Al-Shabaab militant group has seized control of uranium mines in central Somalia with the intent of supplying the material to Iran, according to a diplomatic letter from a top Somali official appealing to the U.S. for “immediate military assistance.”
During the past three months, there have been growing activities by the Al-Qaeda affiliate group in central Somalia region of Galgadud under the Galmudug State, where the militant group captured large swathes of rural villages and districts including those on the coastline of the Indian Ocean.
The letter, sent by Foreign Minister Yusuf Garad Omar, was addressed to U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz. Somalia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Ahmed Awad confirmed on Thursday that the letter “has indeed been issued” by Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Garaad Omar, whose signature is on the document.
The Aug. 11-dated letter delivered an urgent warning to the U.S. that the Al-Shabaab terror network has linked up with the regional Islamic State (ISIS) faction and is “capturing territory” in the central part of the country.
Somalia and Iran had no diplomatic ties since January 2016, when Mogadishu officially severed Tehran relations and expelled its Mogadishu-based Ambassador accusing of spreading Shiism in Somalia.
“This issue can be summed up in a single word: uranium,” the letter said. “Al-Shabaab forces have captured critical surface exposed uranium deposits in the Galmudug region and are strip mining triuranium octoxide for transport to Iran.”
For the Trump administration, the warning represents yet another potential security threat, as the U.S. government simultaneously grapples with a nuclear standoff with North Korea, the prospect of a stalemate in Afghanistan and ISIS activity across the Middle East and North Africa.
But the letter said “now is not the time to look away,” urging the U.S. ambassador to consider the request for intelligence and military assistance.
“Only the United States has the capacity to identify and smash Al-Shabaab elements operating within our country. The time for surgical strikes and limited engagement has passed, as Somalia’s problems have metastasized into the World’s problems,” the letter said. “Every day that passes without intervention provides America’s enemies with additional material for nuclear weapons. There can be no doubt that global stability is at stake.”
Ambassador Awad said that the letter has been acknowledged by the State Department.
The State Department would not comment on the diplomatic letter, but according to U.S Fox News TV channel, the American officials did not dispute its authenticity and referred any media explanations to the government of Somalia.
Iran was supposed to pull back on its nuclear program under the terms of the agreement struck with the Obama administration.