US embassy cable - 96ADDISABABA1545

COUNTERING THE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST THREAT IN ETHIOPIA'S SOMALI REGION

Identifier: 96ADDISABABA1545
Wikileaks: View 96ADDISABABA1545 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Addis Ababa
Created: 1996-03-05 07:37:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER KISL PINS MOPS ET
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 050737Z MAR 96
FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5610
INFO AMEMBASSY LONDON 
AMEMBASSY ASMARA 
AMEMBASSY DJIBOUTI 
USCINCENT MACDILL AFB FL
AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 
AMEMBASSY NAIROBI 
AMEMBASSY PARIS 
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001545 
 
 
DEPT FOR AF/E 
LONDON FOR YOUNG 
PARIS FOR MORAN 
NAIROBI FOR SWAN 
 
E.O. 12958:  03/05/01 
TAGS:  PTER, KISL, PINS, MOPS, ET 
SUBJECT:  COUNTERING THE ISLAMIC FUNDAMENTALIST THREAT IN 
          ETHIOPIA'S SOMALI REGION 
 
REF:  ADDIS ABABA 01479 
 
1.  (U)  CLASSIFIED BY POLOFF JEFFREY JACOBS, 1.5 (D). 
 
2.  (C)  SUMMARY.  RETIRED SOMALI GENERAL JAMA ISSA 
MOHAMUD (AKA JAMA "GREEN") DISCUSSED RISING ISLAMIC 
FUNDAMENTALIST ACTIVITY IN ETHIOPIA'S SOMALI REGIONAL 
STATE AND OFFERED POSSIBLE METHODS TO COUNTER THE THREAT 
TO REGIONAL STABILITY.  THE GENERAL WARNED THAT ETHIOPIAN 
MILITARY AUTHORITIES ARE WRONG TO ASSUME THAT THEY HAVE 
THE SITUATION UNDER CONTROL.  HE SUGGESTED THAT ONLY A 
REGIONAL EFFORT, COORDINATED BEHIND THE SCENES BY THE 
UNITED STATES, CAN DEFEAT THE WELL-FINANCED, HIGHLY 
DISCIPLINED GUERRILLAS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  (C)  ON 29 FEBRUARY POLOFF AND DEFENSE ATTACHE MET 
WITH RETIRED SOMALI GENERAL JAMA "GREEN".  THE MEETING 
WAS ARRANGED BY FREQUENT EMBASSY CONTACTS DR. FARAH 
HUSSEIN MOHAMED AND MOHAMMED MURSAL SHIL.  SOMALILAND 
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE MUSSA (FNU) WAS PRESENT FOR THE 
FIRST FEW MINUTES, BUT THEN SLIPPED OUT OF THE MEETING 
SAYING HE WOULD "TALK WITH POLOFF LATER." 
 
------------------------------------ 
JAMA WELL-ACQUAINTED WITH AL'ITTIHAD 
------------------------------------ 
 
4.  (C)  GENERAL JAMA COMMANDED SOMALI FORCES WHICH HE 
CLAIMED HAD DEFEATED THE AL'ITTIHAD ISLAMIC 
FUNDAMENTALISTS IN JANUARY 1993.  THE GENERAL SAID THAT 
AL'ITTIHAD AT THAT TIME WAS 10,000 STRONG AND BASED 
PRIMARILY IN "SOMALILAND."  THE GENERAL SAID THAT HIS 
FORCES CUT OFF MORE THAN 3,000 GUERRILLAS FROM THEIR 
SOURCES OF SUPPLY IN A POCKET NEAR THE TOWN OF ERIGAVO 
//GEOCOORDS:  1037N/4722E//.  JAMA SAID HIS UNITS KILLED 
MANY OF THE AL'ITTIHAD FIGHTERS BEFORE THE REMAINDER 
SURRENDERED.  JAMA SAID HIS TROOPS ROUNDED THEM UP, 
TRUCKED THEM INTO THE WESTERN DESERT, AND TOLD THEM TO GO 
BACK TO THEIR CLANS.  THE GENERAL ESTIMATED THAT SOME 
2,000 AL'ITTIHAD MEMBERS FLED INTO ETHIOPIA, WITH MANY 
SETTLING IN WARDER //GEOCOORDS: 0658N/4520E//, GODE 
//GEOCOORDS: 0606N/4301E//, AND KEBRI DEHAR //GEOCOORDS: 
0644N/4417E//. 
 
----------------------------------- 
AL'ITTIHAD IS RISING FROM THE ASHES 
----------------------------------- 
 
5.  (C)  GENERAL JAMA SAID AL'ITTIHAD IS NOW REGROUPING 
IN THE SOMALI REGIONAL STATE AND THAT THE EXTREMISTS ARE 
BEING TRAINED IN THE REGION BY INSTRUCTORS FROM YEMEN, 
AFGHANISTAN, AND IRAQ (NFI).  OTHER AL'ITTIHAD MEMBERS 
ARE RECEIVING TRAINING IN LIBYA, SUDAN, IRAN.  A FEW ARE 
IN MOMBASA, KENYA.  THE GENERAL SAID HE HAS HEARD, BUT 
CANNOT CONFIRM, THAT SOME ARE IN IRAQ. 
 
----------------------------- 
AL'ITTIHAD THREATENS THE HORN 
----------------------------- 
 
6.  (C)  THE GENERAL DESCRIBED AL'ITTIHAD AS THE MOST 
DANGEROUS THREAT TO STABILITY IN THE HORN OF AFRICA.  HE 
DESCRIBED AL'ITTIHAD AS HAVING ITS ROOTS OUTSIDE SOMALIA 
AND SAID THAT THE CHAOS FOLLOWING THE FALL OF SIAD BARRE 
GAVE THE POLITICAL ISLAMISTS A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY TO 
PENETRATE THE REGION. 
 
7.  (C)  JAMA SAID THE FUNDAMENTALIST GOAL IS TO 
ESTABLISH AN ISLAMIC STATE IN THE HORN OF AFRICA.  HE 
CLAIMED THAT AL'ITTIHAD IS COMPRISED OF DISCIPLINED 
FANATICS WHO HATE INTELLECTUALS, CHRISTIANITY, WHITE 
PEOPLE, AND LOCAL RELIGIOUS LEADERS.  HE SAID THEY 
EXPLOIT THE IGNORANCE OF THE PEOPLE ABOUT RELIGION TO 
SPREAD THEIR FALSE MILITANT VERSION OF THE KORAN. 
(SOURCE COMMENT:  HENCE THEIR HATRED OF RELIGIOUS 
LEADERS.  END COMMENT.) 
 
---------------------------------- 
EXTERNAL SUPPORT TO THE EXTREMISTS 
---------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C)  JAMA DESCRIBED SUDANESE LEADER AL TURABI AS THE 
SPIRITUAL LEADER OF THE EFFORT TO CREATE AN ISLAMIC 
STATE, AND SAID AL'ITTIHAD RECEIVES ASSISTANCE FROM 
SUDAN, IRAN, IRAQ, AND LIBYA.  HE SAID THEIR CURRENT 
METHOD OF OPERATION IS TO FUNNEL AID THROUGH SOMALI 
STRONGMAN MOHAMMED FARAH AIDEED, WHOM JAMA DESCRIBED AS 
"A POWER-HUNGRY ANIMAL WHO CARES LITTLE ABOUT THE PEOPLE 
OF SOMALIA."  JAMA ADDED THAT THE EMIR OF SHARIQAH (AS 
HEARD) IN THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES ALSO SUPPORTS 
AL'ITTIHAD. 
                                                     - 
9.  (C)  JAMA SAID AN INTERNATIONAL EFFORT IS REQUIRED TO 
TRACE THE VARIOUS SOURCES OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO 
AL'ITTIHAD.  THE GENERAL SAID LITTLE MONEY IS SENT 
DIRECTLY TO SOMALIA; MOST IS ROUTED THROUGH EUROPEAN 
SOURCES (NFI), ADDING THAT "A LOT OF WESTERN MONEY IS 
GOING TO AIDEED."  JAMA SAID THE INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC 
RELIEF ORGANIZATION (IRO) IS PARTICULARLY SUSPECT, AND HE 
CLAIMED THAT MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE FLOWING, YET THE 
"IRO REJECTED A LEGITIMATE PROPOSAL FOR A LIVESTOCK 
PROJECT." 
 
10.  (C)  POLOFF ASKED THE GENERAL ABOUT THE CARGO 
CARRIED BY SUPPLY FLIGHTS TO AL'ITTIHAD REPORTED BY DR. 
FARAH.  JAMA CONFIRMED THAT TWO WEEKLY FLIGHTS DEPART 
MOGADISHU FOR A DESERT AIRSTRIP ALONG THE ETHIOPIAN- 
SOMALILAND BORDER (REFTEL).  THE GENERAL SAID RECENT 
CARGOS INCLUDED NEW CAMOUFLAGE UNIFORMS AND SMALL ARMS 
AMMUNITION. 
 
--------------------------------------------- - 
ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT UNDERESTIMATES THE THREAT 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
11.  (C)  THE DEFENSE ATTACHE ASKED JAMA WHY THE 
ETHIOPIAN MINISTRY OF DEFENSE HAS CLAIMED THAT IT 
CONTROLS THE REGION.  JAMA REPLIED THAT THE ETHIOPIAN 
GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY ARE POORLY INFORMED ABOUT THE 
TRUE SITUATION IN THE SOMALI REGIONAL STATE.  HE SAID THE 
LARGELY TIGRAYAN MILITARY, IN PARTICULAR, HAS SURROUNDED 
ITSELF WITH TRUSTED ETHNIC SOMALI ADVISORS WHO ARE NOT IN 
TOUCH WITH THE PEOPLE OF THE REGION.  AS A RESULT, JAMA 
SAID THE MILITARY IN THE REGION OFTEN ARREST ALLEGED 
AL'ITTIHAD MEMBERS AND SEIZE THEIR PROPERTY ON THE 
FLIMSIEST OF EVIDENCE.  JAMA SAID THAT WHILE THE PEOPLE 
DO NOT LIKE AL'ITTIHAD, HEAVY-HANDED EFFORTS BY THE 
GOVERNMENT ARE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
JAMA EXPLAINS HOW TO DEFEAT AL'ITTIHAD 
-------------------------------------- 
 
12.  (C)  GENERAL JAMA SAID AN INTERNATIONAL EFFORT TO 
DEFEAT AL'ITTIHAD IS ESSENTIAL, AND HE ADDED THAT ONLY 
THE UNITED STATES CAN COORDINATE THE ENDEAVOR.  THE MOST 
CRITICAL STEP, HE ARGUED, IS TO CLOSELY WATCH EXTREMIST 
SUPPLY ROUTES THROUGH BERBERA AND DJIBOUTI.  JAMA ALSO 
SUGGESTED MONITORING ARABIC LANGUAGE RADIO TRAFFIC, 
COMMENTING THAT "THE BIG SHOTS LIKE TO TALK AT NIGHT." 
HE SUGGESTED WATCHING HOTELS IN DJIBOUTI, SAYING THE 
FUNDAMENTALISTS TEND TO CONGREGATE THERE.  HE ADDED THAT 
AL'ITTIHAD MEMBERS OFTEN CHEW CHAT AND TEND TO TALK 
OPENLY OF THEIR ACTIVITIES WHEN UNDER THE INFLUENCE. 
FINALLY, JAMA SAID THE ETHIOPIA GOVERNMENT MUST OFFER 
DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES TO COUNTERBALANCE THE MESSAGE 
OF THE EXTREMISTS, AND THE LARGELY TIGRAYAN LEADERS IN 
ADDIS ABABA MUST EDUCATE THEMSELVES ABOUT THE SOMALI 
NATIONAL STATE. 
 
-------- 
BIO DATA 
-------- 
 
13.  (C)  RETIRED GENERAL JAMA, 51, IS AN ETHNIC SOMALI 
FROM THE DAROOD CLAN.  JAMA SAID HE SERVED AS A 
BATTALION, BRIGADE, AND DIVISION COMMANDER DURING HIS 29- 
YEAR CAREER IN THE SOMALI ARMY.  THE GENERAL PROMISED TO 
PROVIDE HIS CURRICULUM VITAE TO POLOFF SOON (SEPTEL). 
POL/ECON OAU OFFICER MET GENERAL JAMA DURING GENERAL 
SCHWARZKOPF'S VISIT TO MOGADISHU IN 1989.  HE REMEMBERS 
HIM AS HAVING A RELATIVELY GOOD PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION, 
BUT BEING OVERSHADOWED BY MORE FLAMBOYANT AND RUTHLESS 
COLLEAGUES SUCH AS "MORGAN." 
 
------- 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
14. (C)  OUR SOMALI CONTACTS WERE QUITE NERVOUS AND 
AFRAID THAT AL'ITTIHAD AGENTS MIGHT BE FOLLOWING THE 
GENERAL.  THE MEETING WAS ORIGINALLY SCHEDULED AS A LUNCH 
HOSTED BY THE DATT BUT, ALTHOUGH THE RESTAURANT WAS 
EMPTY, THE SOMALIS REFUSED TO DISCUSS BUSINESS THERE AND 
INSISTED THAT WE ADJOURN TO A PRIVATE HOME.  THEY ALSO 
INSISTED THAT THE AMERICANS DEPART FIRST TO THE FOLLOW-ON 
MEETING.  WE LEFT THE RESTAURANT AND RECONVENED LATER IN 
DR. FARAH'S HOME.  ONCE THERE, THEY SAID THEY HAD TO BE 
VERY CAREFUL "BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW WHO IS WATCHING." 
 
15.  (C)  CLEARLY NONE OF THE SOMALIS FEARED BEING SEEN 
BY ETHIOPIAN AUTHORITIES.  ALL OF THEM SAID THAT THE 
FEDERAL DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF ETHIOPIA OFFERS THE BEST 
HOPE FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OF THE SOMALI REGION.  THEY 
COMMENTED THAT THEY WOULD NEVER HAVE DARED TO MEET OPENLY 
WITH AMERICANS DURING THE DERG OR EVEN UNDER EMPEROR 
HAILE SELASSIE'S REGIME. 
 
16.  (C)  POLOFF AND DATT DID NOT ENCOURAGE THE GENERAL 
TO THINK THE U.S. WOULD COORDINATE THE EFFORT TO DEFEAT 
AL'ITTIHAD.  WE TOLD HIM ONLY THAT WE WOULD REPORT HIS 
REQUEST TO WASHINGTON.  THE GENERAL SEEMED SATISFIED AND 
DID NOT PRESS THE ISSUE. 
 
17. (U)  ASMARA MINIMIZE CONSIDERED. 
 
 
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