Three of the suspects in the attempted bombings in London on 21 July were born in the Horn of Africa. One, Yasin Hassan Omar, was born in Somalia; a second, Osman Hussein, in Ethiopia; and a third, Muktar Said Ibrahim, in Eritrea. Ten years ago, when Osama bin Laden lived in Khartoum, the Horn of Africa could plausibly have been described as both the headquarters and the front line of international jihadism. American analysts have argued that Africa's porous borders and ineffectual policing make the continent attractive to groups like al-Qaida, and the Pentagon has two major anti-terrorist operations in sub-Saharan Africa: a base in the tiny Red Sea state of Djibouti (sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea) monitors the movements of suspected terrorists and the Pan Sahel Initiative is intended to hunt down jihadists in the Sahara. But they are chasing ghosts, mopping up the remnants of a jihad that had already failed in the late 1990s. It's unlikely that the attempted bombings alleged to have been committed by Yasin Hassan Omar, Osman Hussain and Muktar Said Ibrahim can be traced back to Islamism in their respective homelands. It is much more probable that their jihadism belongs to a new militant manifestation nurtured in European cities over the last few years.
LRB 18 August 2005 | PDF Download