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Newsday: Editorial: Deadly al-Shabab bears watching

Newsday Editorial

A militant group that is willing to let people starve, is implicated in suicide bombings, may have links to al-Qaida and is recruiting fighters with easy entry to the United States bears watching.

That's the emerging profile of al-Shabab, an Islamic group fighting for control of Somalia. The group has prevented international food aid from reaching hundreds of thousands of starving people in the drought-stricken nation. And it has been recruiting Somalis in the United States to fight in Somalia, giving rise to concern that those who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents pose a threat of terrorism here.

Al-Shabab has barred international aid agencies from the areas it controls in its war with Somalia's provisional government. Most agencies left in 2009 after al-Shabab accused them of pushing a pro-Western agenda. The UN World Food Program airlifted some food into Somalia Wednesday. But helping the 3.5 million people at risk will be difficult and dangerous.

Al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist bombings in Somalia, and was blamed for suicide bombings in Uganda in 2010. The group has not been linked to terrorist attacks in any Western nation. But officials, including Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), whose recent homeland security panel hearing focused on the group, say its leadership has ties to al-Qaida. That's worrisome.

A decade after 9/11, the nation has to remain vigilant about potential terrorist threats.