Jihadists in Somalia say that their inclusion on the U.S. international terrorism list will lead them to make common cause with other designated radical Islamic groups on the list, reports Reuters.
In a conversation with Reuters, rebel commander Mukhtar Ali Robow said that his insurgent group is not a terrorist organization. However, he now says his group will reach out to any Muslim organization on the terrorism list to help fight the United States.
According to Reuters:
U.S. officials say Robow's al Shabaab, the militant wing of a sharia courts group that ruled most of southern Somalia for the second half of 2006, is closely affiliated with al Qaeda.
This week, the U.S. government designated it a terrorist organization alongside groups like Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers, the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Somalia's Western-backed interim government and its Ethiopian military allies have faced an Iraq-style insurgency of assassinations, grenade attacks and roadside bombings since they routed the Islamic courts group from the capital in December 2006.
The Somali government has asked for a United Nations peacekeeping force to hold the jihadists as well as other national insurgent groups at bay, but many Security Council members fear another Black Hawk down incident where American peacekeeping soldiers were killed and dragged through the streets.
Contrary to Robow's assertion that al Shabaab is not a terrorist organization, the United States claims the group hosted al Qaeda suspects involved in the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and that some of its members fought along side al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the State Department's number two diplomat for Africa, told Reuters:
"Al Shabaab has tried to conflate the anti-Ethiopian agenda with their terrorism agenda and it's very dangerous .... There are lots of people in Somalia who have a nationalist agenda ... and I think people are not aware of just how strong the al Shabaab links with al Qaeda are."
For more on the conflict and its effect on Somalia's civilian population, see Human Rights Watch's "Shell-Shocked: Civilians Under Siege in Mogadishu."