Al-Shabaab


Al-Shabaab
Somali Civil War
Al-Shabaab
الشباب
ShababLogo.png

ShababFlag.svg
War Flag

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Administration Flag
Leaders Adan Eyrow 
Abu Mansoor (removed)
Moktar Ali Zubeyr (joined with Al Qaeda)
Ibrahim "al-Afghani" (current)
Clans/Tribes: Trans-clan[1]
Headquarters: Kismayo
Operating Areas: Somalia
Ideology: Sunni Islamism, Salafist jihadism, Militant Islam, Religious conservatism, anti-sufism
Strength: 3,000 Core[3]

14,426 Total[2]

Preceded by: Islamic Courts Union (ICU)
Allies: Hizbul Islam (now disbanded)

Foreign Mujahedeen
 al-Qaeda
Opponents:
Somalia TFG
 Ethiopia
AMISOM
 United States
 Kenya
ASWJ
Puntland
 Djibouti

Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) (Arabic: حركة الشباب المجاهدين‎; Ḥarakat ash-Shabāb al-Mujāhidīn, Mujahideen Youth Movement or "Movement of Striving Youth"), 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,[4] where it is said to have imposed its own strict form of Sharia law.[5] Al-Shabaab's troop strength as of May 2011 is estimated at 14,426 militants.[2]

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.[6] 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.[7] The group has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments and security services.[8][9][10] It has also been described in The New Yorker as having "ties to Al Qaeda,"[5] which its leaders denied until early 2010.[11][12]

In early August 2005, the TFG's troops and their AMISOM allies reportedly managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants.[4] 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.[13] Al Shabaab has often clashed with the militant Sufi group Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a.[14][15][16]

Contents

Name

Al-Shabaab is also known as Ash-Shabaab, Hizbul Shabaab (Arabic, "The Party of Youth"),[17] and the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM).[18] For short, the group is referred to as HSM, standing for Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. The term Shabaab means "youth" in Arabic, and the organization should not be confused with similarly named groups.

Organization and leadership

The organization's current leader is Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad, also known as Ibrahim "al-Afghani". It was originally run by Aden Hashi Farah "Ayro", who was appointed by Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the leaders of ICU at the time of the organization's founding. After the death of Ayro, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (also known as Abu Mansur) became leader until he was succeeded by Moktar Ali Zubeyr "Godane".[19]

Leaders

Amir

Other leaders:

  • Sheikh Mukhtar Robow "Abu Mansoor" — Second Deputy Leader and regional commander in charge of Bay and Bakool.[27] (Leesaan sub-clan of Rahanweyn)[23]
  • Sheikh Fuad Mohammed Khalaf "Shangole" — Third most important leader after "Godane" and "Abu Mansoor".[28] In charge of public affairs. (Awrtabe sub-clan of Darod)[23]
  • Hassan Dahir Aweys - Spiritual Leader[29]
  • Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow — Political Chief[30]
  • Sheikh Ali Mohamud Raghe "Dheere" — He is from Hawiye Murusade clan. Official Spokesman.[28] (Not to be confused with the Sheikh Ali Dhere who established the first Islamic court in Mogadishu in 1996.)
  • Sheikh Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad "al-Afghani" (Abubakar al-Seyli'i) — First Deputy Leader[23] and Governor of the Kisimayo administration[28] (Sacad Muse sub-clan of Isaaq)
  • Sheikh Hassan Yaqub Ali — Official spokesman of the Kisimayo administration[28] (Sacad Muse sub-clan of Isaaq)[23]
  • Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein — Leader (Governor) of Banaadir region (Mogadishu)
  • Sheikh Abdirahman Hassan Hussein — Leader (Governor) of the Middle Shabelle region[31]
  • Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hersi "al-Turki" — Leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigades which controls the Juba Valley and was first part of Hizbul Islam but merged with al-Shabaab in 2010.[32] (Ogaden sub-clan of Darod)[23]
  • Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom - Warlord and Arms Dealer[33] who in July 2010 announced allegiance to al-Shabaab and the al-Shabaab commander in Puntland.[34]
  • Mukhtar Abu-Muslim, the head of Fatwas,[35] from Darod clan of Ogaden sub-clan.
  • Abdulahi Haji "Daud",[35] the head of assassinations, from Hawiye clan of Murursade sub-clan.
  • Sahal Isku Dhuuq,[35] the head of kidnappings of aid workers for ransom, from Dir clan of Biyomaal sub-clan.
  • Hassan Afrah,[35] the head of relationship with pirates, from Hawiye clan of Saleban sub-clan.
  • Dahir Gamaey "Abdi Al-Haq",[35] the judge of Al-Shabaab, from Hawiye clan of Duduble sub-clan.

Foreigners

Al-Shabaab is said to have non-Somali foreigners in its ranks, particularly at its leadership .[36] Fighters from the Persian Gulf and international jihadists were called to join the holy war against the Somali government and its Ethiopian allies. Though Somali Islamists did not originally use suicide bombing tactics, the foreign elements of Al-Shabaab are blamed for several suicide bombings.[37][38] UN's 2006 report stated Iran, Libya, Egypt and others in the Persian Gulf region as the main backers of the Islamist extremists. Egypt has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia.[39][40] Similarly, recent media reports also cited Egyptian and other Arab jihadists as the core elements of the Al-Shabaab, who are training Somalis in sophisticated weaponry and suicide bombing techniques.[41]

Twenty or so Somali–American youth from the area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota[5] whose families emigrated to the United States have also reportedly been recruited to fight in Somalia.[42] In September 2009, a Somali–American from Seattle drove a truck bomb into an AMISOM base in Mogadishu, killing twenty-one peacekeepers and himself.[5][43] According to UN Security Council documents, submitted by the US there are some 280–300 non-Somali fighters being used by Somali rebel groups, mostly Al-Shabaab.[44] By December 2008 it was reported they had the backing of at least 1,200 foreign fighters in Somalia.[45] However, it is estimated that around 1,000 of those foreign fighters are in fact, ethnic Somalis from the Somali diaspora, with only ~200 being non-Somali foreigners.[46]

The foreign al-Shabaab commanders include:[47]

Foreign leaders:

  • Fazul Abdullah Mohammed: Fazul, a Kenyan, was appointed by Osama bin Laden as al Qaeda's leader in East Africa in late 2009. Before the death of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, Fazul served as the military operations chief for al Qaeda in East Africa. Fazul was an experienced al Qaeda leader who is known to be able to move in and out of East African countries with ease. In August 2008, he slipped a police dragnet in Kenya. Fazul had been sheltering in Somalia with Shabaab and the Islamic Courts for years. Fazul was considered to be Shabaab's military leader, while *Sheikh Muktar Abdelrahman Abu Zubeyr is Shabaab's spiritual leader. He was killed on 8 June 2011.
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa'id: Fai'd, a Saudi citizen, serves as a top financier and a "manager" for Shabaab.
  • Abu Musa Mombasa: Mombasa, a Pakistani citizen, serves as Shabaab's chief of security and training.
  • Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki: Amriki, whose real name is Omar Hammami, is a US citizen who converted to Islam and traveled to Somalia in 2006. Once in Somalia, he quickly rose through the ranks, and now serves as a military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist. Amriki appears in several Shabaab propaganda tapes. Hammami has become a primary recruiter for Al Shabaab; he has issued written statements on behalf of Al Shabaab and has appeared in the terror organization's propaganda videos and audio recordings. An indictment unsealed in August 2010 charged him with providing material support to terrorists.[48]
  • Mahmud Mujajir: Mujajir, a Sudanese citizen, is Shabaab's chief of recruitment for suicide bombers.

One who was not mentioned but reported by the Long War Journal is

  • Issa Osman Issa: Issa serves as a top al Qaeda recruiter and military strategist for Shabaab. Before joining Shabaab, Issa participated in the simultaneous attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, and has been described as a central player in the simultaneous attacks on the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kenya, in 2002, and the attempt to down an Israeli airliner in Mombassa also in 2002.

Terrorist designation

Shabaab is designated as a terrorist group by Australia,[49] Canada,[50] Norway,[9] Sweden,[10] the United Kingdom,[49] and the United States.[8]

History and activities

Map showing territorial gains made by al-Shabaab from January 31, 2009 to December 2010; the period when a civil war against the Transitional Federal Government commenced

While Al-Shabaab previously represented the hard-line militant youth movement within the Islamic Courts Union (ICU),[51] it is now described as an extremist splinter group of the ICU. However, since the ICU's downfall, the distinction between the youth movement and the so-called successor organization to the ICU, the PRM, appears to have been blurred.

Their core comprised veterans who fought and defeated the secular Mogadishu warlords of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) at the Second Battle of Mogadishu.[52] Their origins are not clearly known, but former members say Hizbul Shabaab was founded as early as 2004. Al-Shabaab also has various foreign fighters from around the world, according to an Islamic hardliner Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Manssor.[53]

As of January 2009, Ethiopian forces have withdrawn from Somalia and Al-Shabaab carries on its fight against former ally and Islamic Courts Union leader, President Sharif Ahmed, who heads the Transitional Federal Government.[5] Al-Shabaab has had success in its campaigns against the weak Transitional Federal Government, capturing Baidoa, the base of the Transitional Federal Parliament, on January 26, 2009, and killing three ministers of the government in a December 3, 2009 suicide bomb attack on a medical school graduation ceremony.[54]

On the other hand, in the areas it controls, Al-Shabaab has reduced over-sized cheap food imports. This has allowed Somalia's own grain production, which normally has high potential, to flourish.[55] This had the effect of shifting income from urban to rural areas, from mid-income groups to low-income groups, and from overseas farmers to local farmers. The policy worked remarkably well until drought hampered local food production increasingly since 2010. In response, Al-Shabaab announced in July 2011 that it had withdrawn its restrictions on international humanitarian workers.[56]

Opposition

Complaints made against the group include its attacks on aid workers and harsh enforcement of Sharia law. According to journalist Jon Lee Anderson:

The number of people in Somalia who are dependent on international food aid has tripled since 2007, to an estimated 3.6 million. But there is no permanent foreign expatriate presence in southern Somalia, because the Shabaab has declared war on the UN and on Western non-governmental organizations. International relief supplies are flown or shipped into the country and distributed, wherever possible, through local relief workers. Insurgents routinely attack and murder them, too; forty-two have been killed in the past two years alone.[5]

Anderson also reports that enforcement of law against adultery or zina includes execution. In 2008,

in the port of Kismayo, a young girl accused of adultery was buried up to her neck in the field of a soccer stadium packed with spectators, and then stoned to death; her family said that she was only thirteen years old and had in fact been gang-raped. This summer, in the ancient coastal town of Merca, the Shabaab decreed that gold and silver dental fillings were un-Islamic, and dispatched patrols to yank them out of people's mouths.[5]

However scholar Bronwyn Bruton states that Al-Shabaab has many factions and "has stirred only a few hundred true fanatics."

The disturbing acts of violence ... including beheadings and amputations and the pulling of gold fillings ... are often committed by illiterate children rather than radical leaders. There has been little reporting in the West of the fact that a wide majority of al Shabab factions have actively cooperated with international humanitaritan relief efforts – if only for a fee.[57] Additional research on al-Shabaab's economic activity has been published by social science researcher, Mitchell Sipus, who has examined the manner in which al-Shabaab relies upon remittances and business creation within the migrant diaspora to fund its operations.[58]

According to Bruton, al-Shabaab "is not a transnational terrorist organization" although most would contend this argument.[57] Sipus's research has shown that this organization maintains an appeal among Somalis not because their affinity for the organization, but rather for economic and social interests. Not only does al-Shabaab provide financial incentives for support, but by "promoting the vision of the ummah, a unified Islamic state under shari’a law, al-Shabaab attracts both popular support and scathing criticism among Somali people within and outside the country."[59]

Shabaab have persecuted Somalia's small Christian minority, sometimes affixing the label on people they suspect of working for Ethiopian intelligence.[60] The group has also desecrated the graves of prominent Sufi Muslims in addition to a Sufi mosque and university, claiming that Sufi practices conflict with their strict interpretation of Islamic law.[61][62] This has led to confrontations with Sufi organized armed groups who have organized under the banner of Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a.[63]

Timeline

2006

  • June 10, 2006—The Guardian reports "An unnamed network run by one of Aweys's proteges, Aden Hashi Farah "Ayro" is linked to the murder of four western aid workers and over a dozen Somalis who allegedly cooperated with counter-terror organisations."[64]
  • June 15, 2006—Al-Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow", was said to have taken arms sent from Eritrea[65] (see page 12).
  • July 26, 2006—Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Mansur or "Abu-Mansur" was reported accepting another load of arms from Eritrea[65] (see page 15).
  • July—720 Somali volunteers were selected by Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow" to travel to Lebanon to fight against the Israelis. Of those, only 80 returned to Mogadishu. In September, another 20 returned, along with five members of Hizbollah.[65] (see page 24).
  • The bankruptcy of a remittance company, Dalsan International, whose staff included the brother of Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow", involved the suspicious disappearance of $10 million dollars. It was alleged, "an ICU military leader managed to divert a large amount of money to help financially support the organization in their fight for the control of Mogadishu during the June 2006 confrontation with the former counter terrorism alliance"[65] (see page 39). (Also see ARPCT, Second Battle of Mogadishu)

2007

  • As of January 6, 2007, after the Fall of Mogadishu and Kismayo to the TFG, the leaders of the Shabaab were in hiding still at large.[66] A member of the disbanded group said they once numbered about 1,000 (lower than other claims by former members), but they do not have any weapons any more. Still, there was support for the call of leaders to maintain jihad against the Ethiopians and secular government.[67]
  • January 19, 2007—Pro-Islamic Courts Union website[68] featured a video describing the reformation of the ICU into the "Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations" (PRM), alternatively translated and referred to in press reports as the "Somali People's Insurgent Movement" (SPIM) or "Somali People's Resistance Movement" (SPRM). On January 24, Sheikh Abdikadir was announced to be its commander of the Banadir region.[69]
  • January 31, 2007—Al-Shabaab made a video warning African Union peacekeepers to avoid coming to Somalia, claiming "Somalia is not a place where you will earn a salary — it is a place where you will die."[70]
  • February 9, 2007—800 Somali demonstrators in north Mogadishu, where Islamist support was strongest, burned U.S., Ethiopian, and Ugandan flags in protest of the proposed African Union (AU) led and United Nations endorsed peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM. "Abdirisaq", a masked representative of the resistance group, the PRM, said Ethiopian troops would be attacked in their hotels.[18][71][72]

2008

Al-Shabaab achieved a military victory in the August 2008 Battle of Kismayo. After several days of fighting in which scores of deaths were reported, Al-Shabaab fighters defeated the militia of Barre Adan Shire Hiiraale and took control of the port city. Kismayo had been held by the TFG since January 2007.[73] The fighting in Kismayo is reported to have displaced an estimated 35,000 people. After the withdrawal of Hiiraale's fighters, Al-Shabaab commenced a peaceful disarmament process targeting local armed groups that had been contributing to insecurity in Kismayo.[74] The group has been blamed or claimed responsibility for, among other attacks, the February 2008 Bosaso bombings and the 2008 Hargeisa–Bosaso bombings.[75][76] By late 2008, it was estimated that the group controlled the whole of southern Somalia, except for some pockets of Mogadishu. This was more territory than that controlled by the Islamic Courts Union at the height of their power.[77]

In December 2008, Anwar al-Awlaki sent a communique to Al-Shabaab, congratulating them. He thanked them for "giving us a living example of how we as Muslims should proceed to change our situation. The ballot has failed us, but the bullet has not". In conclusion, he wrote: "if my circumstances would have allowed, I would not have hesitated in joining you and being a soldier in your ranks".[78]

2009

  • January—UN-sponsored peace talks conclude in Djibouti with Ethopians agreeing to withdraw from Somalia and Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed "agreed to stop fighting."
  • January 31—Shiekh Sharif Ahmed is elected present of the Transitional Federal Government. Opposing any negotiatied settlement with Ethiopia, al-Shabaab "declares war on him."[5]
  • February 22—2009 African Union base bombings in Mogadishu: al-Shabaab carried out a suicide car bomb attack against an African Union military base in Mogadishu, killing at least six Burundian peacekeepers.[disambiguation needed ][79]
  • May—al-Shabaab, along with allied group Hizbul Islam, launched a major offensive in the city of Mogadishu to take over the city, leaving hundreds killed and injured and tens of thousands displaced. The group made large gains, taking over most of the capital.
  • June 18—Al-Shabaab claimed the 2009 Beledweyne bombing, which killed 35 people including Somali security minister Omar Hashi Aden.
  • June 9—U.S. Diplomatic Security Daily cable, 09STATE63860, includes:
  • July 8—A video message featuring an American commander in al-Shabaab, Abu Mansur al-Amriki, is released in which he responds and denounces U.S. President Barack Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech to Arabs and Muslims.[80]
  • August 4—Four men allegedly connected with al-Shabaab in Melbourne, Australia were charged over the Holsworthy Barracks terror plot, a plan to storm the Holsworthy Barracks with automatic weapons; and shoot army personnel or others until they were killed or captured.[81][82] Al-Shabaab has denied any connection with the men.[83] It has subsequently been listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia.[84]
  • August 11—Reuters reports residents in Marka complain "al Shabaab has been rounding up anyone seen with a silver or gold tooth and taking them to a masked man who then rips them out using basic tools." Residents told Reuters that al Shabaab declared that since gold and silver teeth "are used for fashion and beauty," they are against Islam.[85]
  • September 14—Members of the group were killed in a raid targeting Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was also killed.[86][87]
  • September 17: The group claims a second bombing of an AU base, which kills 17 peacekeepers.
  • September 20—Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen released a 48-minute video, "Labayka Ya Usama," ("Here I am at Your Service, Usama") on transnational jihadi web sites. The video is framed around Usama bin Laden's March 2009 audio message "Fight On, O' Champions of Somalia," and features footage of African Union "atrocities" in Somalia and Harakat al-Shabaab units undergoing military training. Bin Laden and the Amir (leader) of Harakat al-Shabaab, Shaykh Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Abu al-Zubayr, criticize Somalia's interim president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, and the religious scholars of Somalia ('ulama al-Sumaal) for apostasy. Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, the American field commander in the group, is also briefly featured.[88]
  • October 15—Al-Shabaab began publicly whipping women for wearing bras that they claim violate Islam as they are deceptive. They sent gunmen into the streets of Mogadishu to round up any women who appear to be being deceptive. The women were then inspected by other women to see if they are being deceptive, if they are then they are ordered to stop.[89]
  • November 1—Al-Shabaab announced the establishment of Al Quds Brigade, a military unit specifically tasked with attacking Israel and Jewish interests in Africa. In a rally held the previous week in Mogadishu, a top Al Shabaab official said, "It is time to go for open war against Israel in order to drive them from the holy cities."[90]
  • December 3—Suspected of being behind the 2009 Hotel Shamo bombing, which kills 24, including three government ministers.

2010

  • January 2: A man linked to al-Shabaab tried to kill Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard at his home in Aarhus, Denmark. Westergaard was not hurt and the assailant was shot, wounded, and arrested.[91]
  • February 1: al-Shabaab declares for the first time that it maintains strong ties with al-Qaeda.[11]
  • February 7: The militant group declares jihad on Kenya over allegations that it is training Somali troops although Kenya denied involvement.[92]
  • February 15: an al-Shabab suicide car bomber attempted to assassinate Somalia's state minister for defence, Yusuf Mohamed Siyad when he drove his explosive-laden vehicle towards Mr Siyad's car and detonated, injuring two of his security guards.[93]
  • March 5: The Government of Canada lists Al Shabaab as a terrorist group.[94]
  • March 26: al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a roadside bomb that exploded in Mogadishu killing a Somali government official and injuring the deputy DC for security.
  • March 27: al-Shabaab destroys grave sites of foreign soldiers and a prominent Sufi scholar and hides the body of the scholar.[95]
  • April 15: The group bans the ringing of school bells as un-Islamic since bell ringing is, in the words of Sheik Farah Kalar, "a sign of the Christian churches."[96]
  • June 5: Two New Jersey men, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, who were bound for Somalia seeking to join Al Shabab were arrested at Kennedy International Airport in New York City.[97] The men, who have been charged with conspiring to kill, maim, and kidnap persons outside the United States, allegedly planned to kill American troops who they thought would soon be deployed to Somalia to help fight Al Shabaab.[98]
  • July 11: Al-Shabaab claims responsibility for the July 2010 Kampala attacks, which killed 74 people. The Wall Street Journal quotes an International Crisis Group analyst as saying, [Al-Shabaab is] "sending a message: Don't come here propping up the Somalia government ... It's a message of deterrence."[99]
  • July 21: Zachary Chesser, the Virginia man who threatened the creators of South Park for satirizing issues surrounding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, was arrested and charged in July 2010 for providing material support to Al Shabaab. Chesser was originally apprehended in New York as he attempted to board an Africa-bound plane. He later told federal authorities that he had attempted to join Al Shabaab in Somalia on two previous occasions.[100]
  • July 22: African Union ministers agree to expand AMISOM's mandate from a peacekeeping focus to a peace-enforcement focus that would engage al-Shabaab more directly. The decision was to be discussed at upcoming meetings of the AU Security Council and the UN Security Council for final approval.[101]
  • August 23–24: Al Shabaab is accused of launching attacks in the Somali capital Mogadishu that kill over 300.
  • October 28: Al-Shabaab publicly executed two teenage girls, by firing squad, on charges of spying. Residents gave conflicting information regarding the girls' ages, but they were believed to have been 17 and 18 years old.[102]
  • December 20: Hizbul Islam and the Somali Islamic party merged with Al-Shabaab, retaining the name 'Al-Shabaab'.[103][104]

2011

  • February 4: Al-Shabaab launch terrestrial news channel "Al-Kata'ib" to broadcast propaganda. The first footage shown is a recording of confessions of an alleged foreign spy captured in Somalia[105]
  • March 5: Al-Shabaab loses control of the border town of Bulo Hawo in a joint offensive conducted by government forces working with AMISOM; the militia had controlled the city for two years beforehand. It was also reported that al-Shabaab was resisting against UN/Government forces for control of three of Mogadishu's sixteen districts, with six still remaining in their control.[106]
  • March 16: Abdikadir Yusuf Aar aka Sheikh Qalbi a senior Al-Shabab official serving as the groups leader in Juba and Gedo region was killed in Mogadishu.[107][108]
  • April 3: Al-Shabaab loses control of the town Dhobley near the Kenyan boarder. TFG forces together with Raskamboni movement had been fighting for several days before they took control of the town with support from helicopters of the Kenya Air Force.[109][110] The same day as Al-Shabab lost control of the town Hassan Abdurrahman Gumarey, an Al-Shabaab official was killed in action (KIA) in Dhobley.[111]
  • June 11: Wanted Al-Shabaab operative and Al-Qaeda collaborator Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is killed by security forces of the SNA in Afgooye northwest of Mogadishu; one other terrorist was killed and $40,000 worth of U.S. dollars are recovered.
  • July 5, Al-Shabaab officially lifts its ban on some aid agencies, but upholds it later in the month vis-a-vis certain organizations. As an explanation for this discrepancy, the group's spokesman Sheikh Ali Dhere indicates that the group has no issue with allowing both Muslim and non-Muslim individuals from helping the drought-impacted people as long as those groups harbor no ulterior motives in doing so. Dhere adds that his organization believes that many aid agencies are exaggerating their relief requirements so as to satisfy their own selfish objectives. He also suggests that the actual nature of many of the relief operations are twofold: first, some of the aid workers are in effect attacking as "spies", while others, including the UN, he charges have a tacit political agenda not in keeping with what they claim to be doing. In addition, Dhere alleges that aid agencies that are providing assistance in neighboring countries are attempting to siphon away the various Muslim peoples of Somalia in order to more easily indoctrinate them into Christianity. Al-Shabaab members are reported to have intimidated, kidnapped and killed some aid workers, leading to a suspension of humanitarian operations and an exodus of relief agents.[7] As a result, AU troops step up efforts in late July 2011 to protect civilians and aid workers from attacks.[112]
  • July 26: Al-Shabaab members ban samosas (sambusas) in regions they control, deeming the snack too Christian on account of its triangular, allegedly Holy Trinity-like shape.[113]
  • August 6: The Transitional Federal Government's troops and their AMISOM allies reportedly manage to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants. Witnesses report Al-Shabaab vehicles abandoning their bases in the capital for the south-central city of Baidoa. The group's spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage describes the exodus as a tactical retreat, and vows to continue the insurgency against the national government. Observers suggest that the pullout may at least in part have been caused by internal ideological rifts in the rebel organization.[4]
  • August 9: An ideological split reportedly emerges within Al-Shabaab's leadership. Muktar Ali Robow, Sheikh Hassan Dahir and other southern commanders who hail from the areas of the country worst-hit by the effects of the drought, reportedly want to extend relief efforts to the impacted peoples. However, they are overruled by Ahmed Abdi Godane, a northern commander credited with strengthening the group's ties with Al-Qaeda. Observers suggest that the move is a manifestation of Godane's increasing paranoia since the assassination of his close ally Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the latter of whom Godane suspects was set up by his foes within the organization.[13] Sheikh Hassan Dahir also proposes that the group change its tactics by "abandoning Mogadishu to launch Taliban style attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan", but is rebuffed by leaders within the organization.[114]
  • October 4: A truck carrying explosive was driven into a government ministry killing 139 and injuring 93. The group has claimed responsibility for these attacks.[115]
  • October 16: The government of Kenya announces that it has sent troops into Somalia in order to fight Al-Shabaab.
  • October 20: Two women, Amina Farah Ali and Hawo Mohamed Hassan, both from Rochester, Minnesota were arrested for sending money and fighters to aid the group.[116]

Defections

In 2009, Al-Shabaab witnessed a number of its fighters, including several leaders, defect to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. One such high profile defection was that in early November 2009 of Sheikh Mohamed Abdullahi (also known as "Sheikh Bakistani"), who commanded the Maymana Brigade. Sheikh Bakistani told Voice of America (VOA) Somali Services that he found the group's suicide missions and executions unbearable. He also indicated that his father, a well-known local religious leader, had visited him several times and helped convince him to defect. However, a spokesman for Al-Shabaab denied that Sheikh Bakistani was a member of the group.[117] During the same month, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Villa Somalia arranged by the Somali federal government, one former Al-Shabaab fighter reported being disillusioned with the group's direction, indicating that while he began fighting in 2006 "to kick out the Ethiopian invaders", he defected a month ago, "disgusted by the false interpretations Al-Shabaab give of Islam". Similarly, a former Hizbul Islam commander recently defected to the Somali government; one of his family members (another Hizbul Islam commander) had been murdered by Al-Shabaab militants as punishment for having escorted a UN convoy. He said in the VOA interview that "if you don't want to fight anymore, there's no point. That's why I quit".[118]

In early December 2009, Sheikh Ali Hassan Gheddi, who at the time served as Deputy Commander in-Chief of Al-Shabaab militants in the Middle Shabele region, also defected to the government, indicating that "Al-Shabaab's cruelty against the people is what forced me to defect to the government side. They extort money from the people and deal with them against the teaching of Islam". Another reason he gave for defecting was Al-Shabaab's recent prohibition on the UN World Food Programme (WFP) because he felt that it directly affects civilians.[119]

Support allegations

Eritrea

Eritrea is accused of providing military and financial support to Islamist groups in southern Somalia's conflict zones, including Al-Shabaab.

In December 2009, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea, accusing the Horn of Africa country of arming and providing financial aid to militia groups in southern Somalia's conflict zones, including Al-Shabaab.[120] Plane loads of weapons said to be coming from Eritrea were sent to anti-government rebels in southern Somalia. AU peacekeepers also reportedly captured some Eritrean soldiers and prisoners of war.[121][122] In 2010, the UN International Monitoring Group (IMG) also published a report charging the Eritrean government of continuing to offer support to rebel groups in southern Somalia, despite the sanctions already placed on the nation. The Eritrean administration emphatically denied the accusations, describing them as "concocted, baseless and unfounded" and demanding concrete evidence to be made publicly available, with an independent platform through which it may in turn issue a response.[120] In November 2011 the UN Monitoring Group repeated claims that Eritrea would support al-Shabaab. The report says that Eritrea gives US$80,000 each month to al-Shabaab linked individuals in Nairobi.[123]

Somaliland

Flag of Somaliland, an unrecognised self-declared sovereign state that is internationally recognised as an autonomous region of Somalia.

In 2010, reports surfaced linking the secessionist government of the northwestern Somaliland region with the Islamist extremists that are currently waging war against the Transitional Federal Government and its African Union allies. The International Strategic Studies Association (ISSA) published several reports shortly after the 2010 presidential elections in Somaliland, accusing the enclave's newly-elected president Ahmed M. Mahamoud Silanyo of having strong ties with Islamist groups, and suggesting that his political party Kulmiye won the election in large part due to support from a broad-based network of Islamists, including Al-Shabaab.[124] The ISSA also described Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gaboose, Somaliland's new Interior Minister, as an Islamist with "strong personal connections with al-Shabaab", and predicted that the militant group would consequently be empowered.[125]

In January 2011, Puntland accused Somaliland of providing a safe haven for Mohamed Said Atom, an arms smuggler believed to be allied with al-Shabaab. Somaliland strenuously denied the charges, calling them a smokescreen to divert attention from Puntland's own activities.[126]

Atom and his men were reportedly hiding out and receiving medical attention in Somaliland after being pursued by Puntland forces in late 2010.[127] The Puntland Intelligence Agency also claimed that over 70 Somaliland soldiers had fought alongside Atom's militiamen, including one known intelligence official who died in battle.[128] Somaliland media reported in January that Atom's representative requested military assistance from the Somaliland authorities, and that he denied that Atom's militia was linked to al-Shabaab.[129]

Puntland government documents claim that Atom's militia were used as proxy agents in 2006. They accuse Somaliland of offering financial and military assistance to destabilize Puntland and distract attention from attempts to occupy the disputed Sool province.[127]

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