UN confirmed Eritrea plotted to attack an African Union summit in Ethiopia in January and is financing Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group.

The terror plot was to "make Addis Ababa like Baghdad", according to a new investigation report by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.pres isaias afeworki

According to the report, Eritrean intelligence services planned an operation to detonate a car bomb at the African Union headquarters where 30 leaders were in attendance. Moreover, the plan included bombing  placed between Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s office and Sheraton Hotel, where most of the African leaders were staying. The report said the plan included bombing Merkato, which is said to be the largest open-air market in Africa, in the hope of ‘killing many people’.

It is to be recalled that Ethiopia’s national anti-terrorism task force foiled Eritrea’s terror attempt and reported that it seized C4 plastic explosives in food sacks, gas cylinders, detonators and a sniper rifle last January. UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo, a travel ban and an assets freeze on Eritrean political and military officials for havocking the region in Dec. 2009.

The following are quotes from the report, according to Reuters and The Guardian.

"If executed as planned, the operation would almost certainly have caused mass civilian casualties, damaged the Ethiopian economy and disrupted the African Union summit," the report said.

"Whereas Eritrean support to foreign armed opposition groups has in the past been limited to conventional military operations, the plot to disrupt the African Union summit in Addis Ababa in January 2011, which envisaged mass casualty attacks against civilian targets and the strategic use of explosives to create a climate of fear, represents a qualitative shift in Eritrean tactics," the report obtained by Reuters said.

"The fact that the same Eritrean officers responsible for the planning and direction of this operation are also involved, both in supervisory and operational roles, in external operations in Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan implies an enhanced level of threat to the region as a whole."

The U.N. report said all but one of the people arrested received all their training and orders directly from Eritrean officers. The other detainee was also in regular contact with an Ethiopian rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

"Although ostensibly an OLF operation, it was conceived, planned, supported and directed by the external operations directorate of the government of Eritrea, under the leadership of General Te’ame", the report said.

General Te’ame Goitom, Eritrea’s external intelligence operations chief in the horn, allegedly told one of the would-be attackers that the intention was to "make Addis Ababa like Baghdad". The monitoring group said it had an audio recording of a conversation between Te’ame and the attacker, as well as records of payments made to the bombing team by a senior Eritrean army official.

The U.N. report included a letter from Romania confirming a sniper rifle found in the possession of one of the bomb plotters had been sold to Eritrea in 2004.

The report included slips showing payments to the plotters in Addis Ababa through money transfers. The plotters told the U.N. that an Eritrean colonel had arranged for the transfers via intermediaries in Sudan and Kenya.

The report also included copies of payments slips from Eritrean officials in Kenya’s capital Nairobi to known members of Somali rebel group al Shabaab. It said the payments were to the tune of $80,000 (48,975 pounds) a month.

"The Monitoring Group has obtained documentary evidence of Eritrean payments to a number of individuals with links to al Shabaab," the report said.

"The documents obtained were received directly from the embassy of Eritrea in Nairobi, including payment vouchers marked ‘State of Eritrea’," the report said.

"The embassy of Eritrea in Nairobi continues to maintain and exploit a wide network of Somali contacts, intelligence assets and agents of influence in Kenya."

The UN report concluded that [Eritrea] government’s geopolitical strategy was "no longer proportional or rational".

"Moreover, since the Eritrean intelligence apparatus responsible for the African Union summit plot is also active in Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan and Uganda, the level of threat it poses to these other countries must be re-evaluated," the report said.

[UPDATE will be posted as soon as I obtained the report.]

Daniel Berhane

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