NAIROBI, Kenya – A recruiting video issued by members of the fundamentalist Islamic movement in Somalia shows Arab radicals fighting alongside the local extremists in Mogadishu, and invites Muslims from around the world to join in their “holy jihad.”
President Bush expressed concern last month that Somalia could become an al-Qaida haven like Afghanistan was in the late 1990s. And recordings attributed to Osama bin Laden portray Somalia as a battleground in his war on the United States.
The video provides the first hard evidence that non-Somalis have joined with Islamic extremists in Somalia.
The Supreme Islamic Courts Council, which defeated U.S.-backed warlords in Mogadishu last month and is now the country’s most powerful force, has repeatedly denied links to extremists such as al-Qaida.
But the one-hour video appears to confirm U.S. fears – and al-Qaida’s boasts.
The video, shot with a handheld recorder, shows Arab fighters preparing for a major battle on the northern outskirts of Mogadishu. Arabic anthems and poetry play on the audio track urging Muslims to join the global holy war to advance Islam and defeat its enemies.
The video starts with a black flag featuring a Quranic verse and a saber fluttering in the wind. Such black banners have only recently appeared in Somalia but have been used by Islamic extremists in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon for years.
After a few minutes of battle footage, the tape documents the Arab fighters’ predawn preparations for battle, including prayers, a commander’s speech to his troops and the preparation of weapons. The Arab fighters then climb onto two pickups mounted with heavy machine guns, which the Somalis call “technicals.”
As the sun rises, the location of the Arab camp north of Mogadishu becomes clear and six more trucks loaded with Somali fighters come into view. A senior member of the Islamic group, Yusuf Indohaadde, is filmed walking among the men before the pickups roll out of an old warehouse compound.
The rest of the footage follows one group of Somali militiamen as they battle troops loyal to warlords who controlled Mogadishu for 15 years and had ties to the United States. The tape ends with the capture of Essaleh, a small town with strategic air and sea ports three miles north of Mogadishu.