Al-Shabaab Leader Calls for Attacks on French and American Interests in Djibouti
Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar, the leader of the Somalia-based al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab, has issued a call for attacks on French and American interests in the African littoral nation of Djibouti. The new video, released through the organization’s Al-Kataib media branch, is titled “A Message to the People of Djibouti” and features audio of Abu Ubaydah spliced with imagery highlighting the presence of Western military forces on Djiboutian soil. The video’s release comes less than two weeks before the country’s presidential election.
Djibouti, a small country and former French colony located on the Horn of Africa, controls some of the most valuable geostrategic real estate on the planet. Its coastline juts out into and spans much of the Bab al-Mandab Strait (“Gate of Tears”) — a narrow maritime chokepoint that facilitates vital high-volume shipping routes, for oil and natural gas in particular. Djibouti is a comparatively stable and secure nation in an otherwise volatile region and has thus attracted several military powers from around the world.
Abu Ubaydah criticizes President Ismail Omar Guelleh for turning “Djibouti into a military base from where every war against the Muslims in East Africa is planned and executed, particularly against our Muslim land of Somalia.”
Abu Ubaydah on al-Shabaab’s adversaries:
“A coalition of disbelievers who came from various countries have waged a war against the Muslims of Somalia. Among them are Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, U.S., U.K, France and Italy. These forces were supported by many apostate troops from diverse countries, including U.A.E., Turkey and Djibouti.”
Abu Ubaydah’s Message to the People of Djibouti
Abu Ubaydah portrays Djibouti’s government as illegitimate and calls upon the citizenry to fulfill their duty to take up arms and expel foreign military forces from their lands:
“It is obligatory upon the Muslims living in Djibouti to muster their strength and work towards expelling the French forces who repeatedly insult our prophet and the other crusaders who have filled their country. Know that Jihad is an individual obligation upon you today, and it is required of every person living in Djibouti.”
He exalts French terrorists Said Kouachi, Sharif Kouachi, and Abdullah Ash-Shishani as examples for Djiboutians to follow.
Abu Ubaydah’s “message to the youth”:
“To the youth in Djibouti, in particular, I say: you have a great opportunity today so take advantage of it. Endeavour to carry out individual [lone wolf] Martyrdom operations in order to avenge the honour of your Prophet.
Emulate the example of your brothers who have carried out the blessed attacks inside France, such as Said and Sharif Kouachi and Abdullah Ash-Shishani – May Allah have mercy on them all – because nothing terrorises the disbelievers more than individual martyrdom operations.
Make American and French interests in Djibouti the highest priority of your targets. Kill them in the streets and in the hotels where they rejoice; bury them in the beaches where they party; massacre them as they have massacred our Muslim brothers. They have led our youth astray so kill them and let their blood flow in the streets of Djibouti.
If you do not have the strength, you will always find a stratagem. If you do not have a gun, you will never miss a knife. Put your trust in Allah and demonstrate to them the glory of Islam and the courage and bravery of the Muslim youth. Make it clear to them and let them know that we are willing to die in order to protect the honour of our prophet.”
His instructions for prospective attackers:
“If you cannot fulfill the individual obligation of Jihad, then it is incumbent upon you to train and work towards making the necessary preparations in order to expel the American and French disbelievers whom Ismai’l Omar Geelle has handed the country over to and establish the obligation of Jihad.
If you are unable to participate in Jihad and cannot train for it, then it is obligatory upon you to make Hijra from Djibouti in order to find a suitable place to prepare and train. The Islamic Wilaayaat are ready to offer you a safe refuge and facilitate the necessary training for you.”
The country has been targeted by al-Shabaab in the past, so there is some cause for concern. In 2014, al-Shabaab claimed credit for a double suicide bombing at a restaurant in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and injured several Westerners, including soldiers. The location was selected because it was frequented by “French crusaders and their NATO allies.” The group accused French nationals of “complicity in the massacres and persecution of our Muslim brothers in the Central African Republic and for their active role in training and equipping the apostate Djiboutian troops.”