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The spillover of the Gaza war is a concern to the Horn of Africa, especially after Al Shabab in Somalia called to unite with Hamas, a senior EU official told The National on Sunday.
Annette Weber, the EU’s envoy to the Horn of Africa, told The National on the sidelines of the Manama Dialogue in Bahrain that the potential for radicalised groups to connect across the region could create a “huge challenge for all of us”.
“I think what is of concern as a fallout is more in the case of Somalia, where Al Shabab has reacted immediately to the call by Hamas to the call to arms,” Ms Weber said.
Israel launched an air strike campaign in the Gaza Strip on October 7 that killed more than 12,000 people, including 5,000 children.
“On Gaza, we would need an Arab lead,” Ms Weber said, in reference to ending the conflict.
The war started after Hamas carried out an attack on the Israeli border on October 7 that killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took about 240 hostages, about half of whom are foreign passport holders.
In response, Al Shabab, Al Qaida’s affiliate in Somalia, said the conflict in the Middle East was not just “the battle of the Islamic factions in the land of Palestine in particular, but rather the battle of the entire Muslim Ummah”.
The group said: “Muslims must gather and offer everything they can to support the mujahideen against the Jews and their hypocritical infidel allies. The strength of this nation lies in the strength of its fronts.”
Other Al Qaeda affiliates in the Indian subcontinent, Yemen and Syria issued similar statements.
In Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels launched more than six drone and missile attacks towards southern Israel, causing little to no damage. Most have been intercepted by Israeli air defences on their journey of more than 1,600km.
“We don't think we can afford to have Yemen and Somalia connecting even more with arms with fighters with money,” Ms Weber said.
The EU has strong relations with Somalia and the African Union, on the military font and economic and political issues, she said.
“Maybe on maritime security, there must be more on the radar ... and this is, of course, where we see overlapping interests between Saudi Arabia and others," she said.