Source: London Evening Standard
Britons from around the world are travelling to Somalia to train as terrorists amid mounting concern that the country has become the « destination of choice » for extremists.
Official sources say that Asians, north and west Africans, Bangladeshis and members of other ethnic groups in Britain have gone to Somalia to join the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group.
Several British Muslim converts have also travelled to the lawless east African state, as well as Somalis living in Britain. Some were previously involved in London street gangs and turned to religious extremism in a bid to escape a life of crime.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other world leaders and top officials gathered in London today for a conference on tackling terrorism, piracy, famine and disorder in Somalia.
Britain has already described Somalia as the world’s « worst failed state » and discussions will focus on how to build a stable government and reduce the lawlessness which has allowed al-Shabab and pirates to thrive.
One option under consideration is air strikes or commando raids, with one report claiming Attorney General Dominic Grieve has ruled that action would be legal under international law.
The main British concern, however, remains Somalia’s role as a terrorist training camp. About 50 Britons are thought to have gone there to fight since 2006.
A key reason is that the country, which is usually reached via Kenya, is easier to enter than the terrorist training camps in Pakistan, where many of the plots against Britain were created.
One report today claimed some of those going to Somalia had been sent by Islamist radicals in London gangs, although sources suggested this claim was overblown. They thought it more likely that some gang members had embraced radical Islam.
Bilal al Berjawi, a British-Lebanese man from west London, was killed last month while fighting for al-Shabab. There are fears trained terrorists could return to Britain to attack the Olympics, although a bigger concern is a « lone wolf » attack by a self-trained militant.
By Martin Bentham