Al Shabaab

Al Shabaab is the African legion of the CIA. This group was designed to do exactly what Al Qaeda did for the Middle East, namely terrorize western nations until they invade the region that the terror group allegedly comes from. Just as Afghanistan was invaded hours after 9/11, so too will Africa be invaded hours after Al Shabaab attacks America in the near future. Americans who have allegedly joined Al Shabaab will be blamed in the impending attacks, making all American citizens future terror suspects. 

As Former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook so eloquently stated: "The truth is, there is no Islamic army or terrorist group called Al Qaida. And any informed intelligence officer knows this. But there is a propaganda campaign to make the public believe in the presence of an identified entity representing the 'devil' only in order to drive the TV watcher to accept a unified international leadership for a war against terrorism. The country behind this propaganda is the U.S...". The same can be said for Al Shabaab. 

1. Al Shabaab: Al Shabaab is the Al Qaeda of Africa and the group has been built up, organized, and funded the exact same way as Al Qaeda was. The U.S. government, namely the CIA, need a "reason" to invade and destroy Africa, so they create a terror group to cause mayhem so they have a reason to eventually invade and play the savior after the terror group has destroyed the region. 

2. Al Shabaab Threat to Obama: 
The U.S. government specifically chose the inauguration of Barack Obama to disseminate a potential assassination plot by Al Shabaab. Had the threat been legitimate, it would never have gotten the press coverage that it did, indicating that the U.S. government wants to legitimize Al Shabaab in any way possible. Al Shabaab also allegedly threatened Obama's mother in Kenya and Al-Shabaab has allegedly placed a bounty of 10 camels for President Barack Obama and is offering millions of dollars for information of his whereabouts. "Whoever brings the mujahidin information about the whereabouts of infidel Obama and the lady of Bill Clinton, the woman named Hillary Clinton, I will give a reward," the Al Shabaab spokesperson said.   

3. Al Shabaab & Al Qaeda Connection: The alleged connections between Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab have been made from Al Shabaab's inception. The connection between the two groups is legitimate, given that both groups are run by western intelligence agencies, namely the CIA. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the groups would share the same political and religious affiliations and that they would execute the same problem, reaction, solution type of strategy. Following in the Al Qaeda footprint, Al Shabaab has allegedly stated that to Kenya that “Your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear”. Based on the rhetoric from Al Shabaab, skyscrapers and planes will be terror targets in the near future. 

4. Al Shabaab Threat to America: Al Shabaab urges their "brothers and sisters" to "do jihad" in America, Canada, England, "anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, in Australia, anywhere you find kuffar," a derogatory term for non-Muslims. The U.S. Congress states that Al Shabaab poses a "Direct Threat" to the U.S. and that there is growing evidence that the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, known as al-Shabaab, is becoming more of a regional terrorist player, with the potential to go global as it targets U.S. citizens and interests. 

5. Al Shabaab Terror Attacks: Al Shabaab's terror attacks have targeted scores of innocent civilians and have been growing bolder and more international by the week. The Al Shabaab blueprint is modeled after Al Qaeda and it is just a matter before the CIA terror group is blamed for terror attacks in America. The largest attack to date has been the July 11, 2011, World Cup bombing in Uganda, which clearly indicates that Al Shabaab will attack sporting events in the future. 

6: Al Shabaab Terror Threat Propaganda: Government and media outlets worldwide are sounding the propaganda alarm that Al Shabaab will attack western targets with the help of Al Qaeda in the near future. Al Shabaab's leader is allegedly American and they have successfully recruited Americans to join their "jihad" against America and the west. As attacks by Al Shabaab continue to rise, so too will the terror propaganda stating that terrorists from Africa are an imminent threat even from 10,000 miles away. 

7. Al Shabaab & the CIA: Since Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab are terror arms of the CIA, they must publicly appear that they are at war with each other in order to give the perception that they are not one and the same entity. Although these terror groups are organized and funded by the CIA, some of the dirty work (killing) is outsourced to private corporations such as Blackwater Xe. As the political situation in Africa continues to intensify, more killings by the CIA against Al Shabaab will occur. 

8. The War on Al Shabaab: In order to gain plausible deniability prior to a terror attack by Al Shabaab against America, the U.S. government must at least act like they are at war with the alleged terror group. The war against Al Shabaab is mostly fought in the media as the various incidents of drone strikes are reported in western media outlets. 

9. Al Shabaab White Papers: As expected, Al Shabaab has been written about extensively in think-tanks and government white papers. As Al Shabaab prepares to make its grand entrance into the world with spectacular new terror attack in America, the white papers are there to say "we told you so". How the authors of these white papers know intament details of Al Shabaab such as their fighter’s passport status, group’s numbers, goals, ambitions, funding, and other insider information is amazing, unless of course they are running the group themselves.


The U.S. government chose the inauguration of Barack Obama to disseminate a potential assassination plot by Al Shabaab. Had the threat been legitimate, it would never have gotten the press coverage that it did, indicating that the U.S. government wants to legitimize Al Shabaab any way possible. Al Shabaab also allegedly threatened Obama's mother in Kenya, something so bizarre which indicates that there is a great possibility Al Shabaab may be the scapegoat for the Obama assassination in the future.

Title: Al Shabaab
Date: Present
Source: Wikipedia

Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), more commonly known as al-Shabaab (Arabic: الشباب‎, "The Youth", "The Boys" or "The Lads"), is a terrorist group of militants fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia. As of 2011, the group controls large swathes of the southern parts of Somalia, where it is said to have imposed its own strict form of Sharia law. Al-Shabaab's troop strength as of May 2011 is estimated at 14,426 militants.

The group is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which splintered into several smaller organizations after its removal from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006. It describes itself as waging jihad against "enemies of Islam", and is engaged in combat against the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Al-Shabaab members, alleging ulterior motives on the part of foreign organizations, have also reportedly intimidated, kidnapped and killed aid workers, leading to a suspension of humanitarian operations and an exodus of relief agents. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments and security services. It has also been described in The New Yorker as having "ties to Al Qaeda," which its leaders denied until early 2010.

In early August 2005, the TFG's troops and their AMISOM allies reportedly managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants. An ideological rift within Al-Shabaab's leadership also emerged in response to pressure from the recent drought and the assassination of top officials in the organization (Wikipedia, 2011).


OBAMACSI.COM: The U.S. government specifically chose the inauguration of Barack Obama to disseminate a potential assassination plot by Al Shabaab. Had the threat been legitimate, it would never have gotten the press coverage that it did, indicating that the U.S. government wants to legitimize Al Shabaab in any way possible. Al Shabaab also allegedly threatened Obama's mother in Kenya and Al-Shabaab has allegedly placed a bounty of 10 camels for President Barack Obama and is offering millions of dollars for information of his whereabouts. "Whoever brings the mujahidin information about the whereabouts of infidel Obama and the lady of Bill Clinton, the woman named Hillary Clinton, I will give a reward," the Al Shabaab spokesperson said. 

Title: U.S. Probes Potential Obama Inauguration Threat
Date: July 20, 2009
Source: Reuters

Abstract: U.S. authorities were investigating a potential threat, of uncertain credibility, in connection with the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama, the U.S. Homeland Security Department said on Tuesday.

The threat concerned an unspecified incident involving the Somali Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab, authorities said.

Obama was due to be sworn in as president just before noon EST and huge crowds gathered in central Washington for the event. Security was unprecedented, with tens of thousands of U.S. troops and police.


"The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security ... and the intelligence community are coordinating with other law enforcement authorities to investigate and analyze recently received information about a potential threat on inauguration day," department spokesman Russ Knocke said.

"This information is of limited specificity and uncertain credibility," he said.

The FBI and Homeland Security Department notified law enforcement around the United States of the potential threat on Monday, authorities said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The bulletin was part of regular efforts to keep local officials aware of security developments. There was no change to the overall threat level, the department said.

A law enforcement official said the United States had been tracking the al Shabaab-related threat for several days.

The Somali group is on the U.S. list of terrorist groups. It has primarily acted in the violence-wracked Muslim East African country, but U.S. intelligence officials have recently expressed concern about young Somalis living in the United States who have gone to train with al Shabaab.

Obama's transition team had been briefed on the threat warning, Knocke said.

He said the public should continue with their plans to attend the inaugural, but be vigilant.

"Inauguration events could present an attractive target due to the large public gatherings and participation of many dignitaries," Knocke said. "Authorities are constantly reviewing security measures in light of this threat information" (Reuters, 2009).

Title: 'Obama's Grandmother Receives Death Threats From Al-Qaida'
Date: May 11, 2011
Source: Haaretz

Al-Shabaab, al-Qaida's African affiliate, threatens U.S. President's step-grandmother, prompting heightened security and 24-hour surveillance of her Kenya home, ABC News reports.
U.S. Presidnet Barack Obama's grandmother has received death threats from the African branch of al-Qaida, prompting stepped up security around her home in Kenya, ABC News reported on Thursday.

Sarah Obama, the U.S. president's step-grandmother, informed the Kenyan police that she had received a personal threat from al-Shabaab, the Somalia-based branch of al-Qaida, ABC reported.

Security personnel were sent to guard the elder Obama's home the day after her grandson announced the killing of al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden, but the personal threat has prompted increased security and round-the-clock surveillance of her Africa home, the report said.

Sarah Obama said that the security, which a police chief told ABC was enough officers "to patrol and entire village", has not been affected in any way.

"It has not restricted my movement," she reportedly added, saying "if the government has decided to bring more security personnel, we are OK with it."

Al-Shabaab, which is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for twin explosions at a crowded restaurant and a rugby club in Uganda's capital Kampala during the last moments of the World Cup final last July.

The insurgent group has affiliated itself with al-Qaida since 2007, and in 2008 the United States added the group to its list of foreign terrorist organizations (Haaretz, 2011).

Title: Somali Islamists Offer 10 Camels As Bounty For Obama
Date: June 9, 2012
Source: CNN

Abstract: The United States offers millions for information leading to the capture of the world's most wanted terrorists.

A Somali militant group has purportedly countered with an offer of camels for U.S. officials.

Al-Shabaab has placed a bounty of 10 camels for President Barack Obama and two camels for information on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

An audio statement posted on jihadist websites purportedly from Al-Shabaab jeered news that the United States is offering millions of dollars for information on seven key members of al-Shabaab through its Rewards for Justice program.

The man on the audio claimed to be Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, considered by the State Department to be Al-Shabaab's leading fundraiser. The United States has offered $5 million for information of his whereabouts.

"Whoever brings the mujahidin information about the whereabouts of infidel Obama and the lady of Bill Clinton, the woman named Hillary Clinton, I will give a reward," the man said.

A study by Galkayo University, which looked at the effects of drought on livestock, said the average cost of a camel in Somalia is $700.

CNN can not independently verify the authenticity of the audio recording, which was purportedly made by Khalaf during a speech to followers in the southern port city of Merca.

The U.S. State Department's Rewards for Justice program is offering $7 million for information on the location of Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, the founder of the Islamist group in Somalia.

This year, he and al Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released a joint video formally announcing a merger between the terror groups.

In announcing the bounties on Mohamed and his key associates Thursday, the State Department called al-Shabaab "a threat to the stability of East Africa and to the national security interests of the United States."

The State Department said it is also offering up to $5 million each for information leading to the location of four of Aw-Mohamed's associates, including Khalaf. In addition, it is offering up to $3 million each for two of the terror group's other leaders (CNN, 2012)


 The alleged connections between Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab have been made from Al Shabaab's inception. The connection between the two groups is legitimate, given that both groups are run by western intelligence agencies, namely the CIA. Therefore, it would stand to reason that the groups would share the same political and religious affiliations and that they would execute the same problem, reaction, solution type of strategy. Following in the Al Qaeda footprint, Al Shabaab has allegedly stated that to Kenya that “Your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear”. Based on the rhetoric from Al Shabaab, skyscrapers and planes will be terror targets in the near future.

Somali Islamists Al-Shabab 'Join Al-Qaeda Fight'
Date: February 1, 2010
Source: BBC

Abstract: Somali Islamist rebel group al-Shabab has confirmed for the first time that its fighters are aligned with al-Qaeda's global militant campaign.

The group said in a statement that the "jihad of Horn of Africa must be combined with the international jihad led by the al-Qaeda network".

Meanwhile, several people have died in fighting in Mogadishu after government troops shelled militant positions.

Islamist insurgents control much of southern and central Somalia.

The government, which is backed by the UN and African Union, holds sway only in a small part of Mogadishu.

Despite repeated accusations by the US that al-Shabab is linked to al-Qaeda, the group denied the connection in a recent interview with the BBC.

The BBC Somali service's Mohamed Mohamed says it is the first time the group has officially confirmed its fight is linked to al-Qaeda.

'Financer of Terrorism'
The group's statement also announced that its militants had joined forces with a smaller insurgent group called Kamboni.

The group, based in the southern town of Ras Kamboni, was previously allied to Hizbul-Islam - another militant group fighting the government.

Kamboni is led by Hassan Turki, a militant the US accuses of being a "financer of terrorism".

Al-Shabab said it was trying to unite all Islamist forces to create a Muslim state under its hard-line interpretation of Sharia law.

The group, which controls swathes of Somalia, has carried out public beheadings and stonings.

'Human Shields'
Meanwhile in Mogadishu reports said at least eight civilians were killed in fighting overnight.

"Our team collected eight bodies of civilians who were killed in the shelling and 55 others who were injured, some of them seriously," health official Ali Musa told the AFP news agency.

Militants had launched an artillery attack on the presidential compound, and government and African Union forces responded with several mortar shells.

AFP quoted an unnamed police official accusing the rebels of hiding in civilian areas and using "human shields".

Somalia has been wracked by violence for much of the past 20 years. It has not had a functioning central government since 1991 (BBC, 2010).

Title: CIA Says Al-Shabaab Has Close Ties With Yemen Based Al-Qaeda
Date: July 18, 2011
Source: Bar Kulan

Abstract: The CIA has announced that Yemen based Al-Qaeda has closer ties with Al-Shabaab militias in Somalia.

U.S. counter-terrorism officials told Los Angeles Times that they gathered the information from a Somali militant who was captured en route from Yemen to Somalia and interrogated aboard a U.S. warship before being arraigned in New York on terrorism charges this month.

According to a newly developed American intelligence, Al-Qaeda’s powerful branch in Yemen has provided weapons, fighters and training with explosives over the last year to Al-Shabaab militia group battling for power in Somalia, urging members of the hard-line Al-Shabaab militia to attack targets outside Africa.

The CIA also gained other information when Somali authorities allowed them to interview Al-Shabaab militants held in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, saying that they asked about the militants’ ability to launch attacks outside Somalia as well as the group’s command structure (Bar Kulan, 2011).

Title: Al-Qaida Weapons Reaching Al-Shabaab
August 3, 2011

Abstract: The Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab has acquired weapons from the Yemeni-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a Somali official told VOA News.

Ten ships filled with weapons from al-Qaida set sail recently from the coast of Yemen, but the Yemeni government intercepted two of them.

Hussein Haji Ahmed, the Somali consul in Yemen, said that he thinks the remaining ships successfully sailed across the Gulf of Aden and reached part of the Somali coast controlled by al-Shabaab.

The news confirms fears of collaboration between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida's Yemeni branch expressed during a recent House hearing held by Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y.

"There are growing concerns that al-Shabaab in Somalia is linking up with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen to better train these radicalized young men in order to attack Americans around the world, as well as launch attacks against our homeland," King said.

"Shabaab's most senior leaders, including its founders, have longstanding ties to al Qaeda," hearing witness Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said in written testimony. Witnesses agreed that al-Shabaab poses a "direct threat to the U.S."

Al-Shabaab's foreign support isn't limited to AQAP, indicating that the group has a growing support network in the region.

A recent United Nations report found that members of the Kenyan Muslim Youth Centre (MYC) "openly engage in recruiting for al-Shabaab in Kenya and facilitate travel to Somalia for individuals to train and fight for 'jihad' in Somalia."

MYC Chairman Ahmad Iman Ali, the report said, moved to Somalia in 2009 and has recruited a force of 200-500 fighters there. The Kenyan group also publishes a weekly bulletin that includes al-Shabaab and al-Qaida support material.

Eritrea, which is separated from Somalia's northern border only by the small African country of Djibouti, also has been accused of aiding the Somali terrorist group.

A UN report released in July said that Eritrea has been funneling $80,000 a month to al-Shabaab through its embassy in Kenya. Ethiopian Justice Minister Berhane Hailu claimed there is concrete evidence of Eritrea's al-Shabaab support. Eritrea denies the claims (IPT, 2011)

Title: Al Shabaab/Al Qaeda Terror Plot Uncovered
Date: September 18, 2011
Source: Somalia Report

Abstract: After the kidnapping of a British tourist in Kenya, Somalia Report sent teams to investigate the details, but instead uncovered an alleged master plan by the al-Shabaab insurgent group to disrupt Kenya's tourism industry and kidnap foreigners using their own foreign fighters, all planned by Al-Qaeda's Horn of Africa mastermind.

The British tourist, Mrs. Judith Tebbutt, kidnapped by Somali gunmen from a resort in Kenya, was taken to Kismayo by speed boat and later moved to Baidoa and today she allegedly arrived in Hiin Dawa'o, a town between Harardhere and Hobyo.

A Somalia Report investigation in Lower Juba, Middle Juba and Lower Shabelle has unearthed a wider plan of terror directed against Kenya's tourism industry within the coastal region that was abruptly put on hold when the mastermind, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Al-Qaeda's point man in the Horn of Africa, was gunned in Mogadishu in June. His death forced the scouting team to abort the plan and return back to the coastal town of Marka for further orders.

This advance team within al-Shabaab was made up of only foreign fighters from Kenya and Tanzania selected for their knowledge of the area and are believed to have assisted in Mrs. Tebbutt's kidnapping to avenge Kenyan support for Somalia's government, which is battling the Islamic terror group.

Somalia Report sources indicate that the chairman of al-Shabaab in Kismayo, Sheikh Hassan Yaqub Ali who also serves as the (Amniyat) intelligence chief for the Juba regions, was given the mandate to come up with covert action against the coastal towns of Kenya by the high council of the group for consultations known as “Shura” following a meeting in Kismayo two months ago. The plan was reportedly to recruit both al-Shabaab combatants, former pirates, and relatives of some of the top officials within al-Shabaab to carry out the attacks.

Despite al-Shabaab's denial of being behind the kidnapping, this operation had the blessings and logistical support of the local administration on ground since nobody can undertake such action without the permission of al-Shabaab which controls the region.

The initial plan was to kidnap or kill as many tourists as possible but this was not to be since Mrs. Tebbutt and her husband, who was killed during the kidnapping, were the only guests at the resort. To compensate for their 'failure' by kidnapping only one foreigner, al-Shabaab fighters within the Amniyat or Al-Shabaab’s intelligence team (the dreaded al-Shabaab hit squad) were directed to kidnap more foreigners outside Somalia's border. To do this, they turned to the foreign Jihadists from Kenya and Tanzania who had been operating under Fazul.

To identify a secure location to keep their victims, the intelligence leadership sent advance teams to the towns of Jamame, Jilib and Bu’ale, specifically to the former World Vision compound in Bua'le town in Middle Juba region. The compound is currently used as a training, command and lodging base by al-Shabaab's high ranking officials, particularly foreign fighters. The final location has yet to be determined due to a disagreement between the kidnappers and the al-Shabaab point person about the next course of action.

All the top officials in the Juba regions were ordered to deny any knowledge of the kidnapping and halt any outgoing information by intimidating locals. By denying the kidnapping, al-Shabaab believes they successfully inflicted a blow to the Kenyan government and tourism industry without subjecting themselves the wrath of the international community.

Despite their tactic of denial, analysts believe this will only bring more military force against the militants which have already been targeted by drones in southern Somalia.

“Kidnapping foreigners like the British woman may finally cause more foreign military intervention into the Somalia’s rebel held areas if the radical Islamists cannot be stopped from jumping the Somalia border to neighboring nations,” Kismayo based Somali political Analyst Muse Dirir told Somalia Report (Somalia Report, 2011).

Title: Links Between Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda Threaten Americans, Witnesses Warn
September 28, 2011
HS Today

Abstract: An alliance between terrorist organizations Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) threatens Americans due in part to Al Shabaab's proven ability to recruit from the US Somali American population, witnesses told the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY), chair of the committee, convened a third hearing in a series on Muslim radicalization to examine Al Shabaab's recruitment and radicalization of Somali American youth.

"With Al Shabaab's large cadre of American jihadis and unquestionable ties to Al Qaeda, particularly its alliance with AQAP, we must face the reality that Al Shabaab is a growing threat to our homeland," King declared.

King's committee released an investigative report that found Al Shabaab has recruited more than 40 Muslim Americans and 20 Canadians to join its activities inside of Somalia. Fifteen of those Americans and three Canadians likely died fighting for the terror group, the report added.

Of those, Shirwa Ahmed from Minneapolis, Minn., became the first confirmed American suicide bomber in US history when he died in an attack overseas on behalf of Al Shabaab, King said.

APAQ's resources with Al Shabaab's reach could form a deadly combination where APAQ could train Al Shabaab terrorists to attack Americans, he added.

Those that do not believe Al Shabaab poses a threat to Americans suffer "a failure of imagination" of the sort that permitted the 9/11 attacks to occur, King insisted, citing the words of the 9/11 Commission.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), ranking member of the committee, disagreed with King.

"While I acknowledge that the intelligence community sees a need to monitor Al Shabaab's activities, I also know that vigilance must be in direct proportion to the probability and likelihood of the threat.  Al Shabaab does not appear to present any danger to this homeland," Thompson said, speaking for most Democrats on the committee.

"At the same time, we must wonder whether Americans who joined Al Shabaab would return to this country and commit acts of terrorism.  I think that is a fair question that deserves a factual answer.  A few people have been convicted in the United States for providing support and assistance to Al Shabaab," he added.

While the radicalization of Somali American youth largely occurred between 2007-2009, Thompson conceded that an examination of methods to counter that radicalization were worthwhile.

William Anders Folk, a former assistant US Attorney in Minnesota, told the committee that those radicalized by Al Shabaab definitely have the means and motivation to attack Americans.

Al Shabaab has looked to Al Qaeda for leadership and guidance in the past and perpetuates the same messages as Al Qaeda, said Folk, who worked on some of 20 cases the US Attorney's Office in Minnesota to indict 20 individuals connected to Al Shabaab in the past.

"It is impossible to predict with certainty what, if anything, and who, if anyone, will come to the United States after training and indoctrination by Al Shabaab," Folk testified. "It is obvious, however, that individuals who are trained, indoctrinated and deployed in combat by Al Shabaab have learned how to carry-out acts of lethal violence. Additionally, it is clear that the ideology espoused by Al Shabaab echoes that of Al Qaeda.

"This combination of ability and ideology illustrates the threat that is posed by even one Al Shabaab veteran residing in the United States. The ability to prevent or detect such a person from entering the United States or carrying-out any terrorist acts in the United States requires continued vigilance of the group's activities in Somalia, but also to ensure that supporters or sympathizers within the United States are targeted for investigation," he added.

Thomas Joscelyn, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said Al Shaabab and Al Qaeda already have demonstrated operational links dating back to the US embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.

Senior Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden in August 2008, Joscelyn noted. And Somali terrorists fighting for Al Shabaab largely trained in Al Qaeda camps.

Several terrorists working for Al Shabaab were part of the group that carried out the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, participating in Al Qaeda's most deadly attack before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Joscelyn said.

Just as terror experts did not take APAQ seriously before the Christmas Day bombing attempt in 2009, so many could be discounting the threat posed by Al Shabaab, he added.

"Indeed, my worry is that some counterterrorism analysts may be falling into the same trap analysts fell into previously with respect to another Al Qaeda affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Joscelyn stated. "Although AQAP was well known to counterterrorism and intelligence officials prior to the failed Christmas Day 2009 attack on Flight 253, they did not consider AQAP a major threat to the United States."

The committee also heard from Tom Smith, chief of police for Saint Paul, Minn., and Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, on Muslim outreach and counterradicalization strategies (HS Today, 2011)

Title: Al Qaeda Allies In Africa Pose New Threat
Date: October 26, 2011
Source: Global Post

: Al Qaeda has been hit hard by high-level assassinations and constant drone strikes, but the next big threat to international security may come from subsidiary Islamic extremist groups in Africa and the Middle East, according to two New York Times correspondents.

“As Al Qaeda is wounded, the affiliates become the leaders,” said Pentagon correspondent Thom Shanker during a book seminar at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center. “There’s a worrying trend of networking in Al Qaeda.”

The core of Al Qaeda has been eroded since the Sept. 11 attacks, said Shanker and terrorism reporter Eric Schmitt, co-authors of the book “Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda.”

Better intelligence and a more nuanced understanding of the terrorist groups have resulted in the successful U.S. military mission to kill Osama bin Laden and an influx of drone strikes targeted at senior leaders — incidents that could not have happened 10 years ago, they said.

But the threat is now shifting from the central command to Al Qaeda affiliates elsewhere in the world who are not under the U.S.’s magnifying glass.

While the Al Qaeda branch is Yemen is considered the most dangerous threat to the U.S. — the “underwear bomber” and the cargo-plane bomb attempt both originated in Yemen — militant groups in North and East Africa also have the U.S. “rife with concern,” said Schmitt.

Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in North Africa have all become more sophisticated and more capable of attacks that move beyond the local arena and have international reverberations.

But the allied extremist groups in Africa differ from Al Qaeda in the kind of attacks they pursue, Schmitt said.

One of Al Qaeda's main pursuits continues to be obtaining weapons of mass destruction for major attacks.  The militants in Somalia and Nigeria focus on smaller, less expensive blasts directed toward both Westerners and citizens of their home country.

Nigeria’s radical Islamist group Boko Haram escalated its violence when it attacked the U.N. headquarters in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, in August. At least 18 people were killed and dozens more injured in the suicide car bombing outside the heavily guarded building where international officials worked.

In Somalia, another group allied to Al Qaeda, Al Shabaab, has wreaked havoc in a country that hasn’t seen an effective central government in two decades.

The African Union has sent 9,000 troops, mostly Ugandans, to support the transitional government in Mogadishu against Al Shabaab. This month Kenya has sent troops into Somalia, too, in pursuit of the kidnappers of four foreigners from Kenya. The Kenyan authorities blame Al Shabaab.

The militant group denies the kidnappings and has threatened Kenya with a campaign of violent terror in retaliation for sending its troops into Somalia.

“Your attack to us means your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear,” a spokesperson for Al Shabaab warned Kenya.

France announced Monday that it would help support Kenyan troops in their offensive by sending supplies to the region, and the U.S. has planted new drone bases in the Seychelles and Ethiopia.  Those bases will be used to attack the group in Somalia, according to anonymous U.S. officials and leaked diplomatic cables.

“Somalia has plenty of ungoverned space right now,” Schmitt said, adding that some are worried of a possible teaming up between Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda for joint operations.

But don’t expect U.S. boots on the ground in Somalia any time soon, Shanker said.

It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the U.S. to send military advisers to Somalia, much like President Barack Obama’s recent move to send troops to Uganda to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army, he said. But he added that anything more than working in an advising role would not be politically possible in the U.S.

But U.S. policy toward militant groups like Al Shabaab is divided and complicated, according to Shanker and Schmitt. Some U.S. officials believe targeting militia leaders in Somalia “does more harm than good,” and others worry that going after Shabaab may radicalize the Somali population in the U.S.  

A group like Al Shabaab attacking the U.S. from within is a real threat because of their "safe haven" in cyberspace, where recruiters have the chance to inspire a network of homegrown terrorists, Schmitt said.  Already some young Somalis who are U.S. citizens have returned to Somalia to join Al Shabaab.

Shanker and Schmitt also warned the U.S. to be ready for another attack on its soil.

"There will be another attack here in the United States," Schmitt said.  The rise of militant groups in Africa and their move to fill the power void left by Al Qaeda has made the possibility very probable, according to the pair of reporters. 

But they said they can't predict when the attack will occur or whether it will originate from a militant group like Al Shabaab or from a radicalized community within the U.S. 

The current goal, instead, is to “drive [terrorism] down to a more manageable level,” or to the criminal level, Shanker said. In his view the best choice the U.S. can make in combatting terrorism is "by beating away at the ferocity and frequency of attacks" because it will probably never go away completely.

"The good news is that organization is very much on its heels," Schmitt said, referring to Al Qaeda's ability to coordinate attacks.  He said that the U.S. intelligence community has developed into a group adept at deterring potential terrorist attacks.

But Shanker added, "Other affiliates and networks have come up with brilliant ideas" (Global Post, 2011).


Al Shabaab urges their "brothers and sisters" to "do jihad" in America, Canada, England, "anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, in Australia, anywhere you find kuffar," a derogatory term for non-Muslims. The U.S. Congress states that Al Shabaab poses a "Direct Threat" to the U.S. and that there is growing evidence that the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, known as al-Shabaab, is becoming more of a regional terrorist player, with the potential to go global as it targets U.S. citizens and interests.

Title: Feds Issue Terror Watch For The Texas/Mexico Border
Date: May 26, 2010
Source: Fox News

The Department of Homeland Security is alerting Texas authorities to be on the lookout for a suspected member of the Somalia-based Al Shabaab terrorist group who might be attempting to travel to the U.S. through Mexico, a security expert who has seen the memo tells

The warning follows an indictment unsealed this month in Texas federal court that accuses a Somali man in Texas of running a “large-scale smuggling enterprise” responsible for bringing hundreds of Somalis from Brazil through South America and eventually across the Mexican border. Many of the illegal immigrants, who court records say were given fake IDs, are alleged to have ties to other now-defunct Somalian terror organizations that have merged with active organizations like Al Shabaab, al-Barakat and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami.

In 2008, the U.S. government designated Al Shabaab a terrorist organization. Al Shabaab has said its priority is to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, on Somalia; the group has aligned itself with Al Qaeda and has made statements about its intent to harm the United States.

In recent years, American Somalis have been recruited by Al Shabaab to travel to Somalia, where they are often radicalized by more extremist or operational anti-American terror groups, which Al Shabaab supports. The recruiters coming through the Mexican border are the ones who could be the most dangerous, according to law enforcement officials.
Security experts tell that the influx of hundreds of Somalis over the U.S. border who allegedly have ties to suspected terror cells is evidence of a porous and unsecured border being exploited by groups intent on wrecking deadly havoc on American soil.

The DHS alert was issued to police and sheriff’s deputies in Houston, asking them to keep their eyes open for a Somali man named Mohamed Ali who is believed to be in Mexico preparing to make the illegal crossing into Texas. Officials believe Ali has ties to Al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization aligned with Al Qaeda, said Joan Neuhaus Schaan, the homeland security and terrorism fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, who has seen the alert.

An indictment was unsealed in Texas federal court earlier this month that revealed that a Somali man, Ahmed Muhammed Dhakane, led a human smuggling ring that brought East Africans, including Somalis with ties to terror groups, from Brazil and across the Mexican border and into Texas. 

In a separate case, Anthony Joseph Tracy, of Virginia, who admitted to having ties to Al Shabaab, is currently being prosecuted for his alleged role in an international ring that illegally brought more than 200 Somalis across the Mexican border. Prosecutors say Tracy used his Kenya-based travel business as a cover to fraudulently obtain Cuban travel documents for the Somalis. The smuggled Somalis are believed to have spread out across the United States and remain mostly at large, court records show.

Somalis are classified by border and immigration officials as “special interest” — illegal immigrants who get caught trying to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. who come from countries that are considered a high threat to the U.S., Neuhaus Schaan explained.

DHS did not respond to multiple e-mail and phone requests for comment.

In addition to the Somali immigration issue, Mexican smugglers are coaching some Middle Eastern immigrants before they cross the border – schooling them on how to dress and giving them phrases to help them look and sound like Latinos, law enforcement sources told

“There have been a number of certain communities that have noticed this, villages in northern Mexico where Middle Easterners try to move into town and learn Spanish,” Neuhaus Schaan said. “People were changing there names from Middle Eastern names to Hispanic names.”
Security experts say the push by illegal immigrants to try to fit in also could be the realization of what officials have feared for years: Latin American drug cartels are helping jihadist groups bring terrorists across the Mexican border.

J. Peter Pham, senior fellow and director of the Africa Project at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, said that for the past ten years there’s been suspicion by U.S. law enforcement that drug cartels could align with international terrorist organizations to bring would-be-jihadists into the U.S.

That kind of collaboration is already being seen in Africa, said Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“Al Qaeda could easily say, “Ok, now we want your help getting these guys into the United States,” Phares said. “Eventually the federal government will pay more attention, but there is a window of time now where they can get anyone they want to get in already.”

Experts also say the DHS alert and recent court case highlights the threat of terrorists penetrating the Mexican/Texas border — and the growing threat of Somali recruitment efforts to bring Americans of Somali descent back to Somalia for jihadist training, creating homegrown terrorists.
Pham says the DHS alert comes too late. “They’re just covering themselves for the fact that DHS has been failing to date to deal effectively with this,” he said. “They’re already here.”

Michael Weinstein, a political science professor at Purdue University and an expert on Somalia, said, “In the past year, it’s become obvious that there’s a spillover into the United States of the transnational revolutionaries in Somalia.”

“It’s something that certainly has to be watched, but I don’t think it’s an imminent threat,” he said. “This has to be put in context with people smuggling — everybody and their brother is getting into the United States through Mexico; I read last week that some Chinese were crossing, it’s just a big market.”

Pham disagrees. “The real danger is ‘something along the lines of jihadist version of ‘find a classmate,’ he said, referring to Al Shabaab’s potential to set up sleeper cells in the U.S. “Most of them rely on personal referral and association. That type of social networking is not beyond their capabilities.”

Pham says the DHS alert is too little, too late.

“This is like shutting the barn door after the horses got away,” he said (Fox News, 2010).

Title: House Panel: Al-Shabaab Poses "Direct Threat" To U.S.
Date: July 27, 2011
Source: IPT

More than 40 Somalis living in America and 20 in Canada have traveled to Somalia to join the jihad waged there by the terrorist group al-Shabaab, a House Homeland Security Committee staff report finds. At least 15 of the Americans have died in al-Shabaab violence, but the whereabouts of 21 others remain unknown.

Although that violence has been limited so far to Africa, two witnesses who appeared before the committee Wednesday said the United States should consider them, and al-Shabaab, as "a direct threat to the U.S. homeland."

Al-Shabaab's recruiting success in the West is unrivaled, said committee chairman Peter King, R-N.Y. "Not al-Qaeda, nor any of its other affiliates, have come close to drawing so many Muslim-Americans and Westerners to jihad," King said in opening remarks.

The bulk of those American recruits came from the Minneapolis area. But one of the most dangerous is Omar Hammami of Daphne, Ala., a Southern Baptist convert to Islam who has promised to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden in May. "Hammami poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland with his ability to assist Shabaab, core Al Qaeda or AQAP with plots, but he also has become a source of inspiration for jihadis," the report said. "Two terror defendants in New York, Betim Kaziu and Saujah Hadzovic, were inspired to travel to Egypt for violent Islamic jihad by watching Hammami tapes."

It was the third hearing held by the committee on radicalization within the American Muslim community.

As with the previous two hearings, committee Democrats protested King's emphasis on radicalization of Muslims, rather than extremism in general. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Tex., for example, requested a hearing on right wing extremists who advocate violence and submitted a list of active American hate groups into the hearing record.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Tex., said he was "mystified by the controversy" and asked the four witnesses present, including St. Paul Police Chief Thomas Smith, whether anyone doubted the security threat posed by efforts to radicalize Muslim youth. None did.

The ranking Democrat, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, used his opening remarks to say al-Shabaab is a relatively small terrorist group. While intelligence agencies need to pay attention to it, that focus should be kept in proportion to the likelihood of the threat posed.

Al-Shabaab "does not appear to present any threat to the homeland," Thompson said.

The witnesses disagreed. Before the failed attempt to bomb a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009, few American policy leaders saw al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula as a threat to attack the United States, said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

In response to committee questions, Joscelyn noted that information found at Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad compound showed he was issuing directions to al-Shabaab. In addition, al-Shabaab members have been trained by al-Qaida operatives who were part of past attacks against American interests, including the 1998 attack on embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Because Somalia has no functioning central government, it is difficult for American security officials to track movement of the Americans and Canadians who traveled there, said W. Anders Folk, a former federal prosecutor who was part of a dozen cases in Minnesota involving Somali recruitment.

In the Abdulmutallab case, Folk noted, a relative even warned U.S. officials that the man might be part of a jihadist plot but he still was able to board the flight. The threat of al-Shabaab trying to get people back into the United States is "incredibly scary," he said.

Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, disagreed that the hearings' focus had a stigmatizing effect on Muslims. Rather, they "empowered" his community to speak out against recruitment by al-Shabaab.

His organization has no relationship with the Canadian branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – one of the loudest critics of the hearings –because it doesn't share the Congress' goal of combating the false narrative that the West is racist and that Islam cannot coexist with democracy.

Part of the problem, Hussen told the committee, is that many young Canadian Somalis graduate from college but find themselves unemployed or working at menial jobs.

Most of them "persevere and keep working hard" to improve their situation. "A minority of them become alienated and fall victim to a narrative that turns them against Canada and the United States – the very countries that have sustained them and also gave refuge to their parents as they fled the civil war in Somalia," he said.

This "dangerous and constant anti-Western narrative is fed to them by radicals in our community who do not hesitate to use these vulnerable youth as gun fodder in their efforts to establish a base for the al-Qaida terrorist group in Somalia," Hussen added.

Most of that radicalizing message is sent through the Internet, he said. But the recruits still need chaperones to help arrange and pay their travels. King noted that, in a guilty plea in Minnesota last week, Omer Mohamed admitted recruiting took place in mosques, among other places around Minneapolis.

Shabaab-related indictments "account for the largest number and significant upward trend in homegrown terrorism cases filed by the Department of Justice over the past two years," the staff report said, with at least 38 cases unsealed since 2009.

On July 5 in Minneapolis, "a Saudi cleric who denounced Shabaab and other Somali combatants inside the Abubakr As-Saddique Islamic Center – where most of the missing Somali-American men once congregated – was allegedly assaulted by men shouting 'Allahu Akhbar' ('God is great!')," according to the staff report.

A recording and account glorifying the assault were posted on overseas-based jihadi chat rooms before most people in Minneapolis learned of the incident. A local news report on the confrontation can be seen here.

It's possible that al-Shabaab maintains its focus on Somalia and other regional conflicts. American security officials still need to pay attention to the possibility that the group's aspirations change, and with them, its targets.

"We don't know what terrorist organizations are able to do looking forward," Folk said (IPT, 2011).

Title: Peter King's Reckless Claim Of Al-Shabaab's Menace To The US
July 31, 2011

Abstract: This past week, Congressman Peter King, chairman of the House homeland security committee, held the third in a series of highly publicised hearings on the radicalisation of Muslims in the United States and the threat they allegedly pose to the American homeland. King's focus this time around was on Americans who support al-Shabaab, an organised insurgency in Somalia known for its brutal tactics and the ruthless control it exerts over its own members. According to King, the danger this faraway rebellion poses for the United States should not be minimised: "With al-Shabaab's large cadre of American jihadis and unquestionable ties to al-Qaida, particularly its alliance with AQAP, we must face the reality that al-Shabaab is a growing threat to our homeland."

King claimed to base his findings on an investigation conducted by his staff. His conclusion was that the call of al-Shabaab has placed the American homeland in imminent peril.

Most of the criticism leveled at King has focused on his reckless use of Congress to articulate distrust and fear of Muslims in a way that upends the basic tenets of non-discrimination in the United States. But more to the point, there are numerous factual and interpretive mistakes in King's representation of the Somalia issue. These errors are worth noting, because if left uncorrected, they may propel the United States along another erroneous pathway, both at home and abroad.

First, King misrepresents the magnitude of the exodus of Americans to Somalia. King's figures are correct, but his conclusions are misleading. Since 2009, nearly 40 individuals have been indicted in the United States for providing some sort of support – or wanting to provide some sort of support – to al-Shabaab. According to the terrorism database at the Centre on Law and Security, which I direct, 20 individuals have been indicted for travelling to Somalia to fight for al-Shabaab, and an additional five have been indicted for attempting to travel there. Of these, 15 were US citizens. This is hardly a "large cadre of Americans".

Second, King confuses internationalist jihad with nationalist foreign insurgency. In the case of Somalia, the main imperative for fighting is not international jihad; it is the wresting of power from the group now in nominal control of the government, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The individuals who join this insurgency are most often of Somali descent and are fighting to help their former countrymen and their families in a failed state where violence, famine and chronic water shortage plague one the poorest nations on earth. In fact, contrary to King's assumptions, recent research done by Thomas Hegghammer at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment suggests that most foreign fighters do not have terrorist intentions at the outset beyond the nationalist cause they are looking to serve.

Third, King infers that tenuous links between foreign insurgency and jihadi violence will result in terrorism in the United States, once these foreign fighters return, now trained in the tactics of violence. This may, in fact, be a realistic worry for the future. But at present, the statistics show, according to the study done by Hegghammer (who is currently a fellow at the Centre on Law and Security), that "not more than one in eight foreign fighters returned to perpetrate terrorism in the west", once they have left the nationalist cause for which they were fighting abroad. As to facts on the ground in the United States, there are no Somalia returnees who have been charged with planning to attack America. On the contrary, returnees who have been indicted have been charged with attempts to recruit for the struggle abroad.

Fourth, to bolster his conflation of terrorism and nationalist struggle, King misrepresents the strength of the ties between al-Shabaab and al-Qaida. While there may be some connection between some of the leaders, al-Shabaab's mission is very much its own. According to the National Counterterrorism Centre, al-Shabaab's links to al-Qaida have not reached the organisational level; it can therefore in no way be classified as a strong partner in the al-Qaida network.

To quote from the NCC's website: "While most of [Shabaab's] fighters are predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the TFG and not supportive of global jihad, al-Shabaab's senior leadership is affiliated with al-Qaida, and certain extremists aligned with al-Shabaab are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan."

A summary report by the Council on Foreign Relations concurs: "Experts say there are links between individual al-Shabaab leaders and individual members of al-Qaida, but any organizational linkage between the two groups is weak, if it exists at all."

These exaggerations and errors suggest that King has fallen prey to three fallacies that have, unfortunately, characterised American counterterrorism policy since 9/11, generating a string of counterproductive policies. King, too, fails to distinguish between the various terrorists threats – that is, the difference posed by Americans who reach out to al-Shabaab, as opposed to AQAP; he risks playing into the worldview of al-Qaida, which is constantly trying to claim inroads into foreign struggles; and finally, he succumbs to fantasy threat-inflation rather than encouraging realistic risk-avoidance – it is one thing to be vigilant about fighters returning from Somalia and quite another to prosecute individuals merely for a desire to fight in the civil conflict there. A more feet-on-the-ground approach would begin with a simple observation: the only Somali American who attempted to commit violence against US targets was Mohamed Osman Mohamud – and he appears to have no links to al-Shabaab or their cause.

The accurate analysis of homegrown terrorism in the United States is yet to be written. But its contours would look something like this: the incidence of terrorism arrests and indictments have gone down precipitously in 2011. Yet the serious nature of terrorism arrests for domestic terrorism has risen in recent years, as illustrated notably by the Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, the New York City subway bomber Najibullah Zazi and Major Hassan at Fort Hood. Somalis have not yet emerged as a group with the motivation and capacity to harm Americans at home or abroad.

It is responsible to consider the possibility of what will happen as Somali fighters are exposed to al-Qaida operatives and foreign training; it is not so to make the claim, as Peter King has, that Somali Muslims represent a real and present danger to the United States. Until the United States can have a fact-based discussion of terrorism and look towards threat management, rather than prevention strategies based on guesswork and hyperbole, the excesses of the war on terror – and the harm that it has caused to America's core values – will rage on (Guardian, 2011).

Title: Al-Shabaab: A Jihadist Threat To America
Date: September 13, 2011
Source: IPT

Abstract: The Somali jihadist organization al-Shabaab did not exist a decade ago. Today, its success in recruiting and radicalizing Muslims inside the United States has made al-Shabaab "a direct threat to the U.S. homeland," according to an investigative report by the House Homeland Security Committee.

Al-Shabaab, which is affiliated with al-Qaida, is fighting to oust the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), an "interim" regime that has served as the nominal government of Somalia since 2004. The TFG is supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military force, comprised of approximately 8,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Until recently, the Somali government controlled little more than a few parts of Mogadishu, the capital, while al-Shabaab exercised control over much of southern and eastern Somalia and part of Mogadishu. But al-Shabaab has been plagued by defeats and desertions, and last month the terror group withdrew from territory it occupied in Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab evolved out of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist group that went to war against the Somali government five years ago. The ICU captured Mogadishu in June 2006. By late October, the ICU had effectively encircled the TFG in Baidoa, located in south-central Somalia. The only thing preventing the city's destruction were Ethiopian soldiers defending the city.

Shortly after the ICU emerged, "hundreds of terrorists from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula arrived to train in or staff these camps," wrote Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for the Defense or Democracies. A United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia warned that the ICU "is fully capable" of turning the country into "an Iraq type scenario, replete with roadside and suicide bombers, assassinations and other forms of terrorist and insurgent-type activities."

That warning would soon appear prophetic.

Al-Shabaab's priority in 2006-07 was driving the Ethiopians out of Somalia, and its military campaign took a heavy toll on the invaders. In 2008, the foreign forces faded into obscurity, as al-Shabaab established a Sharia-based regime in Somalia.

That October, al-Shabaab carried out five suicide bombings in northern Somalia, killing 28 people. One of the killers was Shirwa Ahmed of Minneapolis, who became the first American suicide bomber.

Several months later, the Associated Press reported on "growing evidence" that battle-hardened jihadists had migrated from Afghanistan and Pakistan, and had begun moving into Somalia and other locations in southern Africa. The report came one month after al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden called for a jihad against the Somali interim government.

After driving out the Ethiopian Army, al-Shabaab conducted terrorist operations outside Somalia's borders. In August 2009, police in Melbourne, Australia arrested five Australian nationals of Somali and Lebanese origin who were allegedly planning to attack an Australian army base with automatic weapons. The arrests came following seven months of surveillance on the suspects, who the government says were connected with al-Shabaab.

Another Shabaab-linked plot involved a Jan. 1, 2010 attack on Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who has been targeted by Islamists over his depictions of the prophet Muhammad. A Somali man linked to the terror group was convicted of attempted murder for attempting to break into Westergaard's home with an axe.

Al-Shabaab has threatened Uganda and Burundi for contributing troops for the AMISOM force, and on July 11, 2010, it bombed two locations in Kampala, Uganda where crowds had gathered to watch the World Cup soccer tournament. Seventy-six people died in the Kampala bombings, which targeted a rugby complex and an Ethiopian restaurant.

"This is only the beginning," al-Shabaab warned following the attack. The jihadist group vowed to "unleash a new tide of terror" against its enemies.

Could al-Shabaab Attack the United States?
Al-Shabaab's first threats against the United States came in 2008. In February, the group responded to reports that the United States had launched covert airstrikes against terror targets in Somalia. It vowed to give the United States "a taste of hardship in all the regions where they are present in the east and west of Somalia."

One month later, it vowed once again to attack the United States, but hinted the next attack would come outside of Somalia. Al Shabaab declared that it would take action that would make America "forget the blessed attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam" referring to the August 7, 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people including 12 Americans.

On June 1, 2008, Abu Zubeyr, the group's current leader, declared al-Qaida's intention to attack the United States.

He warned "cursed America" that future attacks would occur against America, which was conspiring to retard Muslims "economically and politically and (sic) technologically and religiously and morally."

When the House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on al-Shabaab in July, ranking Democrat, Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, argued that the group "does not appear to present any threat to the homeland."

Hearing witnesses disagreed.

Information found at Osama bin Laden's Abbottabad, Pakistan compound showed he was issuing orders to al-Shabaab, said Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Also, al-Shabaab members have been trained by al-Qaida operatives involved in past attacks targeting Americans. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, architect of the 1998 embassy bombing and a founder of al-Shabaab, was shot to death in June by soldiers near a Mogadishu military checkpoint.

Somalia's lack of a functioning government makes it difficult for U.S. security officials to monitor the movement of Americans and Canadians who travel to Somalia. At a 2009 hearing, then-FBI Associate Executive Assistant Director Philip Mudd downplayed the idea that al-Shabaab could pose a threat to the United States – but with one important caveat.

"I would talk in terms of tens of people, which sounds small but it's significant, because every terrorist is somebody who could potentially throw a grenade into a shopping mall," Mudd said. Information about the number of American recruits for al-Shabaab is "fuzzy," he said, because there "are thousands of people – thousands going to the Horn of Africa every month. You can go to Kenya to look at game parks, and it's hard for me to tell you if somebody's going to a game park or going to Shabaab. So, I am sure there are people out there that we're missing."

The Homeland Security Committee report found that al-Shabaab-related indictments "account for the largest number and significant upward trend in homegrown terrorism cases filed by the Department of Justice over the past two years," with at least 38 cases since 2009. Al-Shabaab "has an active recruitment and radicalization network inside the U.S. targeting Muslim-Americans in Somali communities," the report said.

At least 40 Americans have joined al-Shabaab, and at least 15 Americans have been killed while fighting alongside the group, the report said. At least 21 American al-Shabaab fighters are still at large or unaccounted for, while as many as 20 Canadians of Somali descent have disappeared and are believed to have joined al-Shabaab, according to Canadian security officials.

A Saudi cleric who denounced al-Shabaab and other Somali combatants outside the Abubakr As-Saddique Islamic Center in Minneapolis in July was allegedly attacked by an angry mob shouting "Allahu Akhbar!" ("God is Great!"). A recording of the assault was posted on overseas jihadist chatrooms "before most in Minneapolis knew it happened," the report found.

"They glorified Allah and showered [the al-Shabaab critic] and showered him with hits and kicks," one jihadist wrote. "Next time, with permission from Allah, cut off the head of the likes of this filthy one."

One of al-Shabaab's rising combat commanders is Omar Hammami, who has vowed to avenge the killing of bin Laden in May. A native of Daphne, Ala., Hammami (AKA Abu Mansour al-Amriki,) is a convert to Islam who has been designated a terrorist by the Treasury Department. In 2009, he was indicted for providing material support for terrorism.

Hammami "poses a direct threat to the U.S. homeland with his ability to assist Shabaab, core Al Qaeda or AQAP [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] with plots, but he also has become a source of inspiration for jihadis. Two terror defendants in New York, Betim Kaziu and Saujah Hadzovic, were inspired to travel to Egypt for violent Islamic jihad by watching Hammami tapes," the House report said.

Al-Shabaab has forged operation ties with AQAP in Yemen, and Shabaab operative Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was indicted in July for receiving explosives training from AQAP, and attempting to organize a weapons deal with that group.

"No Al Qaeda allied group, including core al Qaeda or the Yemen based…AQAP, has attracted anywhere near as many American and Western recruits as Shabaab over the past three years," the House report said. There "is a looming danger of American Shabaab fighters returning to the U.S. to strike or helping Al Qaeda or its affiliates attack the homeland. U.S. intelligence underestimated the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Yemen's capability of launching attacks here; we cannot afford to make the same mistake with Shabaab" (IPT, 2011).

Title: Al Shabaab In Mexico?
Date: October 18, 2011
Source: Global Post

Abstract: A Mexican radio station on Tuesday claimed it had a report that the Mexican marines had foiled a plot by the Somalian Islamic group al-Shabaab to attack the U.S. embassay in Mexico City.

MVS anchor Carmen Aristegui announced the scoop, which if confirmed would provide the strongest evidence to date that Islamic militant groups are operating in Mexico.

According to the alleged leaked report, marines raided a house in the middle-class Mexico City Roma neighborhood on 9 June, 2010 and found 22.7 kilos of explosive material along with detonators.

They had located the house — which is less than a mile from the U.S. embassy — after tracking a Somali national who worked for al-Shabaab, the report says.

It is unclear if the individual was arrested and where he currently is.

The June raid had been previously covered by the Mexican media, but Mexico’s attorney general’s office had said the material seized were not dangerous explosives.

Asked about the latest report, a press officer at the attorney general’s office said he could not immediately verify whether the new evidence was reliable.

In the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, press officers said they did not immediately have information about the foiled attack.

However, they said they had received information from Mexico’s immigration service that a Somali national with alleged links to al Shabaab had been arrested in Mexico City in April 2010. That individual was deported for entering Mexico illegally, they said.

Al-Shabaab controls large swathes of the southern parts of Somalia and has declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda.

The latest report comes amid increased concerns that radical Islamic groups will take advantage of the insecurity in Mexico, and its porous border with the U.S., to launch attacks on the United States and its allies.

Last week, U.S. officials claimed they had foiled a plot by Iranian agents to hire drug cartel gunmen to attack the Saudi ambassador the United States (Global Post, 2011).

Title: Deadly Attacks Show Al-Shabaab Expanding Its Reach, With Potential For U.S. Targets
Date: October 24, 2011
Source: Fox News

There is growing evidence that the Al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, known as al-Shabaab, is becoming more of a regional terrorist player, with the potential to go global as it targets U.S. citizens and interests.

"We have been getting threats from al-Shabaab against Americans and Westerners," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told ABC News when asked about a decision to warn Americans in Kenya of an imminent terrorist threat. "So it's a very dangerous, uncertain situation. And we want to be sure that whatever information we have, we immediately present to Americans who live, work or may be visiting in Kenya."

In the past day, two targets in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi were attacked with explosive devices. An explosion at a bus stop Monday evening killed at least one person and injured eight others. An earlier attack on a Nairobi night club with a grenade left 13 injured. Both incidents came after the U.S. warned that al-Shabaab would carry out retaliatory attacks after Kenyan troops entered Somalia in mid-October.

A rambling statement posted to a jihadist website purportedly from al-Shabaab promised more violence if foreign troops failed to withdraw. Although the online statement specifically mentioned troops from nearby Burundi, it seemed to underscore al-Shabaab's intention to rid Somalia of any foreign military presence.

"You now have a choice to make," the statement warned. "Either you call for the immediate withdrawal of your troops from our country or you shall receive the bodies of your remaining sons delivered to you in bags. Think long. Think hard. Think of your sons' futures."

In Washington, the State Department could not immediately comment on the latest attack or the intelligence that led to warning American citizens in Kenya to avoid crowds and malls, but department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland did not dispute that the warning was tied to al-Shabaab.

Last summer, when al-Shabaab launched suicide attacks in Uganda to coincide with the World Cup, U.S. officials questioned whether Uganda was the seminal attack, which showed the group was no longer a local player but could launch suicide bombings in other countries.

U.S. officials have consistently warned that the Al Qaeda affiliate has been adept at recruiting Western Europeans and Americans by playing off their allegiance to their native country. A new photo, from the Middle East Media Research Institute, or MEMRI, purports to show an American citizen and spokesman for Al Qaeda, Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, who recently travelled to Somalia to deliver Korans, clothing and food for victims of the drought.

Seeming to take a page out of Usama bin Laden's playbook, Alabama native Omar Hammami, first identified by Fox News as a spokesman and battlefield operative for al-Shabaab, released an audio message to his followers on Oct. 8. Hammami claimed Islam and life in the West were incompatible, and to reconcile the two is a "dream world."

In a translation by MEMRI, Hammami stresses that the life of jihad may lack modern conveniences, but it is worth the sacrifice and doesn't take long to get used to. Hammami appears to quote an American TV commercial, another nod to his Alabama upbringing, when he says, "If I can do it, you can do it too."

Also known as al-Amriki, which translates as the American, Hammami says the life of the fighter "is not what you see in movies." And appearing confident in his own security, Hammami seems to bait the U.S. intelligence community that monitors the Horn of East Africa. He mocks the "incompetence" of agents claiming that "They always seem to recruit the dumbest of spies to do their dirty work."

Nearly two dozen Americans of Somali descent have disappeared into the al-Shabaab camps since 2007. Last week, two Minneapolis women who claimed they were helping the poor were convicted of providing money to the terrorist group. And Minneapolis native Shirwa Ahmed was the first documented case of an American suicide bomber when he blew himself up as part of al-Shabaab operation in Northern Somalia in late 2007.

U.S. officials tell Fox News that al-Shabaab and the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen, which was behind the last two major plots involving planes against the United States, are now working together -- sharing training and bomb-making techniques. It is creating what one analyst described as an arc of instability that now stretches from Yemen and Somalia in the east, to North Africa and west to Nigeria where a little known Islamist group called Boko Haram has increasingly adopted Al Qaeda tactics, including car bombs (Fox News, 2011).

American Carried Out Somalia Suicide Bombing, Islamists Claim
Date: October 30, 2011
Source: CNN

A suicide bomber who carried out an attack in Somalia this weekend was an American citizen of Somali descent, a website associated with the Al-Shabaab Islamist movement claimed Sunday.

The website named the bombers as Aden al-Ansari and Cabdi Salaam al-Muhajir, and posted what it said was an audio interview with al-Muhajir speaking American-accented English.

The speaker urges his "brothers and sisters" to "do jihad" in America, Canada, England, "anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, in Australia, anywhere you find kuffar," a derogatory term for non-Muslims.

The African Union force trying to establish order in Somalia said there had been an attack Saturday involving two suicide bombers in the capital Mogadishu, but said AU troops "beat off" the attack by "al-Qaeda linked terrorists."

Al-Shabaab is associated with al Qaeda and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States. The African Union military spokesman in the country did not immediately respond to a CNN question about the identity of the bombers or whether any AU troops were injured.

Omar Jamal, a Somali diplomat at the United Nations, identified the person who made the audio recordings as Abdisalam Ali of Minneapolis. He told CNN that friends of Ali had listened to the messages in English and Somali and were "convinced it is him."

The discrepancy in names may mean that the name released by Al-Shabaab is a nom de guerre.

Jamal said Abdisalam left Minneapolis on November 4, 2008, with another man, Burhan Hassan, who has since been killed.

Kyle Loven, an FBI spokesman in Minneapolis, told CNN, "We're aware of the reporting but not able to confirm any IDs at this time."

In the Somali-language interview that Al-Shabaab released, the speaker says he has been fighting with the group for two years and killed "many infidels" with his own hands.

Jamal said this weekend's bombing was the third time a Minnesota Somali-American had carried out a suicide bombing in Somalia.

The previous two were Shirwa Ahmed, 27, who was the first confirmed American suicide bomber in U.S. history, and Farah Mohamed Beledi, also 27.

Ahmed killed himself and 29 others in the fall of 2008. The FBI identified Beledi as one of two suicide bombers responsible for killing two African Union soldiers in Somalia in May.

In recent years, approximately 20 young men -- most of them Somali-Americans -- have traveled from the Minneapolis area to Somalia to train with Al-Shabaab, and a number of them have gone on to fight with the terrorist organization, U.S. officials said.

And this month, a federal jury found two Minnesota women guilty of raising money for Al-Shabaab.

According to the federal indictment, Amina Farah Ali, 35, and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, 64, of Rochester, Minnesota, solicited funds in ways that included going door-to-door "under the false pretense that the funds were for the poor and needy."

The two were charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization.

Ali was also found guilty of 12 other counts including sending more than $8,000 in 2008 and 2009 (CNN, 2011).

Title: FBI Seeks Evidence American Man Was Behind Suicide Attack In Somalia
Date: October 31, 2011
Source: Fox News

Abstract: The FBI is working to obtain the remains of a suicide bomber in Somalia, to try to determine whether he was one of at least 21 young Somali-American men believed to have left Minneapolis in recent years to join the terrorist group al-Shabab.

If the remains are confirmed to belong to Abdisalan Hussein Ali, it will mark the third time someone from Minnesota has been involved in a suicide attack in Somalia.

"I don't understand," said Nimco Ahmed, a Somali community activist in Minnesota, home to the nation's largest Somali population. "It's really, really painful to actually see one of the kids who has a bright future ahead of them do this. ... It's a loss for our whole society."

Al-Shabab said over the weekend that Abdisalan Taqabalahullaah, whom they identified as a Somali-American, carried out the suicide attack Saturday against an African Union base in Mogadishu. The attack killed 10 people, including the two suicide bombers, a Mogadishu-based security official said.

The militia group posted online a recording purported to be Taqabalahullaah, calling on others to carry out a jihad. Omar Jamal, first secretary of the Somali mission to the United Nations, said friends of Abdisalan Hussein Ali listened to the recording and identified the voice as Ali's.

But other friends told Minnesota Public Radio News the voice is not Ali's, saying his English doesn't match the man's on the recording.

E.K. Wilson, the supervisory special agent who oversees the FBI's investigation in Minneapolis, said the agency is in the process of trying to obtain DNA samples for testing.

Ali, a U.S. citizen known by friends in Minneapolis as "Bullethead," was 19 when he left Minnesota in November 2008. He had graduated from Edison High School in Minneapolis the year before. At the time of his disappearance, his family told reporters he was studying health care at the University of Minnesota.

At the Ali family's apartment building in Minneapolis on Monday, a woman who identified herself as Ali's older sister but declined to give her name said the family knew only what it had seen in the news. They hadn't heard from Abdisalan or anyone else in Somalia, she said.

According to a missing persons report filed in his case, Ali's mother and a cousin told police he left his home on the morning of Nov. 4, 2008, to pray and go to school -- as was his normal routine -- but never returned. Ali's car was left at his house, and his cell phone had been turned off, the report said. Police reported that "for an unknown reason" the family thought Ali might have left Minnesota by plane.

Authorities said Ali and five other young men left Minneapolis in early November 2008. Ali went to Somalia, according to a July 2010 indictment that charges him with five counts, including conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists.

Over the past three years, Minnesota has been the center of a federal investigation into the recruitment of people from the U.S. to train or fight with al-Shabab in Somalia, which hasn't had a functioning government since 1991.

Shirwa Ahmed, 26, of Minneapolis, became the first known American suicide bomber in Somalia when he blew himself up in October 2008 in the northern breakaway republic of Somaliland, as part of a series of coordinated explosions that killed 21 people. On May 30 of this year, Farah Mohamed Beledi, 27, of St. Paul, was one of two suicide bombers who carried out an attack in Mogadishu. Beledi was shot before he could detonate his suicide vest (Fox News, 2011).

Title: US Offers Bounty For Somali Militants
Date: June 7, 2012
VOA News

Abstract: The United States is offering a new set of rewards for information on the whereabouts of leaders of the Somali militant group al-Shabab. 

U.S. Rewards for al-Shabab Leaders:
1. $7 million: Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed, operational commander
2. $5 million: Ibrahim Haji Jama, key leader from Somaliland who helped form Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin
3. $5 million: Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, dual Swedish-Somali national who has raised funds and helped direct attacks
4. $5 million: Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, military commander and coordinator for al-Qaida operations in Somalia

5. $5 million: Mukhtar Robow, spokesperson and spiritual leader
6. $3 million: Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi, head of intelligence
7. $3 million: Abdullahi Yare, head of media operations

-Source: U.S. Rewards for Justice program

​​The State Department announced the rewards Thursday through its Rewards for Justice program, marking the first time a specific premium has been placed on the heads of top members of al-Shabab, which the United States considers a terrorist group.

The U.S. is offering up to $7 million for al-Shabab's operational leader Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed. Separate rewards of up to $5 million each were offered for four of his top associates -- Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, and Mukhtar Robow.

Rewards of up to $3 million were also offered for two other top members of the group, Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare.

Roland Marchal, a leading al-Shabab expert, said that the bounty may be aimed at weakening the organization and buying intelligence. But he adds that many of those on the list are not influential in the group's current operations.

"They are well known outside the organization," he said. "But I doubt, for the little I know, they are very influential inside."

The State Department said the group is responsible for the killing of thousands of Somali civilians, Somali peace activists, international aid workers, journalists and African Union peacekeepers.

It called al-Shabab's activities a threat to the stability of East Africa and to the national security interests of the United States.

The U.S. placed al-Shabab on its list of terrorist organizations in 2008. The militant group has been linked to terrorist attacks in Somalia and Uganda.

Al-Shabab once controlled much of Somalia and nearly all of the capital, Mogadishu, but lost most of its territory during an 18-month offensive involving African Union forces, the Somali government, Ethiopia and Kenya 
(VOA News, 2012).


Al Shabaab's terror attacks have targeted scores of innocent civilians and have been growing bolder and more international by the week. The Al Shabaab blueprint is modeled after Al Qaeda and it is just a matter before the CIA terror group is blamed for terror attacks in America. The largest attack to date has been the July 11, 2011, World Cup bombing in Uganda, which clearly indicates that Al Shabaab will attack sporting events in the future. 

Title: Al Shabaab's First International Strike: Analysis Of The July 11 Uganda Bombings
July 14, 2010
Critical Threats

Key Points:
1. The Somali terror group al Shabaab has taken credit for Sunday’s bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Al Shabaab has become more internationalized since early 2007 and has threatened to attack international targets, but Sunday’s event marks the group’s first successful attack beyond Somalia’s borders.
2. Al Shabaab seeks al Qaeda’s recognition and, likely, an al Qaeda franchise designation. Currently, only three such franchises exist. The group’s first international attack was likely at least partially driven by that aim.
3. Al Shabaab seeks to weaken the forces that hinder its expansion in and control of Somalia, the most notable of which is the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Uganda and Burundi are the only two countries that contribute troops to the AMISOM force, making their interests key targets for al Shabaab.
4. Al Shabaab has proven on multiple occasions its ability to execute on its threats. This capacity was demonstrated again with the Uganda bombings, as al Shabaab had threatened to strike Ugandan targets on numerous occasions.
5. Al Shabaab’s ambitions are not limited to the continent of Africa. The group has threatened the West, including the U.S., and it has numerous international militants, including Americans and Europeans. The Uganda attack should serve as a wakeup call for the entire international community.
Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked terror group al Shabaab claimed credit for the near-simultaneous twin bombings that ripped through the Ugandan capital of Kampala on Sunday, July 11, killing at least 76 and injuring at least another 85.[1] Three bombings, one at an Ethiopian restaurant and two at a rugby club twenty minutes later, targeted crowds watching the World Cup soccer final.[2] Al Shabaab had made numerous threats against Uganda, and it has targeted Ugandan troops in Somalia, which form much of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) force in the Horn of Africa country. Sunday’s operation was the group’s first successful terror attack beyond Somalia’s borders.

The attack demonstrates al Shabaab’s capability to follow up on its threats to strike internationally and its desire to remove barriers to its control of southern and central Somalia.  The attack also contributes to al Shabaab’s goal of receiving recognition from al Qaeda.

Al Shabaab, which has set up Islamic administrations to govern nearly all of southern and central Somalia, seeks to topple Somalia’s fragile Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and establish an Islamist state throughout the Horn of Africa.  The group has fought TFG and AMISOM forces in Mogadishu since it began operating as an autonomous entity in early 2007 and has managed to relegate the TFG’s authority to only a few neighborhoods inside Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.  The group’s rhetoric and previous attacks reflect two objectives for al Shabaab in helping it achieve its long-term goal of establishing an Islamist state.  First, it seeks recognition and likely a franchise designation from al Qaeda’s senior leadership.  Second, it seeks to weaken and deter the forces in Somalia hindering its expansion.  The high-profile, mass casualty bombings in Kampala contributed to both of those objectives.

Earning al Qaeda’s Respect
Al Shabaab has continuously sought to attract the attention of al Qaeda’s central leadership since early 2008, and its first successful strike outside of Somalia was likely partially driven by that aim. The group adheres to the same global Islamist ideology as al Qaeda, and it has made numerous public statements pledging allegiance to al Qaeda and praising its leaders. Al Shabaab’s leader, Mukhtar Abu Zubair, for instance, released a video in June 2008, in which he offered greetings and praise to al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Abu Yahya al Libi and praised the nineteen 9/11 hijackers.[3] The group also released a video in September 2009 entitled, “At Your Service, Oh Osama.” Voices heard throughout the video pledge loyalty to bin Laden.[4] Al Shabaab reiterated its fidelity to al Qaeda in February 2010, when it released the following statement: “Jihad in the Horn of Africa must be combined with the international jihad led by the al Qaeda network.”[5]

Much of al Shabaab’s leadership trained or fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and today its ranks include roughly 800-1,100 foreign fighters, scores of whom have also fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan.[6] The group has made a concerted effort to recruit Westerners by producing English-language propaganda videos and promoting Americans to leadership positions. At least two dozen Americans and 100 Europeans have joined the group to-date.[7] Further, the group has made numerous threats to strike beyond Somalia’s borders, including American and European targets.

Al Shabaab’s statements of allegiance to al Qaeda, its efforts to internationalize, and success in fighting TFG forces in Somalia have elicited valuable statements of support from al Qaeda’s leadership. Praise from leaders such as bin Laden and Zawahiri help establish credibility among Islamists and serve as a valuable recruiting tool. Al Shabaab’s successful international attack will certainly earn the group praise throughout jihadi web forums, and it will likely elicit some recognition from al Qaeda leadership as well.

More importantly, al Shabaab appears eager to earn a franchise designation from al Qaeda. Currently, only three al Qaeda franchises exist: al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). Islamist groups “bid” through both actions and words to earn the franchise designation, generally bestowed on a group by Zawahiri. A franchise designation serves as a valuable recruiting tool, giving credibility and a known brand name to groups seeking to attract aspiring Islamist militants. It also gives the groups access to al Qaeda resources, including fundraising and financial support (however limited that may be at the present time).

No publicly available official criteria exists detailing the requirements to become an al Qaeda franchise, but contributing to al Qaeda’s overall goals, including the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, the expulsion of perceived infidels from Islamic lands, and the targeting of U.S. interests appear to have helped the three current franchises receive their designations. The ISI, for instance earned its designation for fighting American forces in Iraq, which al Qaeda then perceived to be the primary front against the West. AQIM gained its status in part by providing militants to the ISI, was led by veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan, and grew out of militant Islamist groups that had maintained an active insurgency against the Algerian government for over a decade at the time of its receipt of franchise status. AQAP’s top leadership had all fought in Afghanistan or Iraq; its leader was even the personal assistant to bin Laden. Further, AQAP had launched attacks to destabilize the perceived infidel Yemeni (and later Saudi) regime.

Al Shabaab’s “bid” for a franchise designation has included numerous statements of allegiance to al Qaeda, the establishment of Islamic administrations (which is only one step shy of the establishment of an Islamist state), and a sustained effort to drive perceived infidel invaders out of Somalia. Al Shabaab has enhanced its “bid” by proving its ability to conduct a mass casualty attack outside of Somalia, thus increasing the confidence al Qaeda’s central leadership may have in the group’s capabilities. Moreover, the attack targeted an ally of the United States and a government with troops in a Muslim country. The importance of Somalia as a central front for the fight against the West has not been lost on bin Laden. The al Qaeda leader released only five statements in 2009, and he dedicated one of them entirely to the situation in Somalia, saying: “The war taking place [in Somalia]…is a war between Islam and the international Crusade.”[8]
Targeting Uganda

Al Shabaab has long indentified Uganda as a target.  The group has killed at least a dozen Ugandan soldiers in Mogadishu since the start of 2010 using suicide bombs, roadside improvised explosive devices, and mortar attacks.  Uganda initially deployed 1,700 troops to Somalia in March 2007 to support the new AMISOM mission there.[9]  Currently, Uganda contributes about half of the 6,100-soldier strong AMISOM force (Burundi supplies the remainder), and a Ugandan officer, Major General Nathan Mugisha, commands the force.[10]  Uganda also serves as a training site for Somali TFG troops.  The European Union has already trained at least 600 Somali troops in western Uganda, and it plans on training at least another 1,400 there.[11]  Additionally, Uganda’s AMISOM forces receive training, equipment and logistical support from the United States.[12]   

The current AMISOM mandate stipulates that its forces support the TFG and defend important government infrastructure, allowing its troops to only engage in defensive, peacekeeping operations.[13]  Ugandan and Burundi troops do not have the mandate to go on the offensive against al Shabaab and therefore remain stationary at their strategic posts throughout Mogadishu, including near the Presidential Villa, the airport, and seaport, while al Shabaab fires on them at will.  AMISOM forces have a history of responding to such attacks by returning fire indiscriminately, occasionally leading to civilian casualties.  Ugandan military officials have attempted to remedy this situation by lobbying to expand the AMISOM mandate and calling for a significant increase in the number of AMISOM troops on the ground in Mogadishu.[14]  The Ugandan AMISOM commander, for instance, has said that he needs 20,000 troops to maintain peace in Somalia, and Uganda’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Okello Oryem, said as recently as last week that Uganda will send more troops to Somalia but only if the AMISOM mandate changes so that the troops can go on the offensive against al Shabaab.[15]  The Ugandans’ efforts, however, have been to no avail.   

Al Shabaab’s selection of its first international target was well-thought out and meticulously timed.  The group’s primary objective was to influence the Ugandan policy of support for AMISOM and to provoke Uganda to withdraw its troops.  An al Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, took credit for the attack by stating: “We thank the Mujahideen that carried out the attack. We are sending a message to Uganda and Burundi, if they do not take out their AMISOM troops from Somalia, blasts will continue.”[16] 

The current government of Uganda, led by President Yoweri Museveni, has remained steadfast in its dedication to AMISOM.  Museveni, for instance, called on the international community to support an expanded AMISOM mandate just one week after the September 2009 al Shabaab bombing of the AMISOM headquarters.[17]  Ugandan military officials have likewise pledged on several occasions since then that Ugandan troops would remain in Somalia until militants are eradicated and peace is restored.[18]  Deputy Foreign Minister Oryem reiterated that pledge just hours after Sunday’s bombings: “Ugandans are not cowards and we are not going to run away from Mogadishu just because of this cowardly act.”[19] 

Uganda, however, is scheduled to hold a presidential election in 2011, and the leading opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, has long called for the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from Somalia.[20]  A high-profile terror attack has the potential to alter public opinion.  Al Shabaab may have sought to capitalize on such an opportunity in an effort to influence the upcoming Ugandan elections in a way that may help it achieve its long-term goals.   

The upcoming annual African Union Summit, which Kampala will host from July 19 to July 27, likely played a role in al Shabaab’s timing and target of the attack, as well.  The expansion of the AMISOM mandate will almost certainly be on the summit’s agenda.  Notably, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a bloc of six East African countries, decided on July 5 that it would seek to deploy an additional 2,000 troops to support AMISOM, which would bring the total number of troops in the force to the 8,100-troop level called for in the mandate.[21]  Further, IGAD agreed to work with the African Union and the UN Security Council to increase the total number of troops in Somalia to 20,000.[22] 

Al Shabaab ideologically opposes soccer and has banned the playing and watching of the sport, so its decision to specifically target World Cup fans may have reinforced that ideology, but the potential for mass casualties was likely the driving force for selecting the specific targets inside Uganda.  Ugandan police, in fact, have announced that they discovered an unexploded suicide vest at a local discotheque, suggesting that the group’s opposition to soccer had a minimal impact on the selection of targets.[23]  The bombings took place at venues reportedly frequented by expatriates, and at least one American died in the attack.  Al Shabaab, however, seemed more concerned with killing Ugandans than Westerners, as revealed by its statement released the day after the attack: “These attacks have killed close to 100 people - mostly Ugandans - who were having fun at those locations…The Ugandan people are experiencing the beginning of what they have been warned about.”[24]

Executing on Threats
Al Shabaab issued a string of threats against Uganda and Burundi in the days leading up to Sunday’s attacks.  The group’s spiritual leader and main spokesman, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali, who is believed to have trained in Afghanistan and set up the first militant training camps in Somalia, reportedly called on followers at Friday prayers last week to attack sites in Uganda and Burundi.[25]  He also told a group of supporters on July 5, "We tell the Muslim youths and Mujahideen, wherever they are in the Muslim world, to attack, explode and burn the embassies of Burundi and Uganda."[26]  Al Shabaab’s leader, Mukhtar Abu Zubair, issued a similar statement on Somali airwaves on July 5 threatening the people of Uganda and Burundi:

You should know that the massacres against the children, women and the elderly of Mogadishu will be revenged against you. Keep in mind that [revenge for] the aggressions being committed by your leaders and soldiers is awaiting you. We have to carry out an all-out Jihad campaign against the enemy and everyone should take part, both young and old. That is the only way to end the massacres being carried out by the infidels in our country against the weak among us.[27]

Al Shabaab also released an English-language video through its media arm, al Kataib, on June 27 that called on the Ugandan and Burundi “Crusaders” to leave Somalia and advised the “Mujahideen to make the Ugandans their top priority.”[28]   

The volume of al Shabaab threats directed at Uganda increased in the past two weeks, but the group has been threatening to strike Ugandan interests, including inside Uganda, for over two years.  Al Shabaab issued a lengthy statement on January 3, 2008, in which it warned that the same destruction caused by “the alliance of Ethiopia, Uganda, and Burundi” in Mogadishu would be reciprocated by al Shabaab in those countries’ capitals.[29]  The group also specifically threatened the capitals of Burundi and Uganda in an October 2009 statement by a senior commander: “We shall make their people cry. We’ll attack Bujumbura and Kampala; we will move our fighting to those two cities and we shall destroy them.”[30]              

It should come as no surprise that al Shabaab managed to follow through on its threats against Uganda.  The group is perhaps more adept than any terror group in the world at executing on its threats.  It conducted twin suicide bombings on September 17, 2009 at the African Union headquarters in Mogadishu, for instance, less than a week after it vowed to avenge the death of al Qaeda in East Africa leader Saleh Ali Nabhan.[31]  Similarly, the group attacked a college graduation ceremony in December 2009, killing around 20 graduates and the Minister of Education, just three months after it warned the Ministry of Education about using un-Islamic textbooks.[32]  Al Shabaab has also followed through on several threats made against non-governmental organizations operating inside Somalia, including the World Food Program and the UN Mine Action Service.[33]

Significance & Conclusion
Abu Mansour al Amriki, an American commander in al Shabaab, stated in January 2008 that “al Shabaab had a global goal including the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate in all parts of the world.”[34]  The group has steadily become more internationalized since then, increasing the number of foreign fighters in its ranks, making international threats, and even establishing a brigade whose sole purpose is to liberate Islamic holy places around the world.  The bombings in Uganda confirmed al Shabaab’s desire to strike its enemies beyond Somalia’s borders and proved its ability to do so. 

Sunday’s attacks must serve as a warning to the West.  Al Shabaab controls vast swaths of territory – more than any Islamist group in the world – where it can plan and train for attacks.  It has many militants with experience fighting in war zones and dozens with American and European passports.  Uganda is separated by one country from Somalia, and Kampala sits nearly 600 miles from Somalia’s closest border.  Sunday’s attack was not merely a cross-border raid, but rather a highly coordinated and sophisticated international attack. 

Al Shabaab’s ambitions are not limited to the African continent, and western policymakers cannot afford to make the costly mistake of dismissing the group as merely a regional threat.  The group has made clear on several occasions its desire to strike the United States, perhaps most boldly in a June 2008 message from its leader:


So wait, oh cursed America, for the events of the coming September [i.e. the next major attacks]. For it is not a strike, but strikes!!! They conspired against us and made us retarded economically and politically and [sic] and technologically and religiously and morally and even mentally!!! And all of these tragedies are caused by the mother of [all evil] America!!! It continues, and [America] did not learn sufficiently from the previous strikes!! The curses of Allah [are] upon America and those who are loyal to it or protect it or love it!!![35]

Al Shabaab has proven time and time again its ability to execute on threats in Somalia, and now it has also proven its ability to execute on threats internationally.  The group will continue to seek recognition and support from al Qaeda and will attempt to ascend to a position of prominence within the Islamist community. 

Al Shabaab operates with relative impunity in southern and central Somalia.  Uganda’s decision in the coming year, along with that of other African nations, on whether or not to fight al Shabaab will be significant for the peace and stability of the region.  Perhaps more important, though, will be the West’s decision on whether or not it will develop a strategy to hinder and weaken the growing global threat posed by al Shabaab (Critical Threats, 2010).

Somalia's Al Shabaab Kills 70 in Mogadishu Bomb
Date: October 5, 2011
Source: Reuters

Somalia's al Qaeda-linked rebels struck at the heart of the capital on Tuesday, killing more than 70 people with a truck bomb in the group's most deadly attack in the country since launching an insurgency in 2007.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed denounced the blast, which caused the most casualties among young students waiting for exam results at the education ministry, as a "cruel and inhumane act of violence". Another 150 people were wounded.

The African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) said a truck laden with drums of fuel rammed a checkpoint outside a compound housing government ministries in the K4 (Kilometre 4) area of Mogadishu, where students had gathered to register for scholarships offered by Turkey.

Hundreds of parents stood weeping outside the Madina Hospital in Mogadishu after being denied access for security reasons and nurses said they were overwhelmed.

The al Shabaab insurgents who carried out the attack later warned Somalis to stay away from government buildings and military bases. "More serious blasts are coming," spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told reporters.

The twisted axle from the exploded truck lay on blackened soil. A body draped with a red shawl lay nearby. People used corrugated iron, rugs and white sheeting to carry corpses away from the devastation at a normally bustling junction.

Ambulances rushed to and fro past twisted, charred trees and a burnt out car.

"I was among the first people to arrive here moments after the explosion. I looked around and reassured those who were still alive," said witness Halma Abdi.

Britain condemned the attack and France reasserted its support for the country's U.N.-backed transitional government.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was appalled by the vicious attack.

"It is very difficult to prevent these types of terrorist attacks which we have consistently warned are likely to be on the increase," the U.N. special envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said.

The government said no senior officials were hurt in the attack on the ministry buildings.

Burns & Fractures 
Al Shabaab insurgents pulled most of their fighters out of Mogadishu in August allowing government troops and African Union soldiers to seize much of the capital. But the rebels vowed to still carry out attacks on government installations.

"AMISOM still considers al Shabaab as a terrible group and will work with other partners to stop their horrible attacks on civilians," the AU force spokesman Paddy Ankunda said.

The blast flattened kiosks near the compound and a charred body lay near a blazing car. Debris from the explosion landed hundreds of metres away.

Scores of people with burns walked to a nearby hospital and police were trying to evacuate more students trapped inside the damaged buildings. Doctors said they were shocked by the number of casualties, in a city that has endured years of violence.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 90 people, including five women and nine children, had been admitted to the Madina Hospital, many with burns and fractures.

Some analysts said they were worried the blast might prompt international agencies helping famine victims in Somalia to pull out, leaving operations in the hands of local organisations prone to corruption or theft by militias.

"Most humanitarian agencies were complaining about a lack of security and this might put off international agencies from going anywhere near Mogadishu now," said Hamza Mohamed, a London-based Somali analyst. "This is my worst fear now."

President Ahmed said al Shabaab could not have "attacked the Somali people at a worst time", as the country struggles with the worst drought to hit the country in decades, but vowed to hit back at the rebels.

"They cannot attack our resolve and will not turn us away from a future in our own safety and security, united in peace and prosperity," he said in a statement.

Suicide Bombers 
When al Shabaab fighters pulled out of Mogadishu in August, analysts warned the conflict was far from won and a shift in the insurgents' tactics could herald a wave of al Qaeda-style attacks.

Others analysts said the attack was a stark reminder the group still poses a threat to Somalia, and other countries in the region. Al Shabaab killed 79 people watching the soccer World Cup final in Uganda last year.

Analysts also said the blast underscored the government's failure to take advantage of the August withdrawal.

"The fact al Shabaab has reoccupied at least three of the districts it abandoned at the time and is apparently able to operate freely in others to the extent of pulling off the bombing is an indictment of the regime's failure to capitalise on the opportunity, which was handed to it on a silver platter," said J. Peter Pham, Africa director with U.S. think-tank the Atlantic Council.

Al Shabaab has used suicide bombers to devastating effect in past attacks on African Union compounds, government buildings and a medical graduation ceremony.

A suicide bomber killed three government ministers in the December 2009 attack on the graduation ceremony in Mogadishu and a fourth minister died from his wounds two months later. A female suicide bomber killed the interior minister in June.

Al Shabaab is fighting to oust the U.N.-backed transition government that it sees as a puppet of the West and wants to impose its own harsh version of sharia law throughout Somalia.

The militants still hold sway over large chunks of southern and central Somalia, which is also in the grip of a famine. Al Shabaab had appeared to be on the back foot and there were reports of internal rifts and funding problems.

However, al Shabaab has renewed its attacks on government troops and militia near the Kenyan border in the past few weeks and the Kenyan government has also blamed the militants for the kidnapping of two Western tourists from its beach resorts.

The attack also comes at a time the government has just embarked on a 12-month political road map which is supposed to lead to elections for a new parliament and president by Aug. 20 next year (Reuters, 2011)

Title: Al Shabaab Kidnap Aid Workers At Kenyan Camp
Date: October 13, 2011
Source: Daily Nation

Abstract: Two Spaniards were on Thursday kidnapped by al Shabaab gunmen at the Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa.

The victims were relief workers with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

YouTube Video

Emergency response teams comprising the police and the military were airborne minutes after the incident at Dadaab Ifo camp was reported.

But by the time of going to press, there was no indication that the Kenyan forces had tracked down the kidnappers.

This marks an escalation of cross-border raids by the Islamic militants who have so far abducted two tourists and killed another in Lamu. (READ: Kenya's security forces on the spot after attacks)

On Thursday, they struck at midday in a raid that took about 40 minutes. Officers aboard military and police helicopters complained of poor visibility because it was raining heavily.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said: “We’ve dispatched a helicopter. Another chopper from the military is also involved.

‘‘They have reported that manoeuvring is difficult because of bad weather but the operation is under way.”

A witness told the Nation by phone from Dadaab that the victims were doctors and were being driven home from work.

Shot the Driver
“The attackers, who were armed with AK-47 rifles waited for them outside. As soon as the vehicle carrying them left the gate, they blocked it, shot the driver and abducted the two foreigners to an unknown destination,” the witness, a Kenyan worker at the camp, said.

He added: “The attackers were among the refugees who have stayed here for some time. It is difficult to know when they came because we have new arrivals every day.”

He believes there are many more al Shabaab fighters in the camp pretending to be refugees.

Thursday’s incident was the third in two months, in which foreigners were abducted by gunmen and taken to lawless Somalia.

French woman Marieu Dedieu was kidnapped on Manda Island on October 1 while Mrs Judith Tebbutt, a Briton, was abducted and her husband David shot dead at Kiwayu resort in Kiunga in September.

The victims were taken away in speedboats in the earlier incidents. The latest incursion happened in spite of heightened security operation on the vast Kenya-Somalia border, on land, sea and air.

n the Indian Ocean, naval ships have been deployed in the high seas while boats from the Maritime Police Unit, Kenya Wildlife Service, the Fisheries department as well as the Navy are patrolling the coastline.

Military and police helicopters are also being used for round-the-clock aerial surveillance at the Coast (Daily Nation, 2011).

Title: Grenade Attack Man To Spend Life In Jail
Date: October 29, 2011
Source: All Africa

Abstract: Self-confessed Al-Shaabab member Elgive Bwire who confessed to launching Monday's twin grenade attacks in the city will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Twenty eight year old Bwire smiled as senior principal magistrate Grace Macharia read out the sentence at the end of the first ever criminal case to be determined in 72 hours.

She said Bwire deserved a harsh sentence as he had intentions of killing people when he launched the grenade attacks. "I concede that the offences were done with an aim of killing and the sentence will be given so at to deter others with such similar intentions," said the magistrate.

Macharia asked the Anti Terrorism Police unit to safely keep or destroy the weapons recovered at Bwire's house during a police raid on Tuesday.

The life sentence was handed for his involvement in the OTC grenade attack that caused grievous harm to Justus Makau Mulwa and Patrick Ndolo Kinyingi. He received another 15-year sentence for being a member of the Al Shabaab and engaging in criminal activity. "I have considered all the facts in this matter which I concede to, that the offences were aimed at killing the victims. So a deterrent sentence is called for not only to serve the interest of the public but also to deter other offenders," Macharia said.

She also sentenced Bwire to seven years in prison for the six charges of being in possession of firearms and ammunition without respective firearm certificates.

Bwire was arrested on Tuesday, appeared in court on Wednesday and confessed to being in possession of an AK-47 rifle, a sub machine gun, two revolvers, two automatic pistols, 717 rounds of ammunition, a sub machine gun magazine and 13 live hand grenades and was sentenced yesterday.

Bwire, who kept looking at the wall clock as the magistrate read out the sentence, was unperturbed by the sentence. He kept fiddling with the metal handcuffs which restrained his hand.

He said he was not remorseful and was happy with spending the rest of his life in prison. "I am just happy, a sad man is a remorseful man," when asked by journalists about his reaction to the sentence.

Saying he had no regrets, Bwire, who converted to Islam in 2005 sand took up the name Mogammed Seif, joked with the press as he stood next to a table where the guns, ammo and grenades had been displayed. At one point he joked with the journalists not to get too close to the table as "anything can happen!" Bwire who had refused legal representation, said he would not appeal against the sentence. "Whats done is done," he said.

The court was told how Bwire made an unsuccessful attempt to travel to Somalia soon after he converted to Islam in 2005. He was reportedly stopped at the Kenya- Somalia border and had to come back. He succeeded in travelling to Somalia through Liboi a few months later.

While in Somalia, Bwire received training by the Al Shabaab on arms, ammunitions and how to conduct attacks (including practical on-the-ground training)and was qualified in those fields before he was deployed to the field to carry out the attacks.

In August 2011, Bwire left Mogadishu and came back to Nairobi. On arrival he went to Kayole where he rented a house for himself and his family. He said he recruited other people to join the militia group.

Bwire admitted that he and an accomplice launched the grenade at Kaka bus stage along Race Course Road that killed one person and injured more than 20 others. The grenade attack came barely 18 hours after a man hurled a grenade into Mwaura's night club along Mfangano Lane, injuring 14 people. Bwire took responsibility for both attacks.

Bwire smiled for the cameras as he taken away by anti-terrorism police unit under tight security.Bwire, who has a son, studied engineering at the Kenya Polytechnic.

Two other people - Omar Muchiri alias Orima Hussein and Stephen Macharia alias Muchango who were charged in connection with the Kaka bus stage grenade attack denied the charge and also denied they were Al Shabaab members. Their case will be heard on November 4 (All Africa, 2011).


 Government and media outlets worldwide are sounding the propaganda alarm that Al Shabaab will attack western targets with the help of Al Qaeda in the near future. Al Shabaab's leader is allegedly American and they have successfully recruited Americans to join their "jihad" against America and the west. As attacks by Al Shabaab continue to rise, so too will the terror propaganda stating that terrorists from Africa are an imminent threat even from 10,000 miles away.

Somalia's Al-Shabab: A Global Or Local Movement?
Date: August 20, 2010
Source: TIME

When Somalia's al-Shabab militia claimed responsibility for the July 11 suicide bombings that killed 76 people watching soccer on TV in Uganda, the media described the event as an al-Qaeda attack on the World Cup. That's a misrepresentation, of course, but one that illustrates many of the problems with viewing and reacting to events in Somalia through a war-on-terrorism paradigm.

The Shabab certainly has a relationship with al-Qaeda, but it is an independent organization, and the Kampala bombings were motivated not by some global jihadist agenda but by the Shabab's ongoing struggle against foreign military intervention in Somalia. That primarily means Uganda, which is a key component of the African Union (A.U.) mission in Somalia. That mission props up the beleaguered remains of a government that is widely seen as corrupt, greedy, inefficient and illegitimate. The Shabab perceives that government as a foreign-imposed regime; in fact, it does not even qualify as a regime, simply the faction that controls the airport and the presidential villa — buttressed by Ugandan arms. (Read "How Did al-Shabab Emerge from the Chaos of Somalia?")

The Shabab's current credibility in Somalia is rooted in the deep unpopularity of foreign intervention, including the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of 2006-09 and the A.U. forces that went in after to keep the peace. Ethiopian gunships flew missions over Mogadishu, strafing civilian neighborhoods and returning to the airport, which was held and protected by A.U. troops. In the eyes of many Somalis, the two forces were one and the same. Indeed, Somalis sneer at Uganda's claim that its soldiers are peacekeepers. Those troops clearly take the side of the ruling faction in the civil war. The day after the soccer bombings in Uganda, the A.U. bombarded civilian neighborhoods in Mogadishu more fiercely than usual. In all of July, close to 200 civilians were killed in the capital by A.U. shelling. (A different perspective: TIME's Alex Perry on al-Shabab.)

The declared motive for the Uganda bombings was revenge for the thousands of Somali civilians killed by A.U. forces. Another motive was the Shabab's frustration at the stalemate in which it finds itself. While able to prevent the so-called government from being effective, the Shabab is not strong enough to take power outright or even to overrun a Ugandan position.

That is because the Shabab is militarily very weak. Nowhere close to a highly sophisticated jihadist network, the Shabab is composed of dedicated fighters as well as criminal gangs involved in kidnapping. While its forces operate in more territory than anybody else, they do not control much of it, on occasion meeting their match in rival Islamist militias. The Shabab leadership is also aware that attacking Somali targets may cost it popular support. Some clans in central Somalia recently expelled the Shabab from their territory; its presence in others shouldn't be confused with control. (See a brief history of al-Shabab.)

The Shabab may have been prompted to reach further afield for targets because it has reached the limits of its ability to extend control in Somalia. It is likely to be plotting attacks in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya, perhaps as part of a retributive cycle in the mistreatment of expatriate Somalis. But even its capacity to export its struggle is limited and not particularly well organized. In 2008, during the peak of its struggle against the Ethiopians, one Shabab faction couldn't guarantee the security of foreign journalists from other Shabab factions.

The Shabab certainly has some foreign fighters in its midst, and some of the group's Somali leaders earned their stripes fighting as volunteers in Afghanistan. Some of its members consider themselves part of Osama bin Laden's movement, but they don't take orders from it. In fact, a major motivation for the Shabab declaring al-Qaeda allegiance is attracting funding from al-Qaeda's Arab donors, in the same way that its local enemies use the discourse of counterterrorism to win backing from the West. Even there, the Shabab faces a problem in that its Islamist rivals in Somalia are better known and respected in Salafist circles abroad.

While some of the Shabab rank and file may think they are fighting for God and glory (much like the average U.S. Marine), their leaders are more pragmatic — and domestically focused. The leadership of the Shabab is entirely Somali, drawn from a number of different clans. Indeed, in order to survive in the chaos of Somalia, the Shabab has had to become skillful in taking advantage of clan conflicts. The primary form of identity among Somalis is the clan, and while Western policymakers might like to imagine the Somali conflict as pitting Islamist extremists against moderates, in reality it's a complex struggle of clan rivalry between merchants, traders, farmers and cattle herders, over issues including loss of property, fear of disenfranchisement, access to aid money, social inequality and political power — anything but a jihad.

Still, the Shabab has to tread carefully, even though Islam has, in some cases, begun to compete with clan identity as a trust mechanism. Clan leaders sometimes tolerate the Shabab's presence on their turf not because they identify with its goals, but to signal to the government that they're unhappy over official distribution of resources or political positions. Indeed, if all of the clan leaders turned on the Shabab, it would be reduced to a small hard-core jihadist group incapable of imposing its will on any portion of the country.

The irony is that the Shabab was originally the youth wing of a short-lived Islamist regime that promised to overcome the dominance of the warlords and the clans. Now, it has to navigate through those factional dynamics. It is quite the balancing act. Somali clans don't have one leader: influence is in the hands of numerous elders, businessmen, militia leaders and others. If too much influence adheres to one prominent clan member, the clan will split, rivalries will develop and carefully calibrated agendas come unglued. And at this point, the Shabab seems to be able to rely only on minority clans or weaker ones with grievances.

These extremely local factors make it a problem to view Somalia as a conflict between moderates and jihadis. But, oh, the Shabab does have a main foreign backer. That would be Eritrea, a decidedly secular state that is in the game because it is a mortal enemy of Ethiopia. And there is another big outside source of funding. Whatever support the Shabab receives from foreign governments and organizations, its biggest overseas backers are members of the Somali diaspora, who send support not because the Shabab emulates al-Qaeda but because its members are their cousins, friends and clansmen (TIME, 2010)

Title: The Al Shabab Threat
January 9, 2011
Source: Independent

Just before the December 20, 2010 grenade attack on a Kampala-bound bus in Nairobi, two major incidents had taken place in the Kenyan capital.

First, on the morning of December 3, 2010, attackers suspected to be ethnic Somalis threw a grenade at a police patrol vehicle in Eastleigh, a city neighbourhood. The attack killed one policeman and injured several. The police pursued and killed two people it claimed were involved in the attack.

Later in the afternoon of the same day, Kenyan traffic police stopped two people on a motorbike in Nairobi on purely traffic considerations. Instead of stopping, the riding duo shot at the police, killing two officers. The police pursued them and killed two people it claimed were involved in the attack. Both were ethnic Somalis. When their bodies were searched, intelligence sources say, police picked mobile phone handsets from them.

According to Kenyan security sources, these two incidents triggered a search and cordon operation in Nairobi that led to the arrest of 183 suspects. Apparently, when police took the handsets from the two people it had killed, they retrieved previous calls made. Upon examining telephone numbers these two handsets had been calling, they were able to break into a large network of terrorists all leading to one Al Zubairi aka Godoni, the leader of Al Shabab, the Somali militant group in Mogadishu.

According to Kenyan intelligence sources, the two people on the motor bike were also found to belong to Al Shabab. The question then was: Why was Al Shabab attacking the Kenyan police when their stated enemy was the Ugandan army and government?

According to Ugandan intelligence sources, all the planning, resourcing and strategising for the July 11, 2010 Kampala bombings, the biggest such attack ever in East Africa in which over 80 people, was done in Kenya. Once the plan was done, it was only transferred to Kampala for execution.

It is, however, suspected that since the Kenyan police was critical in helping Uganda to arrest and extradite suspects, there has been growing resentment against the government of Kenya and the police specifically in Kenya's large Muslim community generally and among ethnic Somalis specifically.

Uganda became a target of Islamic militants when it joined the US in its global war against Islamic extremism. It seems President Yoweri Museveni sought to cultivate American support by positioning himself as the promoter of US geo-strategic interests in the Great Lakes region.

It remains debatable whether the net benefits of this strategy of political consolidation on Uganda's national interest - as opposed to Museveni's personal political ambitions - exceed the gross costs to the country. Some analysts say that Uganda is paying too high a price for Museveni search for continued American support.

Burundi, the only other country to contribute troops to the African Union peace-keeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) has also been targeted by the Al Shabab. On December 31, 2010, just minutes before mid-night, a grenade suspected to be the handwork of Al Shabab exploded in the Burundi capital Bujumbura killing three people and injuring several.

In early September, Al Shabab issued a new threat against Uganda. The threat was renewed in early December but no incidents occurred over Christmas and the New Year.

X-Mas, New Year Arrests
The Independent has learnt of increased activity between the Kenyan police and intelligence services that have been working closely with their Ugandan counterparts to apprehend suspects and avert attacks.

When the two attacks against the police occurred in Nairobi, Kenyan police submitted to Ugandan intelligence all the corresponding telephone communication between the suspects in Kenya with some people in Uganda.

Two days before New Year's Day on December 29, 2010, security at the Uganda-Kenya border at Busia arrested three suspected Al shabab operatives. They included two men, Abudala Karim and Abed Jamar Mohammed, and a woman, Abudinasia Mohammed.

Earlier over the Christmas season, Uganda police arrested a number of people, among them two other women and a Somali Imam of Tawfiq Mosque in Kisenyi, a low cost suburb of Kampala city. But the most important arrest was of a man only identified as Al Sahel.

Earlier still, on December 10, 2010, when a Gateway Bus Service bus bound for Kampala from Nairobi was stopped and searched by security and materials – the Koran and Somali written scripts which when read were on radicalism- the police concluded that the materials were meant for Al Sahel.

Ugandan security sources say that upon pleading from an influential Ugandan businessman of Somali descent, Ugandan police released the Imam and the two women but retained Al Sahel. When his communications were tracked, intelligence found that Al Sahel is linked to the terrorists in Kenya; especially one Hasan Yusuf Bilari and above all, to Al Zubairi aka Godoni.

Ugandan intelligence is now putting the different pieces of the puzzle together.

Hasan Yusuf Bilari had been linked to the bombing of the Kampala bound bus in Nairobi on December 20, 2010. He had been arrested by the Kenya police alongside one Abu Logo, a prominent sheik in Mombasa.

Abu Logo was also linked by Ugandan security agencies to the July 11, 2010 bombings in Kampala. However, the Kenyan government had been reluctant to arrest him largely because Logo is politically influential and the politicians did not want to risk a political backlash from their Muslim constituents.

Secondly, intelligence sources say, Kenya has a large, wealthy and well-organised Muslim and Somali community. Whenever one Muslim is attacked, they rally behind them by organising their legal defense, financial support and even mobilising their political connections to stop the process. Thus when Uganda submitted Logo's name to the Kenyan police, little happened. But when he was linked to the killings of the Kenyan police, they had no option but to arrest the powerful sheik.

Indeed, another sheik, Mohamed Sharif, considered among the most politically powerful Muslim clerics in Kenya was also arrested in connection to growing Islamic militancy in the country. This showed that the Kenyan government was beginning to find political courage to take on politically sensitive issues.

The mid-December 2010 visit to Uganda by Kenyan Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, who is strong in Kenya's coastal region which is largely dominated by Muslims, appears tohave been partly due to the growing convergence of interests between him and President Yoweri Museveni in regard to combating Islamic extremism. Odinga and Museveni reportedly also discussed the International Criminal Court indictment of six senior Kenyan politicians.

The challenge for Odinga, experts say, is whether he can afford to politically alienate the powerful Islamic political interests in the coastal region.

Threats Real
Concern is high in Uganda's intelligence services that a terrorist attack is still possible in the country.

On July 11, 2010, the day of the terrorist bombing of Kampala, security agencies retrieved a phone handset from a suicide jacket that had failed to explode in Makindye. According to a classified memo from the Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT), the phone, a Nokia series 1208, was attached to the suicide jacket as a detonator. Security agencies retrieved the sim card and began to follow leads.

JATT has over the years of fighting terrorism developed critical phone tracking systems. This system has been successfully used to build a communication matrix for the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) terrorist group. This Matrix (see graph on page 15) allows JATT to track down the entire communication infrastructure of the rebels first, and then begin eliminating them one by one.

According to the classified memo, when the phone was retrieved, JATT went to work. They collected phone records from MTN and traced the persons whom that phone network had called. Among them was a lady called Ida Nabwami running a lock-up shop at Pioneer Mall; her phone number was found to have links with a serial number on the Makindye phone. She was the first person to be arrested and taken to JATT headquarters on Summit View, Kololo.

According to security sources, JATT soon found out that Nabwami was not directly involved in terrorism activities even though the terrorists were in contact with her. Apparently, she was employed by one Haruna Luyima, brother of Isa Ahmed Luyima, the suspected leader of the 7/11 bombings. Haruna had employed her as a shop attendant. JATT asked her for the names of the people she had been communicating with on telephone. She was cooperative and revealed all of them to security.

According to sources inside the interrogation room, JATT officers realised that she actually did not know what was taking place. She was released. Meanwhile, the Federal Investigations Bureau (FBI) officers from the United States who had come to Uganda after the bombings to help in the investigations had returned home. Upon hearing of this progress, the FBI got excited and returned to Uganda immediately.

Security had already established that the lead terrorist in the bombings was not a Somali, but a Ugandan Muslim called Issa Ahmed Luyima. The people whose names Nabwami revealed to security as calling her were brothers of Luyima. JATT positioned its agents around Pioneer Mall and Wilson Street when both of them were later picked and taken for interrogation. One by one, more terrorists were arrested and interrogated.

Many suspects were arrested. During the interrogations, security had learnt that terrorists had prepared 12 bombs but used only four. Eight were still unaccounted for.

Till today, security has failed to locate them. In his confessions one of the terrorists had confirmed that he had seen the bombs and tried some of them on his chest in a terrorist safe house in Najanankumbi along Entebbe Road in Kampala. The concern of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) has since then been to find these bombs.

Ugandan security is concerned that, according to the interrogation transcripts, the explosives had been brought into Uganda through Malaba and driven across the border in a Toyota Land Cruiser without being caught.

"This brings into question the effectiveness of border security to deter terrorism," an August Uganda Security assessment report says.

Apparently, security officials believe that the unused explosives are still inside Uganda; they are the major source of Al Shabab's confidence. Security officials say they are likely to be deployed with devastating effect.

Information from the interrogations shows that some of the terrorist involved in masterminding the bombings went missing and security has not tracked anyone of them down since September. Also, the vehicle that brought the explosives into the country was impounded from Kenya, showing that it had been able to drive back into the country. However, the driver of the vehicle is still missing as is one of the major coordinators of the attacks.

The real problem with border security in Uganda, security officials say, is that its officials are trained mainly to verify travel documents only. This is a major weakness given that terrorists often travel on valid travel documents.

"Tax officials at the border are purely concerned with revenue collection, not with national security threats," the assessment report said, "The explosives that killed so many people passed through the border without any question. It is possible that revenue officials looked at them and concluded that these items were none taxable. The challenge is to integrate tax administration and security vigilance."

Terrorists Exposed
Those arrested also revealed how the bombings were organised and the entire chronology of the bombing plan. They also revealed a lot about what they planned to do next. According to records of the interrogation, copies of which The Independent has seen, the terrorists said they had planned to hijack planes and crash them into Kampala; specifically into Entebbe International Airport, State House Entebbe, the American Embassy, the British High Commission, security installations and other diplomatic missions especially those of Western countries in Kampala.

According to the interrogation transcripts, the terrorists had planned to hijack planes coming in from Juba enroute to Nairobi and Kampala because the airport in Juba has less rigorous security measures. They said they could not succeed to hijack a plane from Kenya, Tanzania or Rwanda because of the more elaborate and effective security measures.

In a report to President Yoweri Museveni and later in their own internal security assessments, security organs argued that the challenge in fighting an asymmetric war against terror is the difficulty of being able to establish exactly when and where the terrorists would strike.

As a result, security at the airport was heavily reinforced; cars were stopped from driving up to the departure's area for fear of terrorists driving a truck into the check-in counters at the airport. Security also began checking bags of people entering the country from abroad.

It is in this context that changes within Uganda's security organisations began in earnest. President Museveni fired the Director General of Internal security organization (ISO), Amos Mukumbi, as the first step in solving the crisis in security. In an interview with The Independent at State House Entebbe in September, the President confirmed that he had fired Mukumbi because "that man had literally killed ISO, an entire national institution was almost dead. Now our challenge is to resuscitate it."

From July, funding for security agencies increased for both operations and staff welfare. Sources inside security now say morale is high.

The interrogations also revealed that terrorists are getting money from religious extremist groups across the Muslim world. Secondly, the people responsible for transferring monies were not Ugandans, not even ethnic Somalis but Kenyans. This has added a major twist to the problem as one would have expected the terrorists to be ethnic Somalis. Has Al Shabab decided to outsource terrorists or is it supported by a widespread network of Islamic extremists?

For example, Ugandan security sources say that Isa Luyima is highly "radicalised." He fought UPDF alongside Al Shabab in Mogadishu together with one Mugisha, a Rwandese by ethnicity and one of the leading Islamic militants responsible for the 7/11 bombings in Kampala. It is Mugisha who in his confession talked about the training of pilots by Al Shabab among Somalis in the Diaspora, especially Sweden, to crash planes at targets in Entebbe and Kampala.

In June 2010, Senegalese Security in Dakar had arrested four Moroccans going to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Later it was found that they were headed to the eastern town of Beni where they planned help build the capacity of the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebels there. ADF rebels belong to the Salaaf sect of Islam as do the leaders of the Al Qaeda. These pieces of information have cast significant light on the extent of the terrorist problem Uganda faces (Independent, 2011).

Title: Al Shabaab Recruited Dozens Of Americans: U.S. Report
Date: July 27, 2011
Source: Reuters

Abstract: An al Qaeda-affiliated group in Somalia, al Shabaab, has recruited more than 40 Muslim Americans to its battle in the war-ravaged country and at least 15 have been killed, a congressional report said on Wednesday.

U.S. officials have become increasingly worried about the group, particularly after capturing an al Shabaab commander who had allegedly been a liaison with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an active Yemeni group that has tried to strike the United States.

So far, al Shabaab has conducted only limited attacks outside of Somalia, notably the twin bombings in Uganda that killed 79 people watching the World Cup final last year. The group has waged a long, violent battle to control Somalia.

Republican Peter King of New York, chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, has been holding a series of hearings to probe concerns about Muslim Americans becoming radicalized and joining militant groups.

A report by his staff found that more than 40 Muslim Americans and 20 Canadians have been recruited to al Shabaab and at least 15 Americans were killed in fighting, including three suicide bombers.

"Senior U.S. counterterror officials have told the committee they are very concerned about individuals they have not identified who have fallen in with al-Shabaab during trips to Somalia, who could return to the U.S. undetected," King said during a hearing he convened on al Shabaab.

Of the more than 40 Americans who have joined the cause, as many as 21 are believed to still be at large and unaccounted for, according to the staff report.

The U.S. Justice Department has charged several people from the Somali community in Minnesota for allegedly going to Somalia to fight, as well as individuals who were accused of trying to help al Shabaab or those going to fight there.

How Serious A Threat?
Anders Folk, a former federal prosecutor from Minnesota who handled some of those cases, said that while there are doubts about the ability of al Shabaab to strike the United States, it is hard to predict whether they might do so one day.

"The difficulty is we don't know when they are going to cross the line from aspiration to operation and the reality is ... that cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty," he told the committee.

Some Democrats on the panel raised questions about how serious a threat al Shabaab was to the U.S. homeland.

"While I acknowledge that the intelligence community sees a need to monitor al Shabaab's activities, I also know that vigilance must be in direct proportion to the probability and likelihood of the threat," said Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the panel. "Al Shabaab does not appear to present any danger to this homeland."

On Tuesday, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olsen, warned that al Qaeda operatives in Somalia represented a significant threat.

"I would say that beyond al Qaeda senior leadership in Pakistan, its presence in Yemen, that probably the next most significant terrorist threat may emanate from the al Qaeda presence in Somalia in terms of the willingness and apparent ability, or at least the intent, to strike outside of that particular country," Olsen told a Senate committee (Reuters, 2011).

Title: Somali Militants Threaten Kenyan Skyscraper Attack
Date: October 18, 2011
Source: France 24

Somali militants threatened to bring down Nairobi skyscrapers after Kenya sent hundreds of troops into Somalia. The threat emanated from the same lawless country in which the al-Qaida masterminds behind 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies sought refuge.

The Kenyan invasion comes at a time when al-Shabab has been weakened by famine in its strongholds, has been pushed from the capital of Mogadishu by African Union troops and finds itself increasingly challenged by clan militias.

The U.S. has also launched airstrikes against al-Shabab leaders amid concerns over terrorist training camps in the failed state of Somalia. The men who masterminded the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania found shelter in the chaos of its 20-year-old conflict.

Al-Shabab lashed out in a news conference and an eloquent English statement on Monday, saying that the “bloody battles that will ensue as a result of this incursion will most likely disrupt the social equilibrium and imperil the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians.”

The statement urged Kenyans to tell their “saber-rattling politicians” to not let the “flames of war” spill over into Kenya, destroying the East African nation’s sense of stability.

“Your skyscrapers will be destroyed, your tourism will disappear. We shall inflict on you the same damage you inflicted on us,” Sheik Ali Mohamud Rage, a spokesman for the Islamist militia al-Shabab, said at a Mogadishu news conference.

Kenya on Sunday moved two battalions of about 800 troops each across the border in two locations, a Nairobi-based official said. Tanks, helicopters and artillery have also been deployed. The invasion is the most significant foreign deployment of the Kenyan military since independence from Britain in 1963.

The official asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, a Kenyan military spokesman, would only say there were “sufficient” troops in Somalia. He would not disclose their final objective, how long they were prepared to stay or any other details. He did say that five Kenyan military personnel were killed when their helicopter crashed near the border on Sunday.

Kenya says the invasion is retaliation for the kidnappings of four Europeans – two aid workers and two tourists – from Kenyan soil. An Englishwoman was taken last month by gunmen who killed her husband, a Frenchwoman was seized two weeks later and two Spanish aid workers were taken from a refugee camp near the border on Thursday. The attacks have already hit Kenya’s tourism industry, the country’s third biggest foreign exchange earner last year.

But Europeans have been kidnapped before, and it is still unclear if al-Shabab carried out the attacks. Analysts also say it is “highly unlikely” that Kenya could organize such a complex military operation so quickly.

“The kidnaps could be a catalyst for something in the works for a long time,” said Lauren Gelfand, the Africa and Middle East editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly.

The Kenyans had already been conducting air strikes in Somalia for the past two weeks, a Nairobi-based diplomat said. He asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Al-Shabab itself dismissed the kidnappings as a motivation.

“The allegations put forward by the Kenyan authorities with regard to the recent kidnappings are, at best, unfounded and, apart from the mere conjectural corroborations, not substantiated with any verifiable evidence,” the al-Shabab statement said.

Last year al-Shabab suicide bombers killed 76 people in Kampala, Uganda as they watched the World Cup final. The group said it was retaliation for Uganda sending troops to the African Union force supporting the weak U.N.-backed government.

Rage, the al-Shabab spokesman, raised the image of the bombings Monday.

“Remember what happened in Uganda’s capital,” he said.

So far al-Shabab has put up little resistance to the Kenyan forces, melting away into the thorny scrub. A militia supported by the Kenyans took control of Qoqani, about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the Kenyan border, late on Sunday, residents said.

Residents in the nearby town of Afmadow said al-Shabab fighters were leaving, but that families were also fleeing into the bush, preferring to sleep in the open and face wild animals than risk any fighting.

“We know there are lions in the jungle but fighting is worse,” said Abdiqadir Mohamed.

Kenya’s final objective remains unclear. It has spent the last two years pushing for a buffer zone between itself and troubled Somalia. Kenyan forces trained and equipped the so-called Jubaland militia of more than 2,000 Somalis and have frequently said they want to take Kismayo, a port city whose customs revenues are the insurgency’s biggest cash cow.

Al-Shabab’s key line of defense for Kismayo is in front of the Juba river. There are only three bridges across it strong enough to take the movement of vehicles. On Monday, bearded men wearing masks drove around Kismayo, using megaphones to urge residents to join the fight, residents said. The insurgents have a history of kidnapping children to use as child soldiers.

Families in Kismayo said they were already fleeing, fearing forced recruitment.

“Every family is running away with his children,” said resident Nuh Abdi. “Otherwise al-Shabab will conscript them for fighting” (France 24, 2011).

Title: Al-Shabaab – A Looming Threat
Date: October 5, 2011
Source: CNN

The assassin was dropped off into the bitter cold by a taxi near the home of his target in Aarhus, Denmark's second largest city. His task for the night of January 1, 2010 was simple: kill Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist responsible in 2005 for a controversial depiction of the Prophet Mohammed. Armed with an ax and a knife, the would-be killer approached the front door and shattered the glass, setting off an alarm which alerted Westergaard and police to the intrusion. Westergaard grabbed his five-year-old granddaughter and rushed with her to a specially built safe room before the killer could reach them. When the police arrived minutes later the assassin lunged at them with his weapons but they managed to overpower him by firing shots into his left hand and right leg and then took him into custody.

The man they arrested - Mohamed Geele, 28, a Somali who first moved to Denmark in 1995 and who this February was convicted of the attack - was no amateur homegrown terrorist. He had already been under observation for an extended period of time by Danish security services because of his suspected close links to the Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab. Even though the Somali group distanced itself from the attack in the hours after the attack, Danish investigators established that Geele had close ties to Al-Shabaab and senior al Qaeda leaders in east Africa, and had emerged as a hard-nosed player in the group during time he spent in Kenya in the 2000s.

The investigation indicated that what Western counter-terrorism officials had long feared had indeed become a reality. The Somali militant group – in control of more than half the war-torn east African country – had embraced al Qaeda's global Jihad and was now actively plotting attacks in the West.

Swedish authorities are investigating whether Al-Shabaab had any connection to four men arrested in Gothenburg on September 10 who were allegedly plotting to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks at an art gallery in the city. Three of the suspects were Swedish residents of Somali descent and one was of Iraqi descent. According to Swedish and U.S. counter-terrorism sources, it is possible the suspects were merely inspired by Al-Shabaab propaganda.

In November 2010 Al-Shabaab explicitly threatened Vilks in a propaganda video subtitled in English and Swedish. "We will catch you wherever you are," said Abu Zaid Sweden, a Swedish-Somali member of the group who was filmed in the stands of a dilapidated sports arena with bursts of gunfire audible in the background. "In whatever hole you are hiding – know what awaits you – as it will be nothing but this: slaughter," as he simulated slitting his throat. He also urged Al-Shabaab's supporters in the West to join them in Somalia and to carry out an attack on Vilks if they could. "If you can kill this dog called Lars Vilks then you will receive a great reward from Allah," he promised them.

Western Reach
Such messages are especially concerning to Western counter-terrorism officials, because Al-Shabaab's propaganda, amongst the most sophisticated and savvy of any Jihadist group, has resonated amongst a small but significant fringe of the 1.5 million Somali diaspora community. Radicalized Somalis have been implicated in a string of terrorism cases in the United States, Canada, the UK, Australia, and across Europe.

But it is in Scandinavia that counter-terrorism officials have recently had most cause for concern. In the 1990s an open-door policy by Nordic countries led to tens of thousands of Somalis refugees from the war-torn country settling across Scandinavia, many of them in Denmark and Sweden. It has been a difficult process integrating them into mainstream society and a radical fringe has emerged in violent opposition to the West.

There is perhaps nobody who has more closely tracked Islamist militancy in the Somali community in Scandinavia than Michael Taarnby, one of Denmark's leading experts on Al-Shabaab and a Research Associate at the University of Central Florida. He has conducted extensive field research in Scandinavia and Somalia over the last decade and the trends he sees concern him profoundly.

"There is a significant radicalization problem in the Somali Diaspora community in Denmark and Sweden," Taarnby told CNN, "and intelligence services have very little understanding of what's going on-recruiting informants has been an uphill battle because Somalis don't trust them to protect them."

Taarnby says that well informed sources in the Somali diaspora community tell him that there are around 300 to 800 hardcore Shabaab sympathizers in Denmark out of a total Somali population of 18,000. "These hardliners have been harassing Somalis who do not share their view and just want to get on with their lives. There is nasty infighting going on," he told CNN.

Taarnby says that the attempted assassination of Kurt Westergaard woke up many in the Somali community to the threat of Islamist extremism. But he says their efforts have not yet turned the tide of young Somalis being indoctrinated by Al-Shabaab's propaganda videos. "Those attracted are usually quite young - there's the usual issue of a clash of cultures - of being stuck between east Africa and Scandinavia and not knowing where they belong," Taarnby told CNN.

Some young radicalized Somalis are gravitating away from mainstream Somali mosques to mosques associated with radical preachers attended by hard-line Islamists of all stripes. "There's a lot more cross-fertilization going on in radical circles," Taarnby told CNN, "and this may explain why an Iraqi was arrested along with the Somalis in Gothenburg."

Unlike al Qaeda or its affiliate in Yemen – which in recent years have only been able to recruit Western militants after they have already traveled to Jihadist fronts on their own initiative – Al-Shabaab has recruiters directly working for it in several Western countries who not only are trying to persuade young Somalis to join the group in Somalia, but are also facilitating getting them there, according to Western counter-terrorism officials.

In recent years an estimated 40 young Somalis have been recruited from the United States in this manner, many from the Minneapolis area where there is a sizable Somali community. Dozens of others have been recruited from other Western countries. Somalis living in Canada have grown so fearful of youngsters being recruited that that some have reportedly started hiding their children's passports.

"For young Somalis it is culturally difficult to refuse to meet someone with status in the community, especially if they are linked to organizations in the homeland and have combat experience. Some of these young Somalis are also adventurous and want to be Jihadist James Bonds. The recruiters lure them in by making fighting with Al-Shabaab sound like an adventure with friends with some shooting of AK-47s." Taarnby told CNN.

Militant Pipeline
An organized facilitation network transports Western recruits into Somalia, says Taarnby. Most arrive in Kenya's capital, now home to a quarter million Somalis, where Al-Shabaab has an extensive presence. There they are housed in safe houses for around a month and then transported in 4-by-4 pickup trucks northwards across the lightly patrolled border into Somalia. What happens when they arrive in Somalia, he says, is less clear.

But what is plain, he says, is the reality facing many Western recruits is very different from the message they hear in Minneapolis or Malmo. Unlike local fighters, Al-Shabaab commanders do not have to worry about alienating clan leaders if they send them off to carry out suicide bombings, says Taarnby. A significant proportion of Western recruits, he says, have taken this path. According to Taarnby, several Westerners objecting to becoming cannon fodder have later been found with bullets in their head, like a group that recently arrived from Canada.

Some of the western volunteers are valued by Al-Shabaab, according to Taarnby, because they are more educated than most Somalis and have technical skills in short supply in the country - for example in operating computers. One Western jihadist in particular - Omar Hammami, a 27 year old Syrian-American from Alabama - rose to a prominent position in the group.

Somalia experts believe that recruits from the diaspora have been crucial to the evolution of Al-Shabaab from a gun-totting militia to a political force in Somalia.

Taarnby says it's unclear what level of training Shabaab's Western recruits receive in Somalia. Most of the group's rank and file recruits receive only very rudimentary fire-arms training. Taarnby says there is no clear evidence that Western recruits are getting the sort of bomb-making training that al Qaeda has provided Western militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"In some terrorist training camps, AQ-affiliated foreign fighters led the training and indoctrination of the recruits," the U.S. State Department warned in an August 2011 report on terrorist trends in Somalia in 2010. Somali experts say the group operates at least two large camps in Somalia on which there is little open source information.

Counter-terrorism officials across the West are now worried that the group may use Westerners for attacks back in their home countries. In July, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King stated that "Al-Shabaab now has more capability than ever to strike the U.S. homeland," adding that "as many as two dozen Muslim-Americans with Al-Shabaab - who in many cases were trained by top al Qaeda leaders - remain unaccounted for."

British authorities warned in July, "Over the past 12 months, the threat to UK interests from terrorists in Yemen and Somalia has significantly increased. People from the UK are also travelling to these countries to engage in terrorist-related activity; some are returning to the UK to plan and conduct terrorist operations."

Setbacks in Somalia
In July, after an offensive by Somali and African Union forces, Al-Shabaab started pulling fighters away from central Mogadishu and have since vacated most neighborhoods of the city. The withdrawal has been seen as turning point in the struggle against Al-Shabaab in the country. For years a fragile transitional federal government (known by its acronym TFG) and AMISOM, the African Union's peace-support forces, had been boxed into just a few city blocks of the seaside capital by Shabaab fighters. A failed offensive by Al-Shabaab earlier in the year in which hundreds of its fighters were ordered to launch suicidal frontal charges had left the group weakened.

Al-Shabaab, however, has far from given up designs on the capital. On Tuesday a truck filled with explosives barreled into a government complex in the heart of Somalia's restive capital killing dozens in an attack authorities have blamed on the militant group.

Taarnby's sources in Mogadishu tell him that Al-Shabaab are still active in two or three neighborhoods in the capital, and that they will likely regroup and return. Reports of increased in-fighting amongst factions that had united to push out Al-Shabaab have not been an encouraging sign.

And the militia still has tight control over most of central and southern Somalia, where it controls the strategically and commercially vital port of Kismaayo, from where it collects lucrative customs tolls and fees.

The famine in Somalia, which has been most acute in southern Somalia, appears however to be starting to take a toll on Al-Shabaab. There are reports of rising anger against the group in the south because of the group's refusal to let in international aid. According to Somali experts the famine has also hurt Al-Shabaab's bottom line by making it more difficult for the group to raise money within Somalia. According to U.S. authorities the group raises most of its income internally and has in recent years raised $70-100m per year from taxation and extortion, according a report released by the U.N. last July.

The 2008 designation by the U.S. of Shabaab as a terrorist group has also reduced remittances sent to the group from overseas, according to Somalia analysts. Western counter-terrorism agencies have also cracked down on financial donations by Western-based sympathizers of the group. On Monday Amina Farah Ali, a 35 year old American-Somali woman, went on trial in Minneapolis charged with trying to send the group $11,000 she had raised by soliciting money door to door and through teleconferences. She is the first of twenty individuals charged with fundraising or recruiting for Shabaab in the FBI's long-running investigation in Minnesota to go to trial.

The revenue Shabaab receives from Somali pirates has been exaggerated by some, Taarnby says. Though the group takes a cut when it can from the estimated $150m in ransoms and illicit revenue obtained by pirates each year operating off the Somali coast, there is no clear evidence the group has ever become directly involved in piracy or is directly cooperating with pirates.

There are also reports of in-fighting between Al-Shabaab commanders who disagree over the need to continue taxing southern Somalis during the famine. Historically Al-Shabaab commanders from the north have been less sensitive to the needs of locals in the south than their southern counterparts and are viewed by locals as foreigners, according to Somalia analysts.

Al-Shabaab has won few friends in territory that it controls. Unused to governing, it has resorted to brutally imposing Taliban-like restrictions on the local population, alienating many. A popular backlash against the group in the south - along the lines of the Anbar awakening in Iraq – is a real possibility, according to Somalia analysts. While there are reports that the group has opened several of its own aid camps and has been cooperating with charities from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, the famine appears to have significantly dented its support.

According to Ken Menkhaus, an American expert on Al-Shabaab, and the author of the 2004 book "Somalia: State Collapse and the Threat of Terrorism," the militia group reached the peak of its power in 2008 and has been in decline ever since. "Their draconian interpretations have appalled Somalis," he told a conference organized by the New America Foundation in April, "Whole clans have taken the decision to distance themselves from Al-Shabaab."

Global Jihadist Ambitions
Some experts believe that setbacks for Al-Shabaab in Somalia may make the group more likely to plot attacks outside Somalia, including against the West - in frustration and in a calculated attempt to boost their recruitment and prestige. "They are more dangerous when weak and their weakness now worries me. I think it's in their interest to regionalize or globalize the conflict," Menkhaus stated.

In July 2010 the group carried out a trio of deadly bombing in Kampala, Uganda killing more than 70 - its first attack outside Somalia, in retaliation, it claimed, for Uganda's deployment of peace support forces in Somalia.

Al-Shabaab's loose structures makes it difficult for counter-terrorism agencies to decipher its global terrorist ambitions. Somalia analysts say the militia is a messy constellation of different factions with differing agendas, and no one leader is in absolute control.

"It's difficult to know how to rank Al-Shabaab as a threat. It's not clear how serious they are about attacking the West and what sort of networks they really have. There are too many unknowns and that's what really scares counter-terrorism officials in Europe," Taarnby told CNN.

At his presentation at the New America Foundation, Menkhaus identified three main strands within Al-Shabaab: those seeking to establish an Islamist state, those who saw the country as a base for global jihad, and a third group that had degenerated into feeding off the war economy and favored the status quo.

For years, the leading light of the global Jihadist faction was Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, a Kenyan al Qaeda terrorist wanted for years for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. According to Taarnby, Jihadist websites have also boasted he was the al Qaeda operative who orchestrated a failed surface-to-air missile attack on an Israeli passenger jet in Mombasa, Kenya in 2002. His death in a shootout in Mogadishu in June was a big blow to the Somali group's capabilities to carry out complex operations outside the country. "He was the gatekeeper to al Qaeda Central and was believed to have an extensive network across east Africa, including safe houses," Taarnby told CNN, "and the question is who can now replace him?"

Al Qaeda itself has struggled to establish a base of operations in Somalia. In the 1990s Osama Bin Laden's group made a concerted effort to build up operations there but found Somalia a difficult place to navigate because of its complex tribal structures and the chaotic situation on the ground, realities which have changed little since then.

Taarnby believes recent setbacks for the group may make it more cautious in plotting terrorist attacks against the West. "They need to re-organize, they need to respond to the famine, they need to respond to the fact they've been evicted from Mogadishu - they may not want to get too adventurous right now," Taarnby told CNN, "they are more likely to focus on 'do-ables' like the attack in Kampala or assisting Nigerian group Boko Haram."

Regional Expansion
This would mean the group in the short term could be focusing more on expanding its operational reach in Africa. Nigerian newspapers have reported that the suspected planner of Boko Haram's deadly suicide car bomb attack on a UN building in Abuja in August recently received training with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. According to Taarnby, Al-Shabaab bomb-making capabilities took a leap forward around 2009 after al Qaeda in Iraq operatives shared their technical expertise with the group. "The same devices being used in Iraq started turning up in Mogadishu. Around 80% of AMISOM's deaths have been from such devices," he told CNN.

Western counter-terrorism officials have recently expressed concern over cooperation between Al-Shabaab and other militant groups in Africa. In September the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) warned that Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM )were trying to more closely synchronize their efforts to launch attacks on U.S and Western interests, but had yet to show a significant capability to launch attacks outside their homelands.

In recent weeks Al-Shabaab has been linked to two kidnappings of Westerners in northern Kenya, indicating that elements of the group may be intensifying their efforts to target Westerners in east Africa. On Saturday ten Somali gunmen kidnapped a French woman from her home in a resort in northern Kenya early Saturday, near where a Briton was seized and her husband killed last month, according to Kenyan authorities, who blamed Al-Shabaab.

One of the most disturbing scenarios of all, according to Taarnby, is if cooperation deepens in the coming months between Al-Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) in Yemen, just a short distance across the Arabian sea.

For some time Western counter-terrorism officials have been concerned about an emerging alliance between the two groups. Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali citizen captured by U.S. forces in April and interrogated aboard a U.S. navy ship for two months before being taken to New York to face terrorism charges, had been in direct contact with Anwar al Awlaki and had attempted to broker a weapons deal between the groups according to the indictment in his case. Warsame has pleaded not guilty.

There have been unconfirmed reports that hundreds of Somali fighters have taken part in recent fighting in the south of Yemen after making the short trip over the Arabian Sea and disembarking at ports under Islamist control.

According to Taarnby both AQAP and Al-Shabaab have a strong interest in deepening cooperation. "The Yemenis have all the guns you could dream of, and also funds from donors in the Gulf, but what AQAP needs if they want to establish an Islamic emirate is manpower. The Somalis have this in abundance but what they need is weapons and cash."

"If such an alliance took root, the Horn of Africa would really then be a new front in the global war on terrorism," Taarnby told CNN. In recent months the United States has stepped up its ability to launch drone attacks in Somalia and Yemen, killing senior AQAP cleric Anwar al Awlaki in a drone strike Friday.

The Threat to the West
Taarnby expects the group to carefully weigh the cost and benefit of launching terrorist plots against the West. "They know their fundraising and recruiting network in the Somali diaspora will take a blow if they launch an attack." Taarnby says that Al-Shabaab's cost-benefit calculation is illustrated by the fact it has not launched any attacks in Nairobi. "They could easily tear apart Nairobi but they've done nothing there at all because they realize this is their golden egg," he told CNN.

With regard to Scandinavia, Taarnby believes the group has decided that assassinating the cartoonists would provide a sufficient boost to the group's prestige to be worth such a backlash. "The cartoon controversy really agitated Shabaab. They go on about them much more than any other Jihadist group. They are really carrying the torch on this –it's possible Somali militants in Scandinavia channeled their anger back to the group in some way," Taarnby told CNN.

Menkhaus, the American expert on Al-Shabaab, agrees that there are constraints on Al-Shabaab when it comes to launching attacks in the West because any international law enforcement crackdown which affects powerful Somali interests and which further reduces the flow of remittances will likely see a violent reaction against the group. "In that case they won't have to worry about what we do to them but what the Somali people will do to them," Menkhaus stated, "and I think that's one of our great advantages in trying to outflank this group" (CNN, 2011).

Title: U.S.: Imminent Terror Attack In Kenya Possible
Date: October 22, 2011
Source: USA Today

The U.S. Embassy is warning that an imminent terrorist attack in Kenya is possible.

The warning said likely targets include places that foreigners congregate, including shopping malls and night clubs. The embassy issued the warning from what it called credible information.

The U.S. did not specify who might carry out such an attack, but the warning comes a week after Kenyan troops pushed into Somalia to attack al-Shabab militants. Al-Shabab carried out attacks in July in Uganda which killed 76 people (USA Today, 2011).


Since Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab are terror arms of the CIA, they must publicly appear that they are at war with each other in order to give the perception that they are not one and the same entity. Although these terror groups are organized and funded by the CIA, some of the dirty work (killing) is outsourced to private corporations such as Blackwater Xe. As the political situation in Africa continues to intensify, more killings by the CIA against Al Shabaab will occur. 

Title: Blackwater/Xe Mercs Arrive In Somalia, Al-Shabab Says
Date: January 12, 2010
Source: Press TV

At least 18 people have been killed in clashes between rival factions in southern and central Somalia, and there are reports that Blackwater/Xe mercenaries have entered the country.

A battle broke out between the pro-government Ahlu Sunnah militia and Hizbul Islam fighters in the town of Baladwayne on Sunday and went well into Monday, during which at least 13 people lost their lives, witnesses said.

In addition, five people were killed when Hizbul Islam fighters engaged Al-Shabab fighters in the town of Dhobley near the Kenyan border, Reuters reported.

There are also allegations of US-sponsored bomb plots in the capital.

The bombings will be carried out in order to create a pretext to launch a campaign against Al-Shabab, a spokesman of the group, Sheikh Ali Mohammed Rage, told Reuters.

"We have discovered that US agencies are going to launch suicide bombings in public places in Mogadishu," he told reporters. "They have tried it in Algeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan… We warn of these disasters. They want to target Bakara Market and mosques, then use that to malign us."

At a meeting with tribal elders in Mogadishu on Monday, the Al-Shabab spokesman said that mercenaries of the Xe private security firm — formerly known as Blackwater — have arrived in the Somali capital, the Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu reported on Monday.

Blackwater/Xe mercenaries plan to carry out bombings in Mogadishu in order to accuse Al-Shabab of being the culprits in the attacks, the Al-Shabab spokesman added.

He went on to say that the Blackwater/Xe mercenaries have already recruited many lackeys to help them carry out bombings targeting prominent individuals and innocent civilians.

The Al-Shabab spokesman also told the tribal elders that a system based on Islam should be established in Somalia (Press TV, 2010).

Title: Somali 'Cleric Spying For CIA' Is Killed By Al-Shabab
Date: January 31, 2011
Source: BBC

A Somali man accused of spying for the CIA has been killed by firing squad in the capital, Mogadishu.

Ahmed Ali Hussein, 44, was also accused of belonging to a sect opposed to Islamist group al-Shabab, which runs much of southern and central Somalia.

An al-Shabab judge said Mr Hussein had admitted helping the US for the past 16 months.

Correspondents say those who criticise al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, are often accused of spying and killed.

Meanwhile, at least six people have been killed in fighting in Mogadishu between pro-government forces loyal to different commanders.

Journalist Mohamed Sheikh Nor says Mr Hussein was chained and riddled with bullets as hundreds of people were forced to watch the execution.

Al-Shabab said Mr Hussein was a cleric with the Ictizam sect which opposes al-Shabab policies but the group did not confirm this.

Judge Sheikh Omar said Mr Hussein had admitted helping the CIA find information about those behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which killed 224 people.

US officials have long accused al-Shabab of links to those behind the twin attacks.

Last week, Tanzanian Ahmed Ghailani, 36, was sentenced to life for conspiracy over the bombings.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government for 20 years - al-Shabab is battling the UN-backed administration for control of Mogadishu (BBC, 2011).


In order to gain plausible deniability prior to a terror attack by Al Shabaab against America, the U.S. government must at least act like they are at war with the alleged terror group. The war against Al Shabaab is mostly fought in the media as the various incidents of drone strikes are reported in western media outlets.

US Drones Kill 17 Al-Shabab Fighters
Date: September 17, 2011
Press TV

Seventeen al-Shabab fighters have been killed in drone attacks by the US military that targeted their bases in southern Somalia, Press TV reports.

On Friday, three high-ranking members and 14 fighters of the al-Shabab militant group were killed when the US military used remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles in an attack on Dhoobley town, which is located near Kismayo, the capital of the lower Juba region and a port city about 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu, a Press TV correspondent reported on Saturday.

On Thursday, nine civilians were killed and 30 others wounded in US airstrikes on the outskirts of Kismayo.

Somalia is the sixth country where the US military has used remote-controlled aircraft to conduct deadly airstrikes.

The United States has also used drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia remains one of the countries generating the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world (Press TV, 2011).

U.S. Drones Strike Al Shabaab In Somalia
Date: September 26, 2011
Source: Global Post

The United States launched drone strikes against the anti-government group Al Shabaab in southern Somalia this weekend.

An official from the Al Qaeda-allied militant group and local residents confirmed three targets were hit in the southern port city Kismayo, Reuters reported. The city is currently controlled by Al Shabaab.

A surveillance drone crashed in Kismayo, though reports differ on whether it was shot down by militants or crashed due to a technical glitch.

The U.S. embassy in Nairobi has so far declined to comment on the recent series of attacks.

Kismayo is of key importance to Al Shabaab because the city provides taxes to the militant group for its operations and is a gateway for goods reaching areas under their control, according to the BBC.

Renewed violence has plagued the famine-stricken country for the past four years, when Al Shabaab began its insurgency against the West-backed ruling government.  Since then, more than 21,000 people have been killed in the fighting.

Though drone strikes are far more extensive in Pakistan and Afghanistan, attacks have been reported in Somalia before. In July this year Al Jazeera reported the first strike against Al Shabaab in East Africa, which wounded two leaders of the militant group.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week the United States is escalating its drone war in East Africa. New installations in Ethiopia and Seychelles will launch drones into Somalia and Yemen to strike militant groups based there.

U.S. officials have warned that the success of the U.S. drone campaign in Pakistan might push Al Qaeda’s base of operations west to the Horn of Africa (Global Post, 2011).

Title: 28 Civilians Die In Battle For Mogadishu
Date: October 26, 2011
Source: Press TV

At least 28 civilians have been killed and tens of others injured after African Union forces and al-Shabab fighters turned on each other and clashed in war-ravaged Somali capital of Mogadishu, Press TV reported.

Bitter clashes broke out between al-Shabab fighters and African Union (AU) soldiers in Mogadishu's northern neighborhoods of Dayniile and Gupta as well as Hodan neighborhood in southern Mogadishu.

Over 45 people were also injured as the two sides exchanged heavy gunfire, and barrages of mortar shells were fired.

Somali ambulance workers transported the injured to nearby hospitals.

Thousands of local residents are also fleeing for their lives in the wake of bloody battles in the Somali capital.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

The Somali government has struggled for years to restore security, but efforts have not yet yielded results in the nation (Press TV, 2011).


As expected, Al Shabaab has been written about extensively in think-tanks and government white papers. As Al Shabaab prepares to make its grand entrance into the world with spectacular new terror attack in America, the white papers are there to say "we told you so". How the authors of these white papers know intament details of Al Shabaab such as their fighter’s passport status, group’s numbers, goals, ambitions, funding, and other insider information is amazing, unless of course they are running the group themselves.

Al Shabaab’s Foreign Threat To Somalia
Date: Spring 2011
Foreign Policy Research Institute

This article focuses on the threat to Somalia by al Shabaab (The Youth), an extremist organization that controls most of southern and central Somalia. It learned its strategy and tactics from al Qaeda and the Taliban and relies heavily on a relatively small number of foreign fighters, most of whom are Somalis with foreign passports from the large Somali diaspora. The non-Somali contingent probably numbers only about 200 to 300, although it brings battlefield experience from Afghanistan and Iraq and provides al Shabaab with expertise in bomb making, remote-controlled explosions, suicide bombing and assassinations. Some of the foreigners occupy key positions in al Shabaab. The connection between al Shabaab and al Qaeda is growing stronger but has not yet reached the level of operational control by al Qaeda. Al Shabaab’s draconian tactics, which are imported from outside and are anathema to most Somalis, and its foreign component may be its undoing.

The employment of foreign fighters by al Shabaab is both a strength and a weakness. In some cases, they bring specialized skills such as bomb making, battlefield experience and fluency in English. On the other hand, al Shabaab attracted much of its support by condemning the engagement in Somalia of foreign troops from Ethiopia and the African Union. Somalis generally do not want foreigners involved in their political life. Somalis from the diaspora who are supporting al Shabaab are probably fully accepted by indigenous Somalis. Non-Somalis, on the other hand, are looked upon with disapproval and may become the Achilles’ heel of al Shabaab. The skills provided by foreign fighters are likely to diminish over time as al Shabaab develops these same skills within its Somali supporters. Even now, al Shabaab makes every effort to minimize the overt role of non-Somalis in the organization. When al Shabaab militia, for example, took control of Afmadow District in the Lower Juba, the visible fighters were all Somalis. Behind the scenes, however, were several non-Somalis who made the key decisions.

A huge question, for which we do not yet have an answer, is the degree to which al Shabaab’s draconian tactics such as suicide bombings, occasional beheadings, forced marriages between Somali women and foreign fighters, etc. will alienate a critical mass of Somalis. In 2010, during the holy month of Ramadan, al Shabaab even stepped up its reign of terror against the TFG and African Union forces in Mogadishu. In October 2010, al Shabaab deputy commander in chief, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, reportedly sent his Rahanweyn clan fighters from Mogadishu to his stronghold in Baidoa in south-central Somalia over disagreements with Godane. However, speaking from a mosque in Baidoa, Robow subsequently denied any rift within al Shabaab. As of late 2010, there was no clarification of Robow’s status. If the initial report is accurate, however, it would be a major blow to al Shabaab. Although Somalis are speaking out increasingly against imported foreign tactics, the situation has not reached a point where it endangers al Shabaab’s control over nearly all of southern and central Somalia. Al Shabaab filled a political vacuum and there is not yet any equivalent, opposing force to challenge its control.

One recent hypothesis suggests that al Shabaab wants to maintain the status quo rather than capture all of Mogadishu and then be saddled with responsibility for governing Somalia. It is true that al Shabaab has subcontracted governance to local groups in many but not all of the areas that it controls. While preferring the status quo is an interesting concept, the evidence does not support this hypothesis. Al Shabaab continues to make every effort to dislodge from Mogadishu African Union troops, the only military force that permits the TFG to maintain its presence in the capital. To underscore its intentions, al Shabaab conducted suicide bombings in Kampala in an effort to force Uganda to remove its troops from the African Union force in Mogadishu. In August and September 2010, al Shabaab initiated major attacks, without success, to seize parts of Mogadishu under the control of African Union forces. These are not the actions of an organization satisfied with the status quo. Rather, they reflect a desire to control as much of Somalia, and probably beyond, as it can seize. Perhaps a more important question is whether al Shabaab’s priority is to take political power in Somalia or transform Somali society into a strict Islamic state. Different al Shabaab leaders probably have different priorities, but for the time being the organization seems committed to achieving both goals (Foreign Policy Research Institute, 2011).

Al Shabaab
Date: August 10, 2011
Source: CFR

Al-Shabaab (aka the Harakat Al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin, al-Shabab, Al-Shabaab, the Youth, Mujahidin al-Shabaab Movement, Mujahideen Youth Movement, Mujahidin Youth Movement), is an Islamic organization that controls much of southern Somalia, excluding the capital, Mogadishu. It has waged an insurgency against Somalia's transitional government and its Ethiopian supporters since 2006. Originally the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union, the group that controlled Somalia prior to the country's invasion by Ethiopian forces, al-Shabaab leaders have claimed affiliation with al-Qaeda since 2007.

Though most analysts believe al-Shabaab's organizational links to al-Qaeda are weak, in February 2008 the United States added the group to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. In what marked the group's first major attack outside of Somalia, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for twin bombings that killed more than seventy people in Kampala, Uganda (NYT) during the World Cup final on July 11, 2010. The 2011 widespread famine in southern Somalia weakened the group, some analysts say. Rashid Abdi, International Crisis Group's Horn of Africa analyst, says many in Somalia, even former supporters of the group, saw them as being culpable in the crisis because they prevented aid groups from helping needy populations in time. In 2009, al-Shabaab banned some international aid agencies, including the UN World Food Program, from southern Somalia. Though they reversed this decision in July 2011 after the famine, restrictions remain (Telegraph).
Leadership and Divisions
Al-Shabaab is nominally led by Sheikh Mohamed Mukhtar Abdirahman "Abu Zubeyr," though experts say a core group of senior leaders guide its actions. The group is divided into three geographical units: Bay and Bokool regions, led by Mukhtar Roobow "Abu Mansur," the group's spokesman; south-central Somalia and Mogadishu; and Puntland and Somaliland. A fourth unit, which controls the Juba Valley, is led by Hassan Abdillahi Hersi "Turki," who is not considered to be a member of al-Shabaab, but is closely aligned with it. These regional units "appear to operate independently of one another, and there is often evidence of friction between them," says a December 2008 UN Monitoring Group report.

Estimates of al-Shabaab's size vary, but analysts generally agree that the group contains several thousand fighters, many of whom are from the Hawiye clan. The group has been able to expand its footprint in Somalia with relatively small numbers for two reasons: Somalia hasn't had a central government since 1991; and many of the clan warlords that filled the power vacuum have proven willing to cooperate with al-Shabaab, at least in Somalia's south. Al-Shabaab has engaged in forced recruitment among Somalis, so it's unclear how many members of the group truly believe the organization's ideology. Experts say the number of rank-and-file members is less important than the number of hardcore ideological believers, which could range between three hundred and eight hundred individuals.

Foreign fighters have traveled to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, as have Somalis from the United Kingdom and the United States. "We have seen an increasing number of individuals here in the United States become captivated by extremist ideologies or causes," said White House National Security Adviser John Brennan in a May 2010 speech, noting, among others, five Somali-Americans that left Minnesota to fight in Somalia. U.S.-born Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki joined al-Shabaab in 2007 and has become the recognizable face of the group (NYT), starring in propaganda videos that have helped recruit hundreds of foreign fighters, according to intelligence officials. In June 2010, two U.S. citizens from New Jersey (CSMonitor) were arrested at New York's JFK Airport after allegations that they planned to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabaab. The arrests came amid a growing trend in which radicalized Americans have become involved in terrorism-related activities.

Some experts say there are deep divisions within al-Shabaab. In a February 2009 report for the Enough Project, Somalia expert Ken Menkhaus writes that, "The al-Shabaab faces multiple internal divisions--over clan, leadership, tactics, and ideology--which a new unity government can exploit to convince parts of the al-Shabaab to abandon the movement and gradually outmaneuver, marginalize, and defeat the core hardliners." Each unit of al-Shabaab is led by individuals who must combine their ideological aims with pragmatic considerations of different clan-based agendas. It's important to "focus on what they do, not what they say," writes Menkhaus.

Roland Marchal, senior research fellow of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, says that reports of increasing divisions within al-Shabaab are overstated. They are "based on the assumption that they were once united," he notes. However, he says the organization must decide "to what extent they want to accommodate the Somali society and to what extent they want to keep the ideology they have developed."
Tactics and Motivations
Al-Shabaab's tactics have evolved over time. When it began its insurgency in late 2006, it used classic guerrilla tactics--suicide bombings, shootings, and targeted assassinations--to oppose the Somali government and what it perceives as its allies, from aid groups to the Ethiopian military to African Union peacekeepers. Much of the violence was concentrated in Mogadishu; battles between the Ethiopian military and al-Shabaab in August 2007 caused roughly four hundred thousand people to flee the city.

In 2008, al-Shabaab began to reach out to the Somali public with a series of town visits. A December 2008 International Crisis Group report describes these outings as "well choreographed, with clerics addressing public rallies and holding talks with local clan elders." Al-Shabaab would hand out food and money to the poor, give criminals quick trials with "mobile sharia courts," and attempt to settle local disputes. As the group sought to take control of towns in southern Somalia, it began to use political strategies as well. Before a particular town was captured, insurgents had meetings with local clan leaders to convince them that their intentions were good. By February 2009, al-Shabaab controlled most of southern Somalia, as depicted in this map by the Long War Journal. However, the group continued to launch suicide attacks. In February 2009, al-Shabaab killed eleven Burundian soldiers in the deadliest attack on AU peacekeepers since their deployment and engaged in heavy fighting that killed at least fifteen people in Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab carried out twin bombings in Uganda--another country participating in Somalia peacekeeping efforts--in July 2010. The attacks point to an internationalization of al-Shabaab's terrorist activities, which could destabilize East Africa (Atlantic) and unleash repercussions abroad.

Experts say al-Shabaab's methods and ideologies aren't necessarily consistent with each another. According to Marchal of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, "al-Shabaab has tried to evolve from a group that has a purely militaristic approach to a group that pretends to rule and wage jihad at the same time." On the one hand, the group espouses a strict form of Islam, Salafi/Wahhabism, and websites for the group claim to be waging jihad against infidels. On the other hand, al-Shabaab has extended its political power in southern Somalia through pragmatic means, not radicalism. It has imposed sharia law in some of the towns it controls, such as Baidoa, but "imposing the puritanical brand of Islam it espouses . . . would quickly alienate many Somalis," says the International Crisis Group report.
Links to al-Qaeda
When the United States placed al-Shabaab on its list of foreign terrorist organizations in February 2008, it claimed the group has an allegiance with al-Qaeda. Specifically, it said that senior al-Shabaab leaders trained in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda. Experts say there are links between individual al-Shabaab leaders and individual members of al-Qaeda, but any organizational linkage between the two groups is weak, if it exists at all (many experts note that al-Qaeda operates in a disaggregated manner--so linking self-proclaimed members of al-Shabaab to self-proclaimed members of al-Qaeda would not necessarily indicate that the two groups are coordinating with one another in a systemic way). There is evidence that foreign fighters have trained al-Shabaab members on the use of weapons and how to construct roadside bombs. But Marchal says many of these foreign fighters are not part of al-Qaeda.

The strongest tie between al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda seems to be ideological. In September 2008, a senior al-Shabaab leader released a video in which he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and called for Muslim youth to come to Somalia. In February 2009, Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda's second-in-command, released a video that began by praising al-Shabaab's seizure of the Somali town of Baidoa. The group will "engage in Jihad against the American-made government in the same way they engaged in Jihad against the Ethiopians and the warlords before them," Zawahiri said. Though al-Qaeda appears to support al-Shabaab's jihad, it's unclear whether al-Shabaab has ambitions beyond Somalia. According to a report by Chris Harnisch of the American Enterprise Institute, the group's "rhetoric and behavior" have shifted over the past two years, "reflecting an eagerness to strike internationally" (PDF).
Future of the Organization
The withdrawal of Ethiopian forces from Somalia in January 2009 removed the group's principal adversary. Yet al-Shabaab continues to launch suicide attacks against African Union peacekeepers in Somalia that often result in civilian casualties. As evidenced in the July 2010 Uganda bombings, the group has also directly targeted civilians in what may have been a retaliatory attack (Bloomberg) against Uganda for sending its troops on peacekeeping operations to Somalia. The FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security have warned that al-Shabaab's actions in Uganda could signal the group's capability of launching a successful attack beyond Africa, and even in the United States. Some experts see early signs of public opinion turning against al-Shabaab. First, clan-based militias have started to oppose al-Shabaab. In January 2009, militias repelled al-Shabaab's attempts to assert control in the central Somalia area of Galgadud. "There is a mobilization of various groupings of orthodox Sunni Muslims all over Somalia to form a broad front" against al-Shabaab, the International Crisis Group's Somalia observer told Voice of America in February 2009.

Looking ahead, there are several measures that will indicate al-Shabaab's level of strength and internal coherence: first, whether the group is able to maintain its territorial control over parts of Mogadishu and how far it can expand this control in Somalia; second, whether Somalia's business community decides to support the group; third, whether the Somali diaspora continues to fund al-Shabaab through the hawala money transfer system (it is not clear how much money al-Shabaab currently receives from the diaspora or other sources). Finally, analysts are closely watching the extent to which the Somali government, led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, negotiates with al-Shabaab.

The United States has launched air strikes to target high-level members of al-Shabaab it believes have links to al-Qaeda. In April 2010, President Barack Obama issued an executive order (PDF) aimed at blocking the finances of al-Shabaab's leaders and those who are contributing to the conflict in Somalia. Following the Uganda bombings, the Obama administration also indicated that it would boost its efforts against al-Shabaab, most likely in the form of increased assistance (IPS) to the African Union Mission in Somalia, which plans to send two thousand additional troops to the country, as well as to the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu.

But experts say these activities have only increased popular support for al-Shabaab. In a March 2010 CFR report, Bronwyn E. Bruton argues that "the open blessing of the TFG by the United States and other Western countries has perversely served to isolate the government and, at the same time, to propel cooperation among previously fractured and quarrelsome extremist groups." She proposes a "constructive disengagement" policy that recognizes al-Shabaab's Islamist rule in Somalia as long as it does not engage in regional violence or terrorism (CFR, 2011).