Are 15 people aprehended by Ethiopian security truly Al Qaeda, Shabab trained agents?

By IndepthAfrica
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Jan 9th, 2013
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By Keffyalew Gebremedhin

Quoting Ethiopia’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Aaron Maasho of Reuters was the first on January 2nd to report about the arrest by Ethiopian police of 15 suspected militants inside the country, whose mission reportedly was to wreck havoc to innocent lives.

 

The news report indicates that the said individuals allegedly are trainees of and sent into Ethiopia by Al Shabab, the extremist Islamist group on the run in neighboring Somalia. If indeed this story is credible, the success of the security forces in thwarting serious dangers deserves commendation.

 

Unfortunate as it is, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania have not been lucky during the past year. Because of that, they have witnessed several attacks on their churches and social places resulting in numerous deaths, injuries and dislocations for many families.

Therefore, when one sees the apprehension of the 15 sispects in the light of the experiences of these three African countries, the relief to be derived from foiling, as the state called the Al Shabab-Al Qaeda plots, is enormous, especially for the untold number of lives spared of needless destructions.

Niether the NISS nor Aaron Maasho say the NISS has has fed the information to Reuters first, as it was the first to report the story at 8:01 a.m. – not even the national media had clue until later. Anyways, the reporting seems preoccupied to convey a message, with little concern far better balance. Nonetheless, after his initial head down dive into promoting the regime, this Reuters journalist has been making efforts to learn to report the story, instead of building the regime’s image.

For instance, in this latest reporting I find it difficult to understand why he wanted to bring in paragraph 9 the reference to the Moslem protests into his story on the apprehended Al Shabab 15 messengers. What injects doubts into his story’s credibility if the fact that the cases of these individuals are still under investigation. If he had strong reason that he should make a reference, he could have either directly implicated them or otherwise should have desisted from leaving the prisoners under torture from all sorts of speculations and interpretations.

Of that, he simply writes, “Muslims in Ethiopia staged several mass protests last year against perceived interference in Islamic affairs. Several leaders of a committee that led the protests now face trial.”

Certainly, he did not go out of his way to accuse the protestors of having links with al Qaeda.Nevertheless, the mere fact of his mentioning them within the construct of this story is giving the regime what it has been wishing all along. These are two things.

The first is the regime’s attempts to turn the Ethiopian people against the Moslem protestors, portraying them as Al Qaeda offshoots. Possibly also this would help it with foreign governments that have been flustered by its mishandling of peaceful Moslem protestors in the country. There is increasing concern amongst Ethiopian and foreign experts and some foreign governments that this situation may head into unwanted direction.

Secondly, since the regime has now received this propaganda support from Reuters, what it has done is to turn its violence against youngsters struggling for their religious rights and freedoms. For instance, today – January 4 – in many parts of the country, on the first anniversary of the protest, hundreds have been mistreated, a young lad killed and many others injured and still many others imprisoned.

Before that, Reuters must have heard from local sources and news reports, including ESAT that relies on callers from Addis Abeba, that the imprisoned Moslem protest leaders have been tortured for their refusal to admit that they are working with Al Qaeda, despite their persistent claim of their innocence.

The Reuters’ journalist must have also heard that early on the security services have made several attempts to secretly place weapons in protestors’ homes and forcibly taken pictures. Fortunately, their scandalous operations have not worked, as they wanted to. In the face of their inhuman plights, the prisoners, according to news reports, have chosen to take pains and punishments, instead of assuming the guilt that is not theirs.

The religious protests and tensions in Ethiopia, unlike the claims of the regime, revolve around the question of whether the state has the right and power to choose religion or religious denomination for its citizens. I think that is at the heart of the religious controversy in Ethiopia the last time I read and heard about it.

It must not be lost on Reuters and bona fide journalism that the same set of problems is already on the drawing board regarding the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

The Moslem protestors refer to their revolt as resolute resistance to imposition of Al Habash, by teachers recruited by the Meles regime from Lebanon. Meles believed, he could tame Islam in Ethiopia, although historically Islam in Ethiopia has been a friendly religion and the Christian-Moslem communities have lived together with an outstanding level of mutual respect and tolerance, which has been seen exemplary by many other countries.

Therefore, I am one of those disappointed Ethiopians by this Reuters’s story. It has only given the TPLF regime false cover and semblance of a link it wished to exist between the Moslem protestors and Al Qaeda or Al Shabab.

That not being the case, therefore, not only that this story has been exploited by the regime for its nefarious objectives as a license to go out and shoot and imprison more unarmed young protestors. But also it has forced the chance of further searches for political solution to run aground.

As a news agency, whose primary job is information gathering, Reuters ought to sense or understand that for the past month the regime has been seeking all means and possibilities to stifle the planned January 4th first anniversary celebration by the Moslem protestors in Ethiopia, which it feared would be more forceful and dangerous.

That is why I consider the reference to the protests by Ethiopian Moslems inside the Reuters’ story unfair and irresponsible. If Reuters had evidence, they ought to show the link. Once they see that they had none, they ought to state that none exists. Still preferable course of action would have been not to make a reference to them in the story in the first place.

After all, from what we have seen so far, the Moslems in Ethiopia are fighting for their rights. As a person who identifies himself as a Christian, none of their goals or any other aspects of their struggle for religious freedom and rights have this far have given me cause for concern.

In fact, I am more concerned by the two-decade old repression in Ethiopia that has imposed sordid sufferings on the people and the inequalities thereon. I am also one of those millions of Ethiopians who sees that the Moslem protests as supporting arm in the struggle of the Ethiopian people against state repression and the burgeoning dictatorship of one ethnic group in a multi-ethnic nation.

Finally, might I ask how Reuters failed to see from the January 2 claims in the state-owned media, when reporting on the same story of the 15 suspects, that they had entered the country to give support to the Moslem protestors. The following is full quote of the story, as it appears in Amharic on ERTA and Fana, the latter owned by the ruling party:

“በሽብር ድርጊቱ ተጠርጥረው በቁጥጥር ስር የዋሉት ግለሰቦች ከኢትዮጵያ ውጪ በኬንያና በሶማሊያ በአልቃይዳና አልሸባብ አማካይነት ወታደራዊ ስልጠና ወስደው ወደ ሀገር ውስጥ የገቡትን አባላቶቻቸውን ለጅሀድ ጦርነት ከማደራጀት ጎን ለጎን መንግስት በህግ መሰረት ሲያስተናግደው የነበረውን የኢትዮጵያውያን ሙስሊሞች ህጋዊ ጥያቄ በአመፅ አቅጣጫ ለመምራትና አጋጣሚውን የጅሀድ ጦርነት ለማወጅና ለሽብር አላማቸው መጠቀሚያ ለማድረግ ሲንቀሳቀሱ እንደነበረም ግብረ ሃይሉ አስታውቋል፡፡
በሽብር ድርጊቱ ተጠርጥረው በቁጥጥር ስር ከዋሉ ግለሰቦች ጋርም ለጅሀድ ጦርነቱ የተዘጋጁ የወታደራዊ ስልጠና ማኑዋሎች የጅሀድ ጦርነቶችን የሚሰብኩ ሰነዶችና የሚያሳዩ ቪዲዮዎችን የያዙ ሲዲዎችና ኮምፒውተሮች እንዲሁም የጦር መሳሪያዎችና ሌሎች ወታደራዊ ቁሳቁሶች ተይዘዋል፡፡

እነዚሁ ተጠርጣሪዎች አዲስ አበባን ዋና ማዕከል አድርገው በተለይ በከሚሴና በሐረር አካባቢ ወታደራዊ እንቅስቃሴ መጀመር የሚያስችላቸውን የቦታ መረጣ ቅኝት አካሂደው ማጠናቀቃቸውንና በተለያዩ አካባቢዎችም አነስተኛ ወታደራዊ ስልጠናዎችን ሲያካሂዱ እንዲሁም ለጅሀድ ጦርነት የተደላደለ ሁኔታ መፍጠር የሚያስችሉ አስተምህሮቶችንም ሲሰጡና ሲንቀሳቀሱ በቁጥጥር ስር መዋላቸውን ግብረ ሀይሉ ገልጿል፡፡”

Unofficial translation:

“The NISS has established that those individuals, trained by Al Qaeda and Al Shabab in Somalia and Kenya, who now are in prison entered Ethiopia with the aim of foiling through jihad the government’s plan to find constitutional solutions for the religious problems raised by Moslem protestors.
Captured along with the aprehended individuals are military manuals and materials containing instructions on launching jihad, military equipment and weapons.

The intention of the 15 suspects was to use Addis Abeba as their base of operation and head off their military activities into Kemise and Harar. The NISS disclosed that the suspects had been conducting military training and also some lessons to facilitate the conditions for jihad.”

Post script

In the last few days, we have heard a lot about Sebhat Nega’s activities – mostly intrigues, threats, condemnations against the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy for not condemning the Moslem protesters as terrorists.

Then on January 4, there came his arm-twisting of the clergy in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church intent on getting the patriarchate remain under the leadership of another Tigrean patriarch. This is very typical of the regime’s behavior and goals, as it has done in the case of all other positions within the ruling party and government.

In mysterious ways, the latest conversationon the telephone Sebhat Nega with another senior Tigrean clergy of the Orthodox Church was secretly recorded and was made available to ESAT, as one could see from the video below.

Wonders never end and after these revelations, every citizen should have a sense of what the TPLF regime has in mind for Ethiopia and Ethiopians, the Ortodox Church and Moslem protestors, the economy and the future of the state itself.

Similarity of the Moslem – Orthodox Church crises the regime has perpetrated and the role being played thereon by Sebhat Nega reminds one the case of anotherTigrean warlord, Mikael Sihul (c.1691 1779) in Ethiopian history. In 1745, the government of Ethiopia assigned sent to Alexandria to bring with him a new bishop for Ethiopia.

On the way back, when the two repeatedly suffered from one capture first in Massawa and next in Arqiqo. Mikael Sihul eventually worked his way out, leaving the bishop (Abune Yohannes) to his devices, for which he had received criticisms.

Mikael Sihul’s commitments were two: (a) remaining throughout his life the sole king-maker on the land and (b) the destruction of the line from Gondar to the throne.

Once Mikael Sihul succeeded in doing that, he had Emperor Iyoas killed. He then put his favorite man as Emperor Yohannes II on the throne. The king who came with Mikael Sihul’s blessings ended up marrying his benefactor’s daughter.

Interestingly, the meaning of his second name, Sihul, means the and cunning astute person.

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