Earlier in the week, press reports from Saudi and Yemen said that about 20 the Yemen-based Al Qaeda members including the top leaders escaped the continuous crackdown on them in Yemen to Somalia, and today a Somali minister say that 12 members arrived in Somalia. Here is the story from Nairobi-based Reuters:
Source: Reuters, 7/4/2010
NAIROBI (Reuters) - At least 12 al Qaeda members have crossed from Yemen into Somalia in the last two weeks, bringing money and military expertise to Somali rebels battling the Western-backed government, a senior Somali official said.
Western and regional intelligence agencies have long feared that Somalia's porous borders and lack of a strong central government could make the Horn of Africa nation a safe haven for militants looking to attack the region and beyond.
"Our intelligence shows 12 senior al Qaeda officials came into Somalia from Yemen in the last two weeks," said Treasury Minister Abdirahman Omar Osman, adding that he had been briefed by Somalia's intelligence agencies.
"They were sent off to assess the situation to see if al Qaeda may move its biggest military bases to southern Somalia since they are facing a lot of pressure in Afghanistan and Iraq," he told Reuters by telephone on Wednesday.
Osman did not say who the al Qaeda members were nor their positions in the organisation.
Al Qaeda in Yemen jumped to the forefront of Western security concerns after a Yemen-based regional wing claimed responsibility for a failed attack on a U.S.-bound jet in December.
Somalia's al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab rebels are waging a deadly insurgency against the transitional government headed by a former rebel and are intent on imposing a harsh version of Sharia Islamic law throughout the war-ravaged nation.
"They brought money to al Shabaab who had been facing difficulties to recruit more fighters because of cash shortages," Osman said.
He said that some of the foreign commanders landed in airstrips in the south disguised as humanitarian workers. Two were in Mogadishu, he said.
Since plunging into anarchy in 1991, hundreds of thousands of people have perished from famine, war and disease in Somalia. Multiple attempts to set up central rule have failed.
Somalia's current government backed by African Union peacekeepers has been unable to rest control of the seaside capital from insurgent groups. Al Shabaab controls large swathes of southern Somalia and Mogadishu.