October 03, 2019 (GMN) - Al-Shabab had plans to kill Barack Obama during his visit to Ethiopia as president of the United States of America in 2015. It was Susan Rice, United States Former National Security Adviser, who unveiled it during an interview at Texas Tribune Festival this past week.
“The first night we were there, after the state dinner, I went back to my bedroom, as usual, and planned to get ready for bed. there was a knock on the door and it was Anita Decker-Breckenridge, the white house traveling chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, playing the role of chief of staff, I’m still in my gown she said you’ve got to come with me. I didn’t have my shoes on. Still had my ball gown on. We go down to this secret service tent; you know how we have secure tents on these trips for communications.”
It was in the secure tents that she was informed about Al-Shabab, a terrorist organization with links to Al-Qaeda, plot to kill Barack Obama in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Head of US president’s security, secret service detail, and senior secret agents, among others, were in the tent as she was being briefed.
Based on the information she revealed, the terrorist group plotted “to attack President Obama the next day as our motorcade was leaving the African Union headquarters and making its way to the airport…” She was in the motorcade too, she told Texas Tribune Festival.
She called to Washington to “make sure that we’re putting all of our assets on trying to chase down this threat strain. We’re in communication with the Ethiopian security forces who are actually quite capable and efficient if also very ruthless.”
Despite assurance from the Ethiopian security forces that the suspects are under surveillance, “we worried,” recalls the United States Former National Security Adviser under President Barack Obama. The information that the US security had was that the suspect is still at large.
They were worried so much so that they had to hustle the “president is hustled into a hold room.” Barack Obama was frustrated because he was oblivious of what was exactly happening except that he was prevented from flying back to his country.
Susan was having a meeting with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalenge to whom she expressed her concern. She said she told Hailemariam that her team would be unable to move the president from “a hold room” unless the issue of the person who was said to be at large was resolved.
Gayle Smith, whom Susan Rice described as a friend and colleague who lived in Ethiopia for many years, was on the phone with the Ethiopian security chief.
What transpired from the phone conversation with unnamed Ethiopian security chief, and chances are it is Getachew Assefa who is currently said to be in hiding in Mekelle following Abiy Ahmed’s takeover of power in 2018, is amusing.
“…we’ve got a serious problem. We have reason to believe this guy is on the loose. And he’s like it’s not a problem,” Susan Rice narrated what her colleague told her.
Seemingly Gayle was not convinced that the suspect is not a problem. And she continued to ask the Ethiopian security chief in the phone conversation.
“..How can it not be a problem? Where is this guy?” Gayle asked. Ethiopia’s security chief said, ” he’s with me.”
The answer did not seem to be satisfying. The security chief got more questions. “…with you are the airport?”
“Yes, he is in my car,” replied.
It was after US secret service verified the information about it that the then-President Barack Obama was from “hold room” to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa where the Air Force One jet was waiting to take off.
A-Shabab is still a security threat in Ethiopia. In the past few years, especially since Abiy Ahmed came to power, the prominence of radical ethnic nationalism in the country seems to have helped the radical militant group to plan major attacks in the country.
On September 21, 2019, the Ethiopian Intelligence department disclosed that it has arrested Al-Shabab and ISIS members as they were planning to move ahead with attack plans targeting hotels and other main targets in the capital Addis Ababa and elsewhere.