Egypt, Somalia Bolster Security Coordination Amid Suez Canal Fears.

Egypt and Somalia are strengthening security coordination because of what they deem are common threats. The two countries signed on March 1 a memorandum of understanding on security cooperation, a document that allows for concentrated security coordination between Cairo and Mogadishu.

During a meeting in Cairo with Somali Internal Security Minister Abukar Islow Duale, Egyptian Interior Minister Mahmoud Tawfiq said increased intelligence cooperation between the two countries would weaken terrorist groups in both territories.

Egypt also said it would share counterterrorism expertise with Somalia, train security personnel and exchange intelligence with Somali officials.

There is concern that unrest in the Horn of Africa could threaten navigation in the southern entrance of the Red Sea, possibly affecting access to Egypt’s Suez Canal.

“Somalia is a very important state in the Horn of Africa’s strategic security equation,” said Khaled Okasha, a member of the Supreme Anti-Terrorism Council, which advises the Egyptian presidency. “This is why security coordination with it is a matter of utmost importance.”

Despite efforts by the government in Mogadishu, African Union troops deployed in the country and occasional air strikes by the United States, al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab remains a major terrorist threat in Somalia and its environs.

Attacks by al-Shabab, including one March 1 near a hotel in Mogadishu, signal the need for improved counterterrorism actions in the country. Apart from threatening Somalia, al-Shabab is also a concern for neighbouring countries, especially Kenya.

Egypt is fighting both the Islamic State (ISIS) and al-Qaeda-aligned groups in its territory, with many fearing that battle-hardened jihadists fleeing Syria could move into Africa.

Egypt’s concern, security analysts say, is that terrorist groups in other African countries, including Somalia and Nigeria, will join militants in North Africa, particularly Libya, in a broad strategy to foment unrest in Africa.

“Al-Shabab has already started staging attacks in Somalia’s neighbouring countries,” Okasha said. “Egyptian authorities are closely monitoring these developments.” Egypt, which holds the rotating presidency of the African Union, has pledged to lead the continent into greater security and an effective counterterrorism strategy.

Apart from establishing a command centre for counterterrorism operations in its new administrative capital on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt is organising joint training with other African militaries to share counterterrorism tactics.

Source: The Arab Weekly