The United Arab Emirates’ top diplomat warned Wednesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group could team up with Islamic militants in Somalia, saying that more should be done to prepare for such a threat.
ISIS that now controls large parts of Iraq and Syria – also known by the Arabic acronym Daesh – and the Somali militant Islamic group al-Shabab share a common pedigree in that they both have had links to al-Qaeda. They frequently use similar tactics such as explosives-laden cars, suicide bombers and attacks on civilians.
They operate independently for now, but the Emirati foreign minister, Sheik Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, suggested that could change.
“What really scares us now is what we see from Daesh, and are we going to see in the future any sort of collaboration between different terrorist groups like Daesh and al-Shabab?” Sheik Abdullah said in an address at the opening of a conference focused on counter-piracy in Somalia.
“I think we should start to ask ourselves: how ready we are as countries, companies and international organizations in facing these big threats,” he added.
Sheik Abdullah did not cite any specific intelligence pointing to active collaboration between the groups, but there has been speculation that the Somali rebels would shift their allegiance from al-Qaeda to ISIS.
The Emirates is a Western-allied, seven-state federation that includes the Gulf shipping and commercial hub of Dubai and the oil-rich capital, Abu Dhabi. It is home to a sizable Somali expatriate population and is among the most prominent Arab allies taking part in U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS.
Al-Shabab last month named a new leader, Ahmad Umar, and reaffirmed its alignment with al-Qaeda after its longtime head, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a U.S. airstrike 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The Islamic State group itself began as an Iraqi affiliate of al-Qaeda, but it was kicked out of the terror network earlier this year.