Dar es Salaam — Ten Tanzanians have been arrested in Mogadishu fighting alongside Al Shabaab Muslim militants, Home Affairs minister Shamsi Vuai Nahodha said in Dar es Salaam yesterday.
This is the first official public confirmation linking Tanzanian nationals to the terror group, which is fighting both the Somali transitional government and an African Union peacekeeping force. Three weeks ago, Kenya also sent in its army to fight the militants after the abduction of several people on Kenyan soil blamed on Al Shabaab.
Mr Nahodha told journalists that security agencies were investigating reports that a number of businessmen in the country, including some of Somali origin, have been recruiting Tanzanian youths on behalf of the group.
"We have information to the effect that Al Shabaab recruiting agents are working in the country. We have information on people trying to convince Tanzanian youths to join Al Shabaab," he said.The minister also linked the development to the massive illegal immigration of people from the Horn of Africa travelling southward, saying some of the illegal immigrants might have connections with the terror group.
Mr Nahodha said, however, that the government had taken a number of measures in response to the security threat. "The various security organs are working closely to counter the threat," he said.
He added that a team of security experts had been dispatched to Mogadishu to question the Tanzanians who were seized while allegedly fighting alongside Al Shabaab."Our officers have already interrogated them and we have taken their finger prints for further identification...the suspects are still being held in Somalia."
Mr Nahodha said the government was also in contact with other countries and international agencies involved in the fight against terrorism as part of wider efforts to protect Tanzania."The fact that there are people in the country who have been cooperating with and working for the group has compromised our security. We are taking nothing for granted."
He urged Tanzanians to be patriotic and distance themselves from Al Shabaab and its activities and to report any person or activity they suspect may be linked to the group.
Mr Nahodha asked drivers of public transport vehicles, especially taxis, to be wary of strangers who ask them about important places such as embassies and other sensitive installations.He said owners of guest houses should also be careful and take all important particulars of people who check into the establishments to make it easy to trace them if the need arose.
The minister said although Al Shabaab had not carried out an attack on Tanzanian soil, attacks in neighbouring Kenya and Uganda should serve as a lesson to Tanzanians. Over 70 people were killed in twin bomb explosions in Kampala on July 10, last year. Al Shabaab quickly claimed responsibility for the attacks.
There has been a string of kidnappings of foreign tourists on Kenya's coast in recent months blamed on the group. This prompted Kenya to launch a military operation against the militants inside Somalia.
In its global ranking index of countries most at risk from terrorist attacks, Maplecroft of the UK warns that Tanzania was among countries facing an imminent danger from terrorist attacks. According to its latest Terrorism Risk Index, which covers 2010-2011, all East African Community (EAC) member states face the same terror risk level as Uganda, which is placed among high-risk countries in the world.
Meanwhile, Mr Nahodha said eight immigration officials were being investigated in connection with the wave of illegal immigrants who have entered the country in recent months.The minister told reporters that he warned the officers after he was informed of their conduct, which, he added, put the country's security at risk.
"I have their names in my briefcase here... I have already issued them with warning letters. We are monitoring them and if they are not going to change in the next one month, we will act against them."
He said the government recently deported two Pakistani nationals who had entered the country illegally through the assistance of one of the eight officers."The government's move against the Pakistani nationals shows that we know what is going on," he said.http://allafrica.com/stories/201111170810.html