Terrorists posing as refugees in Yemen
Published 22/11/2010 | 14:52
Militants from war-torn Somalia are using refugee routes into Yemen as a cover for making contact with an al-Qaeda group responsible for a series of plots against the West.
Yemeni officials have claimed that members of the al-Shabaab terrorist group have been arrested in refugee camps for Somalis. The government fears that refugee camps such as Al-Kharaz, which now houses 18,000 out of an estimated 2-300,000 Somali refugees in Yemen, could become recruiting grounds for radicals.
Officials also claim there are “regular links”, including arms transfers between al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group accused of planting parcel bombs on planes last month.
“I see Shabaab people on the streets of Aden,” said one former Somali airport official who fled with his family when he was threatened and now lives in a fly-blown two-room hut in the al-Kharaz refugee camp, two hours’ drive into the desert from the port city.
Thousands of Somalis are taking to open boats every month for the eight-hour journey across the Gulf of Aden, many still bearing the physical scars of their country’s brutal civil war.
Most say they are leaving from fear of al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist militia that is battling what remains of the United Nations-backed Somali government for control of the capital, Mogadishu. It offers young men the choice of joining them or being killed.
The Yemeni government says it is to make it harder for refugees to claim asylum as a way to cut the links. It is considering a proposal to remove automatic refugee status to all Somali arrivals and then seek international support for repatriating those not granted asylum. The move is opposed by aid workers, who say there is little evidence to back the claims. The UN, which runs Al-Kharaz and another camp in Aden, said it had received no approach from the government over the change of rules.