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The government cannot say that Ethiopia is completely safe from a terror attack, but it also does not believe the country is on a very high security alert, government spokesman Shimeles Kemal stated.
“We are of course vulnerable and exposed and we already know and have stated that al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab is always plotting to carry out an attack. And as we know there have been several attacks in neighboring countries as well,” Shimeles told Capital.
“Various media outlets reported that earlier this month the Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce of the National Intelligence and Security Service and Federal Police had captured a cell in Ethiopia belonging to a terrorist sect identified as Kaworja. So, the taskforce is working diligently to prevent attacks from happening, and it is unlikely that an attack would happen,” Shimeles stated.
According to the Anti-Terrorism Taskforce, the terrorist cell that was captured was comprised of a group of 25 individuals that were divided into two groups possessing a network with two Somali insurgents Al-Shabaab and the global terrorism designated organization, Al-Qaeda.
According to the statement made by the Taskforce, the two groups have taken training in neighboring Somalia and other foreign nations including The Sudan, South Africa and Nigeria.
“As always people need to watch out for anything that seems strange and out of place and report it to authorities. Ethiopia has always been at risk for terrorism and it will continue to be a risk in the future as well. But we have a very capable Taskforce that is always on the watch,” Shimeles said.
According to some reports, the Kowarja group, which allegedly has close links with Al-Qaeda, is an Islamic fundamentalist group that mainly receives leadership and orders from South Africa.
The Taskforce has reportedly said that the first group received instructions from an unnamed terrorist organization operating from South Africa. The group also received training from Al-Shabaab in Somalia and shuttles between Kenya and South Africa and was planning to start operating from Jimma town, around 300km west of Ethiopia.
The second group was receiving support and instructions from similar Kaworja jihadist cells in Yemen, the UK and The Sudan. It has been reported that the group has the same Islamic fundamental teachings and intents as that of Boko Haram of Nigeria.
Neighboring country Kenya has been the victim of several terror attacks in the past months. Last week more than 60 people were killed in two days near the town of Mpeketoni.
Al-Shabab has said it was behind both attacks, in revenge for the presence of Kenyan troops in Somalia and the killing of Muslims but Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has stated that ‘local political networks’ and not the Islamist group were to blame for the attacks.
Another neighboring country Djibouti was also under attack last month, 24 May, when Grenades were thrown at La Chaumiere restaurant in the capital. A Turkish national was killed while several Western soldiers were wounded.
Djibouti, a former French colony, is home to US and French military bases and also contributes troops to the African Union force fighting al-Shabab militants in Somalia.