Tuesday, October 6, 2009

FBI Director: Al Qaeda-Linked Somali Group Could Attack U.S.

"They could strike the United States. That grim assessment is the first time the FBI director or any other senior law enforcement or intelligence official has stated on the record that the Al Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab is no longer content to strike within the East African nation of Somalia.

During a hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked if members of al-Shabaab, which translates as "mujahideen youth," would send American recruits back to the U.S. to launch attacks.

"I would think that we have seen some information that the leaders would like to undertake operations outside of Somalia," Mueller told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Mueller said he is "absolutely" concerned that Americans who traveled to Somalia to train as terrorists  would have U.S. legal status and would therefore be able to return to the United States and carry out attacks.

A U.S. counterterrorism official told FOX News that al-Shabaab has exploded since 2006, and it is becoming a full-fledged Al Qaeda affiliate, similar to Al Qaeda in Iraq. Initially the group's militias fought against the Somali government and Ethopian forces who are against an Islamic state in East Africa, the official said, but now the group's focus is turning toward the establishment of a "caliphate" or broad Islamic state not limited to Africa.

In fact, in an exclusive briefing on Thursday, a U.S. counterterrorism official told FOX News that al-Shabaab's leadership is bona fide Al Qaeda. In many cases, the operatives who guide the group in East Africa have pledged allegiance to Usama Bin Laden in person, and in some cases the Al Qaeda leader has entrusted them with missions outside of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, according to the official.

Training camps are now well-established in Somalia, and as many as 1,100 foreign fighters have joined the al-Shabaab movement, the president of Somalia's transitional government told a crowd gathered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Wednesday."

For the rest of the story click below.

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