AFP probes terrorist fundraising
THE Australian Federal Police have launched a wide-ranging investigation into suspected terrorist fundraising by Somali Islamic extremists in Australia.
The move reflects growing concerns that small groups of radicalised Somalis in Melbourne have been raising terror money and sending it to fund Islamic jihad in their war-torn homeland.
The east African nation has become a fertile ground for terrorists, with al-Qaeda using the lawless country to regroup and plot new attacks abroad.
Somali Community of Victoria president Abdurahman Jama Osman has said that a small group of Melbourne-based Somalis are suspected of helping to fund extremists in the capital, Mogadishu.
“There was a fundraising in Melbourne and they said they were going to give the money to the Arab parts of Mogadishu,” Mr Osman said.
“But many Somalis believe that the money was sent to the Islamic military in Somalia. I’m sure they were breaking the law, and if so, they have harmed our reputation.”
Australian laws on terrorism forbid raising money for extremists overseas.
Security sources say the alleged fundraising being investigated by the AFP took place while the former hardline Islamic government, known as the Islamic Court Union, was in power late last year.
The AFP has declined to make any comment on the issue and will neither confirm or deny that it is investigating the matter.
Mr Osman said only a small number of Australia’s 16,000 Somali immigrants were extremists, but that this small minority was hard-line.
“Our problem is that young people are in touch with Wahabis (members of a fundamental Sunni Muslim sect),” he told The Australian in an interview earlier this year. “There are very few but you cannot change their mind — nobody can change their mind.”
In December, a 25-year-old Somali man from Melbourne, Ahmed Ali, was killed after travelling to Somalia to join the Islamic jihad there.
Australia’s Somali community has grown rapidly in the past decade as thousands of Somalians have sought to escape famine and war in their homeland.
In a speech to Somali community members in Melbourne last week, Sydney Somali leader Herse Hilole warned that young Somalis were being seduced by Muslim extremists.
“We know there are supporters in Australia who want to recruit young Somalis to go back or support financially the Islamic Courts,” he said.
“The community must be made aware of this, and we must put a stop to it.
“Somalis who take up Australian citizenship should know they are now committed to obeying Australian law … under Australian law, it is forbidden to join jihad in any country, or join any war that is against the interests of Australia.”
Some Somali leaders believe more than a dozen young Somali men have returned to their homeland to take up arms for the Islamic jihad.
But Issue Musse, of the Werribee Islamic Centre in Melbourne, said the vast majority of the Somali immigrants in Australia were moderates.
He said the funds raised by community members in Australia were more likely to be sent to their families back home, rather than to Islamic or political causes.
“Many Somalis have people to support back home so they are more likely to raise funds for their families rather than for (the former government of) Somalia,” Sheik Musse said.
The US military has launched air raids against suspected Somali al-Qa’ida strongholds in the wake of the downfall of the Islamic Courts government, toppled in December by Ethiopian troops tacitly backed by the US.
Shelling has rocked Mogadishu this month as Ethiopian and Somali troops, backed by helicopter gunships, attacked Islamist rebels and militias.
Scores of civilians have been killed and hundreds wounded in what is seen as the worst fighting for more than 15 years.