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Somali Islamist Group to Ally with al Qaeda

Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab announced that it would ally with al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden in waging an international jihad. This announcement came after a meeting was held in the town of Baidoa between Islamist insurgent leaders. Other smaller Islamist groups, such as the Ras Kamboni, were among the parties present who agreed to work towards the creation of an Islamic state. While the United States has made numerous accusations that al-Shabaab is connected to al-Qaeda, the group had denied any links prior to this announcement. Al-Shabaab has reportedly sent fighters to Afghanistan to train, and has recently pledged to send fighters to Yemen to assist al Qaeda efforts. The announcement comes the day after Somali President Sheikh Sahrif Sheikh Ahmed completed his first year in office.

Southern Somalia is increasingly coming under the control of al-Shabaab and other Islamic groups. Via Long War Journal.


According to the Council on Foreign Relations, before this statement, Al Shabaab’s links to Al Qaeda were believed to be purely ideological. “Experts say there are links between individual Shabaab leaders and individual members of Al Qaeda, but any organizational linkage between the two groups is weak, if it exists at all.” A profile of the Al Shabaab group in The Middle East Quarterly, however, notes that Al Qaeda has long been receptive to Al Shabaab’s overtures toward the global terror network. According to the profile, bin Laden took note of developments in Somalia as early as 2006, when Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called for Muslims in Somalia to fight Ethiopia.

Al Shabaab’s announcement comes as Somali troops are fighting militants in Mogadishu. At least 16 people have been killed and 71 injured in clashes over the weekend. The peacekeeping African Union mission stationed in Mogadishu since 2007 has become increasingly more complicated with Al Shabaab’s affiliation with Al Qaeda. 5,300 peacekeepers – out of a mandated 8,000 – are tasked with protecting the Somali Transitional Federal Government from militants. Seventy peacekeepers have been killed in Mogadishu since their arrival three years ago.

Nairobi has also been on high alert as Al Shabaab has vowed to attack the Kenyan capital. Kenya, with its porous borders with Somalia, has become a key transit point for Western fighters lured by Internet propaganda to join Al Shabaab.

For a first-hand account of the impact of al-Shabaab on Somalia, please read Special Report: The Rise of ‘the African Taliban’ at the Guardian.co.uk.

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