The third American suicide bomber ever died in an attack on African Union troops in Mogadishu Saturday, the New York Times reports. Abdisalan Hussein Ali, like Farah Mohamed Beledi and Shirwa Ahmed, was an American of Somali descent who lived in the Minneapolis-St.Paul area of Minnesota. Ali was one of more than a dozen young Somali-Americans from the area who were recruited by the al-Qaeda affiliated extremist group al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab’s success in recruiting young Americans has been a source of frustration for American authorities—at least 19 Somali-Americans were recruited from the United States to fight alongside al-Shabab against the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia and the African Union force, made up mostly of troops from Uganda and Burundi. Although al-Shabab has yet to launch an attack on the United States, the worry is that the group’s uncanny success in radicalizing and recruiting Americans relative to other extremist organizations could someday manifest in attacks here.
Past military interventions in Somalia in the past have only made things worse. A US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 aimed at dislodging the Islamic Courts Union resulted in the emergence of al-Shabab as it exists today. (As Jeremy Scahill writes, the ICU itself emerged in response to the excesses of American-backed warlords hunting suspected terrorists in the region.) The Transitional Federal Government, which replaced the ICU, ended up being run by a former member of the ICU anyway. Aside from purging Somalia of whatever stability had existed before the invasion, the 2006 operation led to the first and only terrorist group that has ever been able to convince an American citizen to become a suicide bomber.
Last week, neighboring Kenya invaded Somalia, vowing to stay until, in the words of General Julius Karangi, “we feel safe enough on the common border, then we shall come back.” If the history of military interventions in Somalia is any indication, the situation there may only get worse.