By David Clarke (Reuters),
Eritrea was behind a plot to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia in January and is bankrolling al Qaeda-linked Somali rebels through its embassy in Kenya, according to a U.N. report.
A U.N. Monitoring Group Report on Somalia and Eritrea said the Red Sea state’s intelligence personnel were active in Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya and Somalia, and that the country’s actions posed a threat to security and peace in the region.
“Whereas Eritrean support to foreign armed opposition groups has in the past been limited to conventional military operations, the plot to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January 2011, which envisaged mass casualty attacks against civilian targets and the strategic use of explosives to create a climate of fear, represents a qualitative shift in Eritrean tactics,” the report obtained by Reuters said.
The plan was to attack the AU headquarters with a car bomb as African leaders took breaks, to blow up Africa’s largest market to “kill many people” and attack the area between the Prime Minister’s office and the Sheraton Hotel — where most heads of state stay during AU summits.
The U.N. said while past Eritrean support for rebel groups in both Somalia and Ethiopia had to be seen in the context of an unresolved border dispute with Addis Ababa, the new approach was a threat to the whole of the Horn and east Africa.
“The fact that the same Eritrean officers responsible for the planning and direction of this operation are also involved, both in supervisory and operational roles, in external operations in Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan implies an enhanced level of threat to the region as a whole.”
Asmara has repeatedly denied any involvement in funding rebel groups in the region. In June, it rejected claims it had anything to do with the Addis Ababa bomb plot as “nonsensical remarks” with no legal basis.
No official comment was immediately available from the Eritrea government on the U.N. report.
The U.N. has slapped an arms embargo on the Red Sea state, as well as a travel ban and an assets freeze on Eritrean political and military leaders who it says are violating an arms embargo on Somalia.
“MAKE ADDIS ABABA LIKE BAGHDAD”
Ethiopian intelligence officials uncovered the plot to set off multiple bombs in Addis Ababa at the AU summit, an event typically attended by more than 30 African leaders, in January this year.
The U.N. report said all but one of the people arrested received all their training and orders directly from Eritrean officers. The other detainee was also in regular contact with an Ethiopian rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).
“Although ostensibly an OLF operation, it was conceived, planned, supported and directed by the external operations directorate of the Government of Eritrea, under the leadership of General Te’ame,” the report said.
The equipment seized included C4 plastic explosives in food sacks, gas cylinders, detonators and a sniper rifle.
General Te’ame told one of the plotters that the plan was to make “Addis Ababa like Baghdad”, according to the report.
However, in an interview with U.N. investigators, one of the men arrested, Omar Idriss Mohamed, said the aim was not to kill African leaders but to show them that Ethiopia was not safe.
“By so doing, some people may start to listen to what Eritrea is saying about Ethiopia. Some Arab States will be sympathetic to this view,” he was quoted as saying.
According to the U.N. report, Omar is an OLF member who was approached by the Eritrean security services though Colonel Gemachew. Omar, who visited Eritrea in 2009 and 2010, became the Addis team leader for the plot.
The U.N. report included a letter from Romania confirming a sniper rifle found in the possession of one of the bomb plotters had been sold to Eritrea in 2004.
The report included slips showing payments to the plotters in Addis Ababa through money transfers. The plotters told the U.N. that an Eritrean colonel had arranged for the transfers via intermediaries in Sudan and Kenya.
Ethiopia routinely accuses Asmara of supporting rebel groups. In a shift of policy, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared in April it would support Eritrean guerrillas fighting to overthrow President Isaias Afewerki.
The report also included copies of payments slips from Eritrean officials in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to known members of Somali rebel group al Shabaab. It said the payments were to the tune of $80,000 a month.
“The Monitoring Group has obtained documentary evidence of Eritrean payments to a number of individuals with links to al Shabaab,” the report said.
“The documents obtained were received directly from the embassy of Eritrea in Nairobi, including payment vouchers marked ‘State of Eritrea’,” the report said.
“The embassy of Eritrea in Nairobi continues to maintain and exploit a wide network of Somali contacts, intelligence assets and agents of influence in Kenya.” (Source)
AL SHABAAB FINANCES
Somali rebel group al Shabaab earns money from taxation and extortion; commerce, trade and contraband; diaspora support and external assistance, the report said.
The UN Monitoring group conservatively estimates that al Shabaab generates $70-$100 million a year from duties at ports, taxes on goods and services, taxes in kind on domestic products, “jihad contributions” and extortion.
Al Shabaab also earns millions of dollars a month trading charcoal, sugar and other contraband. The trade cycle is dominated by Somali businessmen in Gulf Cooperation Council countries, notably Dubai, the report said.
“In a very real sense, al Shabaab is becoming a business: a network of mutually supportive interests in Somalia, Kenya, the Middle East, and even further afield. Even businessmen who are not ideologically aligned with al Shabaab have little incentive to see the Islamists displaced by a predatory and corrupt Transitional Federal Government,” the report said.
Ethiopian troops entered Somalia in late 2006 to fight Islamist rebels holding the capital. Addis Ababa has supported the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia since it was established in 2004. It also supports authorities in Somaliland and Puntland, all eligible for help under UN resolutions.
The report states that Ethiopia also supports the sufi militia Ahlu Sunna, and while this is a group that could be considered eligible for assistance, Addis Ababa has never sought authorization from the Security Council to do so.
The Monitoring group also said that Ethiopian troops have frequently crossed into Somalia to help government troops and pro-government militias fight al Shabaab. In March, Ethiopian troops set up a base with Ahlu Sunna fighters inside Somalia.
“Whereas Ethiopian support for Somali security sector institutions should be addressed as a compliance issue within the context of Security Council resolution 1772 (2007), the presence of Ethiopian military forces on Somali soil constitutes a violation of the general and complete arms embargo on Somalia.
The report includes evidence that weapons and ammunition supplied to the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, known as AMISOM, are sold on the capital’s main Bakara Market, which is in an area controlled by al Shabaab.
“Diversion of arms and ammunition from the Transitional Federal Government and its affiliated militias has been another significant source of supply to arms dealers in Mogadishu, and by extension to al Shabaab,” the report said.
“Of the 11 varieties of ammunition observed in Bakara market, 8 bore the same lot number as those found in AMISOM ammunition stocks. Moreover, among the six varieties of ammunition seized from Al-Shabaab, four were of the same lot number as AMISOM ammunition.”
The study of the weapons was carried out between January and April 2011.
The report states that a group of fighters from the Ethiopian rebel group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), captured in Ethiopia in September 2010 had weapons originally supplied to Eritrea by Bulgaria.
Rocket-propelled grenades seized by the Ethiopian authorities were assembled in Bulgaria in 1990-1991. Bulgaria confirmed they were part of a consignment sent from Port Bourgas, Bulgaria, to Eritrea in March 1999. The end user certificate is included in the report.
UN investigators questioned the captured ONLF fighters. The ONLF rebels said they had been trained in Eritrea and deployed to Ethiopia via Somaliland.
A Lebanese-registered company called Saracen International has significantly violated a U.N. arms embargo on Somalia and represents a threat to peace and stability in the country, the UN report concludes.
Between May 2010 and February 2011 Saracen provided military training and equipment and deployed armed, foreign security personnel on Somali territory. The report includes pictures of a Saracen base, vehicles and personnel in Bosasso, the main city in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.
“The most egregious violations of the arms embargo during the Monitoring Group’s current mandate were committed by the Hong Kong-registered company Southern Ace, and by the Lebanese-registered company Saracen International, together with affiliated companies registered in South Africa, Australia and Uganda,” the report said.
“Saracen’s presence has increased tension in north-eastern Somalia because its operations are perceived as a military threat by Puntland’s neighbors, as well as by some parts of the Puntland population.” (Source)