The Supreme Islamic Courts Union (ICU)
Al-Shabaab (Also known as: Al-Shabaab Al-Islaam, Al-Shabaab al-Islamiya, Al-Shabaab Al-Jihaad, Al-Shabab, Ash-shabaab, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, Harakat Shabab Al-Mujahidin, Harakatul Shabaab al-Mujaahidiin, Hizbul Shabaab, Hisb'ul Shabaab, HSM, Mujahideen Youth Movement, Mujahidin Al-Shabaab Movement, Mujaahidiin Youth Movement, Mujahidin Youth Movement, Shabaab, MYM, The Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations, The Unity of Islamic Youth, The Youth, Young Mujahideen Movement, Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, Youth Wing) was the militant wing of the former Somali Supreme Islamic Courts Union (ICU), that had taken over most of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. In December 2006 and January 2007, Somali government and Ethiopian forces routed the Islamic Court militias in a 2-week war.
Al-Shabaab's objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia, based on Islamic law and the elimination of foreign 'infidel' influence. In pursuance of this objective, al-Shabaab has conducted a violent insurgency against the TFG, and foreign forces supporting the TFG. Al-Shabaab seeks the creation of an 'Islamic Emirate of Somalia', to include Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland, north-eastern Kenya, the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and Djibouti. After the end of 2006, al-Shabaab and disparate clan militias had led a violent insurgency, using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the Ethiopian presence in Somalia and the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and subsequently African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers.
The group has exerted temporary and, at times, sustained control over strategic locations in those areas by recruiting, sometimes forcibly, regional sub-clans and their militias, using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia and its allies, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers, and nongovernmental aid organizations.
The majority of Ethiopian troops left Somalia in late January 2007 and the subsequent security vacuum in parts of central and southern Somalia led divergent factions to oppose al-Shabaab and its extremist ideology. However, hardcore al-Shabaab fighters and allied militias continued to conduct brazen attacks in Mogadishu and outlying environs, primarily in lower-Somalia. During 2007, elements of al-Shabaab adopted tactics used by Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Iraq including the employment of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), roadside bombs, suicide attacks and beheadings. After al-Shabaab's leaders publicly ordered their fighters to attack African Union (AU) peace-keeping troops based in Mogadishu, a suicide vehicle bomber detonated near an AU base in the capital on 24 January 2008, killing an estimated 13 people. Suicide-vehicle bombings in October 2008 in Hargeysa and Boosaaso, northern Somalia, were also widely attributed to al-Shabaab.
On 29 February 2008, the US Government designated al-Shabaab as a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (as amended) and as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 (as amended). In 2012, the Rewards for Justice program added several al-Shabaab leaders to its site, offering large rewards for information leading to their capture.
Al-Shabaab encompasses a number of elements, ranging from those focused solely on the domestic insurgency in Somalia to elements that support al-Qa'ida's global jihadist ideology. Al-Shabaab is not centralized or monolithic in its agenda or goals. Its rank-and-file members come from disparate clans, and the group is susceptible to clan politics, internal divisions, and shifting alliances. Most of its fighters are predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the TFG and not supportive of global jihad. The organization's precise numbers were unknown as of 2008, but by 2013 estimates of al-Shabaab fighters varied from 3,000 to as high as 7,000, with most members being ethnic Somalis. Al-Shabaab has long recruited members from Kenya. However, a small number of al-Shabaab fighters are from other countries including the US and Canada.
Some of al-Shabaab's senior leaders were thought to be affiliated with al-Qa'ida (AQ) operatives, and it was believed that specific al-Shabaab members had previously trained and fought with AQ in Afghanistan. Al-Shabaab had issued statements praising Usama Bin Ladin and linking Somalia jihadists to AQ's global ideology. Al-Shabaab’s senior leadership is affiliated with al-Qa‘ida and is believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan. The merger of the two groups was publicly announced in February 2012 by the al-Shabaab amir and Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al-Qa‘ida. Al-Shabaab received significant donations from the global Somali diaspora. It also raised funds in Somalia.
There are a number of US persons who have traveled to Somalia to join up with Al Shabaab as well as with al Qaeda. there have been a number of instances over the past year where individuals have left the United States and traveled to Somalia. There have been a number of press accounts and reports about individuals who have traveled there. By 2011 at least 40 or more Americans have joined Shabaab. So many Americans have joined that at least 15 of them have been killed fighting with Shabaab, as well as three Canadians.
The Majority staff of the Committee on Homeland Security completed an investigation into the threat by al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen in Somalia, Al Qaeda’s major ally in East Africa, and its efforts to radicalize and recruit Muslim-Americans inside the US. The key finding reported in November 2011 was that there was "a looming danger of American Shabaab fighters returning to the US to strike or helping Al Qaeda and its affiliates attack the homeland."
By 2011 Shabaab-related federal indictments accounted for the largest number and significant upward trend in homegrown counterterrorism cases filed by the Department of Justice over the past two years. At least 38 cases have been unsealed since 2009 in Minnesota, Ohio, California, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Virginia and Texas.
Al-Shabaab used intimidation and violence to undermine the Somali government and regularly killed activists working to bring about peace through political dialogue and reconciliation. The group claimed responsibility for several high profile bombings and shootings in Mogadishu targeting Ethiopian troops and Somali government officials. In July 2010, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for 2 suicide bombings in Kamapala, Uganda, which killed over 70 people. These bombings were said to be in retaliation for Uganda's participation in the AMISOM mission in Somalia. This was the first terrorist operation that Al Shabaab carried out outside of Somalia.
Al-Shabaab was responsible for the assassination of numerous civil society figures, government officials, and journalists. Al-Shabaab fighters or those who claimed allegiance to the group also conducted violent attacks and targeted assassinations against international aid workers and nongovernmental aid organizations. It has this domestic agenda that is designed to increase its presence, its reach, its influence throughout the country. And it is dedicated to the overthrow of the recognized government of Somalia, the Transitional Federal Government.
In 2011 East African leaders declared al-Shabab a regional threat; Ethiopian, Kenyan troops entered Somalia to pursue the group. In October 2011 Kenyan forces moved into Somalia to counter cross-border kidnappings and attacks by al-Shabab. Within a week, the militant group threatened that it would bring down skyscrapers in Nairobi unless Kenyan soldiers withdrew. On 29 December 2011 an al-Shabaab spokesperson vowed that the terror group would launch retaliatory attacks in Kenya if authorities did not withdraw troops from Somalia. "Kenya has peace, its cities have tall buildings and business is flourishing there. If your government ignores our calls to stop its aggression on Somali soil, we will strike at the heart of your interests". On 16 November 2011 Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage warned "We are telling Kenya that they still have the opportunity to back away from the hellfire it was dragged into and leave our soil, otherwise they will continue suffering".
On 04 October 2011 more than 100 civilians were killed and dozens wounded when an al-Shabaab militant detonated a suicide VBIED targeting a building housing several government ministries in the K4 area of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Muhammad Rage subsequently claimed responsibility for the attack and stated: "We are promising that attacks against the enemy will be routine, more in number, and will increase day by day".
The group gained additional notoriety by blocking the delivery of aid from some Western relief agencies during the 2011 famine that killed tens of thousands of Somalis. Al-Shabaab’s actions put at even greater risk the lives of the four million people in Somalia who remain in need of emergency assistance and the 250,000 of those who are suffering from ongoing famine.
Al-Shabab steadily began losing ground in Somalia, and was weakened by a concerted military effort from a multi-national African Union force and Somali government troops. Once they controlled large portions of the country; by 2013 they were only been able to carry out hit-and-run attacks. The result was a fracturing within the group on how to re-invigorate the fight for its objectives for a greater Somalia under its interpretation of strict Islamic law. Some al-Shabab leaders wanted their fighters to operate within Somalia only, while others, like Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, pushed a more global Jihad or holy war.
In 2013 it attacked the Mogadishu court complex, killing more than 30. And two years after Kenyan troops deployed to Somalia to fight al-Shabab and help pave the way for the first government in 20 years, al-Shabab took its fight to Kenya. The group finally made good on that threat 21 September 2013, when armed men stormed an upscale mall in Nairobi, killing scores of people, injuring about 175, and taking others hostage. The Westgate Mall terrorist attack was an indication of the militant group's intentions and capabilities.
By early 2014 al-Shabab appeared to have realized it can not effectively fight AU and Somali government troops in a conventional war, so the group was avoiding direct clashes. The militants suffered significant losses in 2010 and 2011 during attempts to hold Mogadishu, and had since taken heavy casualties in other battles. They are blockading the towns they have lost. An inability to secure logistical lines for the military contingent or for the people and administration to move from one city to the other is the weak point. Experts say al-Shabab’s ultimate goal is to stretch AMISOM and government forces, wear them down, and then be able to regroup.
The group's leaders are paranoid when it comes the possibility of spies passing information about the group's plans to US agents, who can then launch drone attacks against al-Shabab targets. That has weakened the ability of Shabab to mix with the population and trust people enough to rebuild its recruitment facilities in a short-term basis.
AFRICOM, the United States Military command for Africa, believed that al-Shabab will continue to attack nations that contribute troops to the Somalia effort. The commanding general of AFRICOM, David Rodriguez, said 19 May 2014 despite the fact that al-Shabab’s area of control had decreased in recent months, the militant group continued to be a threat. General Rodriguez said al-Shabab remains a threat to US interests in the region and in Europe and has stated a wish to attack the US mainland as well. “The challenge is that al-Shabab is now really focusing on asymmetric attacks and they adjusted some of their strategy about a year ago by conducting the sensational terrorist type attacks,” Rodriguez explained.
The African Union peacekeeping forces known as AMISOM and the Somali National Army launched a fresh campaign against al-Shabab militants in late August 2014 to take their remaining strongholds.
Ahmed Abdi Godane took over leadership of al-Shabab after his predecessor, Adan Hashi Ayro, was killed in a US airstrike in 2008. Godane rose to power and has sustained his authority in al-Shabab through a combination of charisma and brute force. Known as an eloquent speaker and poet, he rallied many to the Islamist group's fight against the Somali government and foreign forces in Somalia, and has helped funnel money to the organization. Since becoming emir of al-Shabab in 2008, Godane has commanded the group's militant operations, and forged a formal alliance with the al-Qaida terrorist network in 2012. Godane has consolidated power by eliminating rivals within al-Shabab, through his command of a personal team of young, loyal militants called the Amniyat. His deputy, Ibrahim al-Afghani was killed in 2013, after sending an open letter to al-Qaida's central leadership complaining about Godane's despotic rule.
Godane was killed in a US drone strike on 01 September 2014. There were no obvious successors to Godane, and further internal violence is likely in the event of a power vacuum. What is likely as a result is further disintegration and fragmentation of the organization and possibly the emergence of much more extremist and violent groups from the ashes of al-Shabab. The al-Qaida linked militants announced the selection of Abu Ubeid Ahmed Omar to replace Ahmed Abdi Godane.
Under an offensive named Operation Indian Ocean, Somali and African Union troops dislodged the extremist group from a string of towns. The operation saw the federal government exert its authority in areas once under al-Shabab control. The al-Shabab was pushed out of its last stronghold in Somalia, the coastal city of Barawe, in late October 2014. African Union forces and Somali soldiers liberated it in their latest military victory. For six long years, Barawe – located 220 kilometers or 137 miles southwest of the capital – served as al-Shabab's main headquarters and human slaughterhouse. With control of Barawe, the government hopes to deprive al-Shabab of three things: a major route for importing weapons, the movement of local and foreign fighters, and its financial lifeline.
The attack 02 April 2015 at Garissa University College that left 148 people dead along with the four attackers was the worst in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the US Embassy by al-Qaida. The al-Shabab attackers stormed the campus before dawn Thursday and began shooting indiscriminately. Witnesses say the gunmen later targeted Christians and freed some Muslims. Al-Shabab said the attack was revenge for Kenyan military action inside neighboring Somalia.
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