The White House has outlined a plan that could serve as a significant blow to the vast financial infrastructure of militant groups in Somalia. Announced Tuesday in a message to Congress, the plan targets armed fighters causing unrest in portions of the largely lawless nation.
Pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the National Emergency Act, and United Nations Security Council Resolution 1844, the Executive Order froze the assets of people and organizations involved in acts of terrorism in Somalia. Specifically, the White House was concerned with:
"those who threaten peace and stability in Somalia, who inhibit the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Somalia or the distribution of such assistance in Somalia, or who supply arms or related material in violation of the arms embargo."
Although not identifying any particular terrorist group, this action is clearly aimed at disrupting and dismantling the terrorist organization al Shabaab.
Since its designation in 2008, al Shabaab has remained a threat to both the peace and stability of Somalia. Most recently, on April 3, al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mahmoud Raghe vowed to take control of the entire nation, including its capital Mogadishu. According to his statement:
"we are aware the enemy is training soldiers for the puppet government but we are telling them that our fighters will capture the country before they arrive."
It has also posed a consistent threat beyond Somalia's borders. Of particular concern, at least to the White House, is al Shabaab's connection to the United States. The organization has not only recruited Americans to fight alongside them in Somalia, but it is now believed that as many as 270 Somalis, some of them al Shabaab militants, may have entered the United States illegally.
Once entrenched with the terror group, American recruits have assisted in a vast array of al Shabaab activities, including the denial of humanitarian aid to the local populations. On March 1, al Shabaab ordered the United Nations' Food Agency, the World Food Programme, to leave Somalia. The agency had already suspended work in southern Somalia in January in response to rising attacks from the terrorist organization. On April 8, al Shabaab militants took over the compound.
Finally, al Shabaab has been a consistent recipient of weapons and other munitions in violation of international arms embargos. In a recent threat assessment, African Union peacekeepers warned that al Shabaab has plans to attack Mogadishu, Somalia's seaport, with vessels packed full of explosives.