Eritrea was on Thursday night accused of plotting coordinated car-bombs designed to cause ‘mass civilian casualties’ during an international conference in its neighbour and enemy Ethiopia in January.
By Mike Pflanz, Nairobi
The tiny Red Sea state is also allegedly bankrolling Somalia’s pro-al-Qa’eda Islamists and using British bank accounts to fund an increase in clandestine aggression across East Africa.
The claims were made in a new United Nations report released on Thursday night that went on to warn of a rising threat of “large scale” terror attacks in Kenya and elsewhere in East Africa from freshly-recruited jiahdists.
Three years of planning went into the plot to detonate a series of bombs in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital, during an African Union summit in January. It was foiled by security forces.
Ethiopian rebels were blamed, but the plan was “conceived, planned, supported and directed by the external operations directorate of the Government of Eritrea”, said the report, from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
The anticipated mass civilian casualties and use of explosives to spread terror “represent a qualitative shift in Eritrean tactics”, the report’s authors said.
Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1993 but the two countries soon plunged back to war. It has supported any armed group which opposes Ethiopia’s government.
Proxy conflicts between the two enemies spread most recently to Somalia, where Ethiopia is the main regional backer of the internationally-recognised administration in Mogadishu.
Eritrea is now sending an average of GBP50,000 a month from its embassy in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, to agents of al-Shabaab, al-Qa’eda-linked insurgents battling Somalia’s government, the UN report said.
That money is transferred from Dubai, where there are significant investments and deposits of Eritrean government funds.
Because his country exports almost nothing, President Isaias Afewerki taxes the 1.2 million Eritreans living abroad two percent of their income.
These funds were “the most significant source of revenue” for the ruling party, the UN report said.
One of the main routes for this diaspora cash is through Ericommerce, a British-based firm which banks with Natwest and which handles procurement for Eritrea’s state-owned food import company.
Through its diaspora tax, the report said, “the Government of Eritrea is estimated to raise tens — and possibly hundreds — of millions of dollars on an annual basis”.
Some of that money is believed to end up being transferred via Dubai and Nairobi to pay al-Shabaab in Somalia.
“The means by which the leadership in Asmara [Eritrea’s capital] apparently intends to pursue its objectives are no longer proportional or rational,” the report stated.
“Moreover, since the Eritrean intelligence apparatus responsible for the African Union summit plot is also active in Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda, the level of threat it poses to these other countries must be re-evaluated.”
Attempts to reach Eritrea’s government spokesman were unsuccessful on Thursday night.
The report’s authors separately found fresh evidence that al-Shabaab was extending its reach into Kenya, and had made “functional linkages with jihadist groups in northern, western and southern Africa”.
Leaders of a Muslim youth centre in Nairobi were found to have links to the al-Shabaab cell which killed 79 people in coordinated bombs in Uganda during the World Cup final last year.
The same people were now helping send radicalised Kenyans to fight for the Islamists in Somalia, where there was now a Kenyan-staffed militia of between 200 and 500 troops preparing for more attacks outside of Somalia.
“This disturbing trend, highlighted by the Kampala bombings, suggests that Al-Shabaab…is giving rise to a new generation of East African jihadist groups that represent a new security challenge for the region and the wider international community,” the report said.
The UN Monitoring Group was established to investigate violations of international arms embargoes in place on both Somalia and Eritrea.
source: The Telegraph