In an exclusive interview, the US-educated African leader says Islamic terrorists are flocking to his country. And preparing to strike the West.
Three months after leaving behind a comfortable academic life in the United States to become Prime Minister of Somalia, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has a chilling assessment of the state of affairs of his native land. "Somalia is like Afganistan. But the one difference is that NATO is in Afghanistan, and all the terrorists who have fled Kabul are now here."
Speaking with La Stampa, Mohamed sent a clear warning call to the West. In Somalia, Islamic terrorists "have found a safe haven from which they can strike New York, or Milan. The international community must understand this and act on it soonest, and Italy should take the lead."
Until last fall, Mohamed was a college professor in Buffalo. Now he is at the helm of a government of 18 people, for the most part former expatriates who have come back home after years abroad in an effort to save the country from becoming the African version of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Mohamed's transitional federal government remains in power until August, when his mandate runs out. It is not clear much the temporary leaders can change a country considered the world's most dangerous.
Speaking on the eve of a trip that took him to New York to seek the help of the U.N. Security Council, Mohamed said he has also sought a meeting with the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, or the foreign minister, Franco Frattini. So far he has received no reply. U.S. Ambassador to Rome David Thorne said in an interview with La Stampa days ago that, according to the CIA, Rome can play a significant role in the Horn of Africa region. But Somalia wants more from its former colonial rulers: it wants Italy to take charge of saving Somalia like other ex-colonial powers have done elsewhere in Africa.
Mr. Prime Minister, how did a U.S. political science professor become the head of the Somali government?
I've always been engaged in and worried about the future of my country, even though I left it 25 years ago. Many ex-pats like myself have thought this was the time to come back, to prevent Somalia from ending up in the hands of religious extremists.
Your government was formed in October and approved by Parliament in December. The international community is skeptical as to what you can really do. What results have you achieved so far?
We'll do whatever we can, but we need international help, both financially and militarily. First of all we are working to ensure that soldiers receive a regular salary, because they cannot fight on an empty stomach against terrorists who are well financed -- including from abroad -- and strengthened by the arrival of combatants from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Pakistan, as well as from other African countries. The African Union has 8,000 troops here to help ours, but that is not enough. The terrorists are coming by the thousands as they perceive Somalia to be the world's weak link.
How worried are you by the recent decision of the two main Islamist groups, al-Shabab and Hisbul Islam, to merge?
We are fighting against the terrorists in a tough way, we won't give them any room. Many have already abandoned fundamentalism and joined us.
How much of your country does your government control?
We are in control of 65 % of Mogadishu. In the rest of the country, the situation is more complicated, but we have made progress. People are starting to trust us. If in the next eight months we can guarantee a higher level of security and show that we are an efficient government that is not corrupt, then the people will be on our side. But, I stress, in the absence of greater help from the U.N., Washington, the EU and perhaps even NATO, this will not be enough.
What can Italy do?
Italians are a great people, and we share much history. We are greatly appreciative of what Italy has done in the past, but it can and must do much more. It has both the resources and the skills to intervene directly, the same way that other colonial powers have done in other parts of Africa: I'm thinking about the U.S., France or Great Britain and what happened in Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Chad or Kenya. We expect direct help from the Italian government, or that Italy takes the lead in Europe to allow for financial intervention and the deployment of experts and military forces.
If your government fails, what destiny awaits Somalia?
It will become a threat to the whole of mankind.
Read original article in Italian