Obama warns Africans, as White House says Al-Qaeda is racist

US President Barack Obama warned Africans yesterday that groups

like Al-Qaeda saw their “innocent” lives as cheap, in a personal challenge to

extremists on the continent after the Uganda bombings.


A US official meanwhile branded Al-Qaeda, linked to the

Somalia-based Shebab group which claimed the attacks, as “racist,” as the United

States cranked up its diplomatic response to increasingly active extremists in

Africa.


Obama, leveraging his African heritage and popularity on the

continent, took direct aim at Shebab and Al-Qaeda after attacks on crowds in

Kampala glued to the World Cup final on Sunday killed at least 76 people.


Obama said: “What you’ve seen in some of the statements that have

been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African

life as valuable in and of itself.


“They see it as a potential place where you can carry out

ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences

for their short-term tactical gains.”


A senior American official made clear Obama was taking a direct

swipe at the ideology and motives of Al-Qaeda affiliates on the continent, which

US intelligence agencies say are the extremist group’s most active

franchises.


The official said on condition of anonymity: “The president

references the fact that both US intelligence and past Al-Qaeda actions make

clear that Al-Qaeda and the groups like (Shebab) that they inspire – do not

value African life.


“In short, Al-Qaeda is a racist organisation that treats black

Africans like cannon fodder and does not value human life.”


US officials drew parallels between the Uganda attacks and the 1998

bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds of

Africans, to suggest Al-Qaeda viewed people on the continent as acceptable

casualties of its wider goals.


Earlier, a separate administration official validated Shebab’s

claims to have carried out the bombing, and expressed fears the group could seek

to carry out attacks outside of Africa.


The official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that

though the United States had tracked the rebel group and knew about its Al-Qaeda

links, it had no forewarning of the strikes in Kampala.


The official said: “At this point, there are indications that

Shebab was indeed responsible for it and that its claiming responsibility is

real.”


The official added that it was known that a number of Americans had

gone to Somalia to link up with the group, which has threatened US interests,

but said law enforcement agencies here were aware of the potential threat.


The official said: “We’re very vigilant for any indication of

individuals from Somalia coming here to the United States to engage in these

types of extremist and terrorist activities.”


But in the wake of the thwarted attack on a US airliner last year

by a young Nigerian man allegedly trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen, he did warn the

group had now demonstrated it had the capacity, and willingness to look outside

Somalia.


“I’m worried about any organisation, particularly any one that is

associated with Al-Qaeda and has Al-Qaeda elements sprinkled within it, and

their determination as well as potential capability to carry out an attack

outside of the region. There are ways that they can carry out relatively

unsophisticated attacks but still with very lethal results.”


Obama also dwelt in the SABC interview on the cruel timing of the

attacks, saying: “It was so tragic and ironic to see an explosion like this take

place when people in Africa were celebrating and watching the World Cup take

place in South Africa.


“On the one hand, you have a vision of an Africa on the move, an

Africa that is unified, an Africa that is modernising and creating

opportunities. On the other hand, you’ve got a vision of Al-Qaeda and Shebab

that is about destruction and death.”


Shebab insurgents said the blasts that ripped through a crowded bar

and a restaurant in Kampala on Sunday were retaliation for the presence of

Ugandan troops in Mogadishu.


They were the first ever attack by the Shebab outside Somalia,

marking an unprecedented internationalisation of Somalia’s 20-year-old civil

war.

 
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