HOUSTON -- A Homeland Security Alert is asking Houston police and Harris County Sheriff’s deputies to keep their eyes open for a potential terrorist.
The alert focuses on Mohamed Ali, a suspected member of the terrorist group Al Shabaab. It indicates he may be traveling to the U.S. through Mexico.
Al Shabaab is a terrorist group based in Somalia with links to the Somali attacks dramatized in the movie “Blackhawk Down.” A few months ago, the group announced its allegiance to Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.
“[Al Shabaab operatives] are certainly a real threat to U.S. security and an increasing threat to U.S. security,” said Rice University Baker Institute Fellow Joan Neuhaus Schaan. Schaan is an expert on Homeland Security and terrorism, and her research is reviewed by the U.S. government, military and civil authorities.
She said Al-Shabaab trains extremists and wants to turn Somalia into the next Afghanistan.
“Similar to the set up in Afghanistan in 2001 when Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had a strong relationship with the Taliban that allowed them free reign in Afghanistan,” Neuhas Schaan said.
The route from Somalia to Texas is shorter than Americans would like to think. It goes through Mexico. Two weeks ago, a federal indictment was filed in San Antonio against a Somali citizen. It alleges Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane led a “large-scale smuggling enterprise,” moving east Africans into the U.S., including members of a terrorist group called AIAI.
“It was hundreds of individuals,” Neuhaus Schaan said, in referrence to the indictment.
The current indictment has three counts for making false statements in regard to immigration for allegedly lying about his ties to terrorist groups. The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Western District indicates the investigation is ongoing.
Why would Al Shabaab come to the U.S?
“Either to recruit provide more funding or serve as operatives or sleepers for some future activity,” Neuhaus Schaan said.
It's not a melodramatic spy movie. It's reality. In 2007, former Houstonian Daniel Joseph Maldonado was brought back to Houston by the U.S Attorney in the Southern District after he was captured in Somalia reportedly training with terrorist groups.
“He had initially been on the frontlines of Al Shabaab, but when they realized he was an American, they pulled him back because they had plans for him to come back to the U.S. and recruit female suicide bombers,” said Neuhaus Schaan.
U.S. Homeland Security officials confirmed the Muhamed Ali alert, but declined to comment on it. They did not indicate that this report would jeopardize any ongoing investigation.
If authorities are right, Mohamed Ali is hardly alone and a terror network is following well-worn human smuggling routes into the Lone Star State.
“There would be a reasonable chance to have him [Mohamed Ali] coming through Houston,” Neuhaus Schaan said. “They [Al Shabaab] have been pretty busy in Texas.”