US threatens Eritrea over support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists

Damien McElroy in Asmara

April 18 2009

US threatens Eritrea over support for al-Qaeda-linked terrorists The US has warned Eritrea it risks American military action for its support for a Somalian terrorist group linked to a plot to attack President Barack Obama. The Red Sea dictatorship has drawn the wrath of America by backing extremist Islamic groups in Somalia as part of a proxy war with Ethiopia, its former ruler. It champions al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked group that American intelligence believes has trained a dozen of its own citizens to carry out attacks in the US.

President Obama's January inauguration was hit by FBI warnings about a potential suicide threat from 12 American citizens that had left Africa to infiltrate the US and disappeared.

Subsequently Washington quietly warned Eritrea, a former Italian colony which was occupied by Britain during the Second World War, it could suffer the same fate as Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, if the plot was carried out.

"Eritrea has chosen the wrong path," said a source. "There are consequences for working with al-Shabaab when President Obama cannot afford to look weak on terrorism by not retaliating if there is an attack on the homeland."

But President Isaias Afewerki told the Daily Telegraph that he would continue to oppose an American and British-backed Somalian government that declared al-Shabaab its principal enemy when it took office in February.

While Western governments have growing confidence in the new government, led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Mr Isaias diminished the new leader as a stooge.