En ny gruppe som er oppkalt etter Al Qaida-lederen Al Zarqawi, har utropt hjelpearbeidere – både lokale og utenlandske – til vantro og fiender, og truer med å drepe dem. Flere er allerede drept og nå flykter hjelpearbeiderne fra landet.
Så sent som fredag dro et titall somaliske hjelpearbeidere fra landet med fly.
Truslene kommer særdeles ubeleilig for forholdene er allerede uholdbare pga kamper, særlig i byene, og Somalia er truet av sult.
Ominous leaflets recently surfaced on the bullet-pocked streets of Mogadishu, Somalia’s ruin of a capital, calling aid workers «infidels» and warning them that they will be methodically hunted down. Since January, at least 20 aid workers have been killed, more than in any year in recent memory. Still others have been abducted.
The attacks on aid workers — including Westerners, Somalis working for Western organizations and Somalis working for local groups — have escalated this month. Two weeks ago a high-ranking United Nations official was shot as he stepped out of a mosque. Last Sunday, a trucking agent in charge of transporting emergency rations was killed. On Thursday, three elders who were helping local aid workers distribute food at a displaced persons camp were shot to death while drinking tea.
«These people are serious,» said one Somali aid professional who is now hiding with her family outside Mogadishu.
The leaflets were tacked onto walls and scattered on streets in Mogadishu about 10 days ago. «We know all the so-called aid workers,» they read. «We promise to kill them, wherever they are.»
Abductions are also increasing. Seventeen aid workers have been kidnapped this year, with 13 still in captivity.
It is not clear who is behind the terror campaign or if it is connected to previous assassinations of journalists and intellectuals. The leaflets and accompanying e-mail messages sent to several aid organizations seem to signify a new degree of organization.
Some of the warnings were signed by a little-known group called the Martyrs of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which takes its name from the notorious Jordanian terrorist killed by American forces in Iraq in 2006. The group said the aid workers were conspiring with «infidels,» and Western diplomats said the killings might be intended to make Somalia seem so chaotic that Western countries would abandon it.
At first, the killings of the aid workers seemed to be a mistake, a case of wrong place, wrong time. In January, three staff members of Doctors Without Borders were killed by a roadside bomb in southern Somalia. Some Western security analysts initially thought the bomb had been intended for someone else.
But as the weeks passed and more aid workers were cut down, including four drivers hauling emergency rations for the World Food Program, it was clear there was a pattern — and a message.
«It’s unprecedented,» Mr. Smerdon said.
There is no exact figure for the number of aid workers in Somalia. The United Nations employs about 800 for projects in Somalia, and the International Committee of the Red Cross several hundred. Counting local groups, there are probably several thousand people involved in health, food, education and other aid work.
Det er mange spekulasjoner om hvem som står bak. Den mest kjente gruppen, Al Shabaab, tar avstand fra drapene. Men kritikere tar det ikke helt for god fisk. Noen mener endog at regjeringen kan ha en finger med i spillet for å diskreditere islamistene.
Uansett hvem som står bak: Terroren virker. Hjelpearbeidere flykter.