Terrorists targeting Israeli interests, East African agencies warn

Saturday February 10 2024

Soldiers firing on Hezbol Islam insurgents in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia. PHOTO | REUTERS


Security agencies fear that terrorist groups will target Israeli interests in the region on the back of the Gaza crisis, which has drawn militant groups sympathetic to the Hamas.

Security agents attending a meeting in Entebbe together with legislators on defence and security committees of the respective parliaments said due to the conflict in the Middle East, intelligence shows attempts by Al Shabaab and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) on Israeli interests in different countries.

The leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan were meeting in Uganda to discuss issues concerning the introduction of inclusive legislation for countering violent extremism and terrorism in their parliaments to safeguard the member states against radicalisation, extremism and terrorism.

Read: Shabaab attack: Rebirth or fight for survival?

Intelligence experts attending the high-level meeting organised by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad), said ADF and Al Shabaab are taking advantage of the Middle East conflict to recruit, adding that some of the agents “have crossed into Uganda”.

Dr Tolit Atiya, a regional security expert, said extremist groups have recently crossed from the Sahel region into the interior of Africa, including East Africa and the Horn of Africa, raising fears that the region could face increased activities by these groups.


“Israel foreign policy is mirrored into the US foreign policy, and the latter’s indifference on the plight of the people in Gaza at the hands of Israel radicalises the groups in frontier states such as Lebanon, Iran, Syria, to look out for soft targets,” he said.

Security experts warn that collaboration between Al Shabaab and the ADF is more likely.

East Africa and Israel enjoy a friendly relations and Israeli companies operate in the region in the fields of construction, infrastructure, ICT, agriculture, and water management.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strengthened his country’s cooperation with the East African region, especially after the visit to Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Rwanda in 2016, the first official visit by an Israeli prime minister to the region in decades, which was seen as an attempt to bolster strategic, political and security ties with the region at the time of growing extremism in Somalia.

Read: Kenya warns risk of attacks over Israel-Hamas war

The conflict between Israel and Hamas-led militant groups broke out on October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched a surprise offensive against Israel, starting a war in which Israel responded with heavy bombardment of the Gaza Strip, killing over 28,000 Palestinians in Gaza, including children, relief workers, journalists, and civilians; some killed by the falling rubble.

Similarly, the conflict between Somalia and Ethiopia, after the latter signed a deal in which the latter was to get a 50-year lease on a strip of land on Somaliland’s Red Sea coast for naval and commercial maritime use and access to the Berbera port in exchange for recognition of Somaliland as a sovereign state, was also raised as the biggest recruitment tool for Al Shabaab.

“Al Shabaab is radicalising and recruiting people to fight Ethiopia, said a security official, adding that last month, one of the senior leaders of Al Shabaab, Mahad Karate who has a $10 million bounty on his head by the US, came off as a symbol of unity fighting for Somalia’s territorial integrity. He has recruited over 1,000 fighters, taking advantage of the conflict,” a security official said, urging Igad to ensure that conflicts are quickly resolved.

Until the deal was signed, Somalia and Ethiopia worked together for the security of their common border and other areas to keep out the Al Shabaab.

Read: Terror groups target youth to join their ranks

Before the deal was signed, Ethiopian soldiers worked with the Somali National Security Forces for security, policing, and intelligence sharing and the absence of such cooperation has created a vacuum.

The 42nd Extraordinary Assembly of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) meeting in Entebbe on January 18 directed Ethiopia to withdraw from the sea deal with Somaliland, calling for an end to tensions between the two countries, a conflict regional leaders said could escalate the instability in the region and give the Al Shabaab terrorists fertile grounds to recruit and destabilize the region further.