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Kenya: Any cause for worry?

Posted by Popular Ombudsman on June 26, 2009

The conflict in Somalia has encouraged many foreign volunteers to join the militant Islamist factions attempting to overthrow the internationally backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG). These foreigners seem to be mostly ethnic Somali émigrés living in Western countries, raising fears that some may return to carry out terrorist attacks.

While Somalia’s hardline Islamist factions have often claimed they have foreigners fighting on their behalf, it has been difficult to independently assess how many foreign fighters there are in Somalia and what impact they have on the conflict. However, UN special representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has claimed they constitute a small, but elite force within the Islamist insurgency. In May, the AP quoted him as saying that the foreigners are “the best disciplined and organised force”.

This suggests that there are dedicated foreign units fighting in Somalia and that they are made up either of veterans from other conflicts and/or new recruits who have been given extensive training. It stands to reason that these foreigners are a more unified force, as they do not suffer from the clan loyalties that divide Somalia. They are also likely to be more ideologically committed to the hardline Islamist cause.

Jane’s Defence Weekly (


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