The following are excerpts from an interview with Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi of the Islamic Courts Union of Somalia, which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on September 30, 3007.
To view this clip, visit: http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/1574.
"I Do Not Belong To Al-Qaeda... But We Share A Common Goal"
Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi: "I am not a terrorist. It is the Americans, Bush, and his army who are the terrorists. They are annihilating the peoples of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, and Palestine. The terrorists are the infidels, led by Bush. We are reformers, not terrorists. I am one of the mujahid sheikhs. My affiliation with Al-Qaeda is like my affiliation with Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and the mujahideen in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kashmir. The mujahideen support one another, and the infidels also support one another. The mujahideen are our brothers. Allah said: 'The believers are but brethren.' From this perspective, I am a member of Al-Qaeda, and it is part of me. In short, I do not belong to Al-Qaeda as an organization, but we share a common goal – jihad against the enemies."
"When a Muslim is among his Muslim brothers, he is not considered a foreigner. Somalia is a Muslim country. So if a Muslim enters Somalia for any reason, he is not a foreigner. The Koran said: 'The believers are but brethren.' The Prophet Muhammad said: 'The Muslim is the brother of the Muslim.' But if you meant to ask whether we have non-Somali mujahideen among us, the answer is yes. They fought with us, some of them were martyred, some where captured, and others are still with us. They are not considered foreigners. If I ever said they were foreigners, this was a slip of the tongue. It is only logical that if [Somali President] Abdallahi Yusuf brought the Americans and Ethiopians to occupy Somalia, it is our right to appeal for the help of our brothers in Islam."[...]
We "Will Rule Somalia Once Again"
"We have regained our strength and are even stronger than before. We have recognized our ranks and have become more vigorous. We are confident that we will defeat them and will rule Somalia once again."
Interviewer: "What is your military plan at this stage? Will you conduct a direct confrontation or guerrilla warfare?"
Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi: "Our strategy is similar to that of Churchill when he was attacked by the Germans. When he was asked how he would confront the enemies, he said: 'Every citizen must wield a knife and stab the parachuting soldiers.' The Somalis have no other way. Each should act according to his ability. Let each one kill one or two or five Ethiopian soldiers. This is our strategy: No Ethiopian soldier should return alive from Somalia, and the Zenawi government should be toppled. Our strategy is war."
Interviewer: "Who is behind the armed operations taking place in Mogadishu?"
Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi: "The entire Somali people is behind them. The Islamic Courts Union is leading it."
"People Will Eventually Talk About How Ethiopia was Annihilated By Us"
Interviewer: "Kenyan intelligence accuses you of involvement in the 1998 Nairobi bombings. Is this true?"
Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi: "No, it isn't. I didn't know about the plans, and I was not among those who carried it out. But let me tell you, the happiest moment in my life was when I heard about the 9/11 bombings in New York. When I heard about the Nairobi bombings, I was also happy. I pray to Allah that He will admit those who carried out this operation to Paradise. However, I personally was not involved in it, and I don't care if they accuse me of this today."
"Despite its great military power and equipment, and despite the unlimited support it receives from America, I believe that people will eventually talk about how Ethiopia was annihilated by us. It will be recorded in history that there was once a state called Ethiopia, which waged war against Somalia with the help of America."
Voice of reporter: "Hundreds of fighters of the Islamic Courts Union, which was defeated late last year, now find refuge in these forests in south Somalia. They march for long distances, moving from one forest to another on an almost daily basis. This image may make them forget some of the signs of their defeat, which has forced on them their current reality – a reality that does not allow them even to reveal their faces, out of fear they might be identified if they return to the city without their weapons. We will liberate the land of Somalia after all the humiliation by [Abdallahi] Yusuf. These are their hopes. They await the day when they will liberate Somalia from what they call the Ethiopian occupiers, and they threaten to inflict losses upon America and its allies."
"America Should Know that Its Invasion, and the Fact that it Got Ethiopia, Kenya, And Uganda to Occupy Our Lands, Will Ultimately Lead To Its Defeat"
Commander: "America should know that its invasion, and the fact that it got Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda to occupy our lands, will ultimately lead to its defeat."
Voice of reporter: "They say they are not afraid of soldiers who might walk into these jungles, or of tanks, which cannot attack them here. The only thing they fear is the fighter planes, which might bomb their posts. In daytime, after the military duties are completed, this is the best way to rest. The people here are not only Somalis. Among them is this American, who says that he heard the call for the Somali jihad when he was away from America."
"Abu Mansour the American": "Oh Muslims of America, take into consideration the situation in Somalia. After 15 years of chaos, and oppressive rule by the American-backed warlords, your brothers stood up and established peace and justice in this land."
Voice of reporter: "Abu Mansour is not only a fighter, but also the military instructor of the Islamic Courts Union fighters. He is now attempting to blow up a large bomb during training. This time, it is not done in the framework of an attack. He has waited until sunset, after getting everything ready.
"This road separates Kenya from Somalia. It is called the 'triangle of confrontations.' The Kenyan army, as well as American units accompanied by Kenyans and Somalis, use this road for military and intelligence reconnaissance. The Islamic Courts Union forces now use this road for the same purpose. If the two forces meet, confrontation is inevitable, because there is no way out for those who prefer not to fight this time. A great adventure it was for journalists who dared to come to this tense region. The bombings by American planes and by the cannon of the Ethiopian ground forces, in addition to the Kenyan logistic support, have increased the plight of the Islamic Courts Union fighters, after their defeat.
"This is where the fiercest battle took place between Islamic Courts Union forces and the Ethiopian army. Several of the Islamic Courts Union's cars and military armored vehicles were hit by American planes and by mortars. This vehicle, which belonged to the Islamic Courts Union, was loaded with the fighters' equipment, as well as explosives. In the Somali language, GMS stands for 'Islamic Courts Union in Somalia.' These numbers may refer to the vehicle's serial number. Most of the vehicles were abandoned by the Islamic Courts Union fighters after they were hit, or as a result of the rugged roads or the rains."
"Our Tension With Kenya is Because Of The Current Regime, Which Collaborates With America"
Islamic Courts Union fighter: "When the large planes began to bomb the mujahideen, everybody got lost, and nobody knew where to go. We did not expect such a blow. A missile fell about 40 meters away. I don't know how to describe what happened."
Reporter: "While we were walking by foot for hours, we noticed what had been left by the Ethiopian forces – weapons, food leftovers, medicine, and meals with Ethiopian names. Not far from the place, we found shrapnel, which was fired on the fighters who presumably were entrenched here. These are shells fired by the Americans on these forests. We were not near the region that was attacked. They bombed a village because they mistook it for our forces. These are the missiles. The bombings were carried out not only by fighter planes, but also by battleships near Somalia's coast, according to some soldiers. These deep holes, which are to be found all over this area, reflect the intensity of the bombardments suffered by the Courts Union fighters."
"It was very difficult to reach the location of Sheikh Hassan. The road was very rugged, through thick forests, in which it is hard to find your way. We walked, blindfolded, until we found ourselves next to the sheik's camp. We did not know where we were.
"His critics describe him as an extremist and a fundamentalist. He had camps for the training of fighters in the forests of Lower Juba, which American and Kenyan intelligence classify as a refuge for terrorists. The sheikh is accused of involvement in the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Nairobi and Darussalam. He is wanted by the Kenyan and American legal authorities, but he completely denies these charges."
Sheikh Hassan Al-Harsi: "This is a fabrication. I did not participate in the planning. Our tension with Kenya is because of the current regime, which collaborates with America. We advise the Kenyan people to replace this regime in the next elections. If the current president, Kibaki, is ousted, we will be willing to reach an agreement on joint security understandings, and to forget the damage inflicted upon us."
Voice of reporter: "The purpose of the military camp is to train the fighters in the use of all kinds of light and heavy weapons. Training is not limited to shoulder weapons, but includes explosives of all kinds, as well as mortar launchers, which are used to shell distant targets. When a class graduates from its training, it has to hold a military display before Sheikh Hassan, who personally supervises the camp. The targets used by the fighters for practice constitute training of a different kind in and of themselves – pieces of papers bearing the names of people of symbolic significance, written in order to increase the hostility of the fighters toward their enemies' leaders. Sheikh Hassan says that this camp is the workshop for the forces. It trains them to fight and prepares them for a long war."
Islamic Union Courts fighter: "We are in a state of war. The center of the conflict is the south, where the fighters are trained and prepared for battle. Here, we plan what will happen in Mogadishu, in order to continue to fight the occupiers."