warns US over al-Shabaab uranium traffic with Iran

While North Korea has successfully executed its sixth nuclear test, the fact that al-Shabaab's Islamic extremists would have captured critical surface exposed uranium deposits in the autonomous Galmudug region and are strip mining triuranium octoxide for transport to Iran, takes on an even more disturbing tone.

Uranium mines in Somalia. Credit Photo Wiebke Schmidt/AP
Uranium mines in Somalia. Credit Photo Wiebke Schmidt/AP

The news came through a diplomatic note, dated 11 August, sent by Yusuf Garaad Omar, Somalia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, to US ambassador to Somalia, Stephen Schwartz.

It is a threat not to be underestimated, especially on the grounds that a detailed report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as early as the first half of the eighties, found that Somalia held considerable reserves of uranium lying in the area located in the central Galmudug region of Somalia.

Tough not challenging its authenticity, the US Department of State did not want to comment on the document in which the head of Somali diplomacy explicitly calls for immediate US military intervention. While the government of Mogadishu so far has not expressed itself in regard to the contents of the diplomatic note, although some Somali information agencies have spread the news.

The interruption of diplomatic relations with Tehran

In terms of the issue, it is important to point out that in January last year, Somalia decided to stop diplomatic relations with Iran, arguing that Tehran had not respected the economic agreements and threatened the security and unity of the Horn of Africa Country.

Really, the decision had matured as a sign of support to Saudi Arabia after the attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Teheran and the consulate of Mashad, carried out as a retaliation for the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. A support that Riyadh has rewarded with a pledge of aid for $ 50 million.

However, in July 2016, the United Nations Security Council had expressed concern over the shipment of a cargo of arms from Iran to Somalia. In addition, the highest UN decision-making body in November 2006 had produced a 86-page report in which it denounced that Tehran sought to obtain substantial amounts of uranium from Somalia in return for supplying weapons to al-Shabaab extremists, which at the time had emerged as the armed arm of the Union of Islamic Courts.

All of these precedents could support the credibility of Yusuf Garaad Omar's warning to the US ambassador to Mogadishu, although some analysts believe that the letter, written with obvious emphasis, could be a means of receiving a larger support from the United States in the opposition of al-Shabaab.

Severe criticism of AMISOM

The reading of the letter is also struck by the harsh criticism of the Somali Foreign Minister regarding the mission of the African Union in Somalia (AMISOM), which in the document is defined as incapable of neutralizing the twofold threat posed by al-Shabaab and its faction, which since October 2015 has tied itself to the Islamic State.

That the peacekeeping mission has problems is not new. This is confirmed by the fact that according to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies based in Washington, al-Shabaab last year became the deadliest jihadist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed.

Despite AMISOM's counterterrorism activities, the terrorist group has proven to be capable he terrorist group has been shown to be capable of mortar attacks even under numerical inferiority, thanks to the use of heavy weapons, armoured vehicles and explosive.

The most recent of which took place last Sunday against a military base stationed in Buulo Gaduud village, near the port city of Kismayo, in the southern Jubaland region, where Islamic radicals claimed the killing of 26 Somali soldiers, not confirmed by the military authorities of Mogadishu.

Not to mention, as the recent attack on Puntland shows, that al-Shabaab's actions are not confined to southern and central Somalia.

All this would explain the reasons why in the last few months the US has triggered a new military offensive against the Islamist group, also launching air attacks with the support of Somali special forces against al-Shabaab training camps.

A renewed commitment, according to analysts, reflects the growing concern that the branch of al-Qaeda in eastern Africa is strengthening to organize a large-scale attack against Western targets.

And it is increasingly evident that with the semblance of a relatively stable government in Mogadishu, the United States now tries to integrate Somalia into its plans to expand East Africa's control.


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