(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Government denies links with Bin Laden

The prime minister of the Transitional National Government, Ali Khalif Galayr, has dismissed reports that the government has links with Osama bin Laden, widely regarded as the prime suspect in the recent terrorist attacks in the US. In a statement, Galayr said: “Some news reports disseminated by those who want to harm the reputation of the Somali government allege that [he] has ties to the Somali government... The Somali government rejects this unfounded and baseless accusation.” Condemning the 11 September attacks, Galayr said the Somali government “supports all international efforts designed to eradicate terrorism”. He said Somalis, as Muslims, were proud of their religion, and that it was wrong to “tarnish the good name of Somalia by way of innuendoes... simply because Somalia is a Muslim country... Being a terrorist is one thing and being a Muslim is another thing.” The statement was posted on the SomaliNet web site on 20 September.

Reports of links between Bin Laden and Somalia first appeared in the early 1990s when the US-led military operation came under attack in Mogadishu. American intelligence later insisted that there were active cells operating in southern Somalia, and that, by 1998, a dedicated communications system had been established by a group linked to Bin Laden in the southern port town of Ras Komboni, diplomatic sources told IRIN. There was also concern by neighbouring governments that the absence of government in Somalia had facilitated terrorism, in reference to preparations for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. However, the recent trial in the US of people accused of being involved in the 1998 bombings dismissed attempts to link Bin Laden to the killing of US soldiers in Mogadishu.

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