Video Shows Somali Crowds Vowing Allegiance to Bin Laden
September 22, 2009 - 5:47 AMAn Islamic insurgent group that controls much of lawless Somalia has released a video showing its members vowing allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
The tape was released late Sunday by al-Shabab, an insurgent group that last week hit the African Union peacekeeping base with suicide car bombs, killing 21 people in the deadliest single attack on peacekeepers since they arrived in 2007.
Al-Shabab announced the Thursday attack at Mogadishu's airport was in retaliation for a U.S. commando raid on Sept. 14 that killed al-Qaida operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in southern Somalia.
The United States has become increasingly concerned that al-Qaida insurgents are moving into anarchic Somalia, where they can mobilize recruits without interference.
The video showed the Shabab militia in training, leaping over piles of sandbags, crawling on the ground and shooting at targets. White-skinned bearded trainers could be seen moving among the Somalis. The video also showed crowds chanting: "At your service Osama!"
Sheik Hassan Ya'qub, a spokesman for al-Shabab, said the video is "aimed at showing how the youth are well-trained and ready to the defend their holy land." Shabab means "youth" in Arabic.
Bin Laden has declared his support for Somali insurgents before. The new video shows the mutual affection is strong as ever -- a growing concern for U.S. and other governments. Al-Qaida bombed the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing more than 200 people, and one of the alleged plotters is believed to be hiding out in Somalia. Stronger ties between al-Qaida and al-Shabab could pose greater threats to Western interests in the region.
The video features periodic commentary from a voice purported to be bin Laden's, criticizing the administration of Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed as un-Islamic for its ties to America. Sharif met last month with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who pledged to expand American support for Somalia's government.
The comments from the al-Qaida leader echo comments of support he made in March. It was not immediately clear if they were from the same recording.
Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, was elected president in January and hopes to unite the country's feuding factions.
"How can intelligent people believe that yesterday's enemies, on the basis of religion, can become today's friends?" the voice purported to be bin Laden's said in a voice-over as his photo was shown.
Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and turned on each other. Piracy has flourished off the Somali coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.
On Sunday, insurgents attacked a town near the border with Ethiopia, killing at least 10 people, witnesses and officials said.
Associated Press Writer Mohamed Olad Hassan in Mogadishu, Somalia contributed to this report.
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