TERROR INFESTED SOMALIA , ERITREA AND SOMALILAND
Introduction of the terror group:
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. also known as Ash-Shabaab, Hizbul Shabaab ,"Mujahideen Youth Movement" or "Movement of Striving Youth", more commonly known as Al-Shabaab is a jihadist terrorist group based in East Africa. In 2012, it pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization Al-Qaeda.In February of the year, some of the group's leaders quarreled with Al-Qaeda over the union, and quickly lost ground.Al-Shabaab's troop strength was estimated at 7,000 to 9,000 militants in 2014. As of 2015, the group has retreated from the major cities, controlling a few rural areas.
Al-Shabaab is an offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which splintered into several smaller factions after its defeat in 2006 by Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the TFG's Ethiopian military allies.The group describes itself as waging jihad against "enemies of Islam", and is engaged in combat against the Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of June 2012, the US State Department has open bounties on several of the group's senior commanders.
In early August 2011, the Transitional Federal Government's troops and their AMISOM allies managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab militants. An ideological rift within the group's leadership also emerged, and several of the organization's senior commanders were assassinated. Due to its Wahhabi roots, Al Shabaab is hostile to Sufi traditions, and has often clashed with the militant Sufi group Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a. The group has also been suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram. Additionally, it attracted some members from western countries, notably Samantha Lewthwaite and Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki.
In August 2014, the Somali government-led Operation Indian Ocean was launched to clean up the remaining insurgent-held pockets in the countryside. On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the broader mission killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubeyr.U.S. authorities hailed the raid as a major symbolic and operational loss for Al-Shabaab, and the Somali government offered a 45-day amnesty to all moderate members of the militant group. Political analysts also suggested that the insurgent commander's death will likely lead to Al-Shabaab's fragmentation and eventual dissolution.
Organization and leadership:
Al-Shabaab's composition is multiethnic, with its leadership positions mainly occupied by Afghanistan- and Iraq-trained ethnic Somalis and foreigners. According to the National Counterterrorism Center, the group's rank-and-file members hail from disparate local groups, sometimes recruited by force.Unlike most of the organization's top leaders, its foot soldiers are primarily concerned with nationalist and clan-related affairs as opposed to the global jihad. They are also prone to infighting and shifting alliances.According to the Jamestown Foundation, Al-Shabaab seeks to exploit these vulnerabilities by manipulating clan networks in order to retain power. The group itself is likewise not entirely immune to local politics.More recently, Muslim converts from neighbouring countries have been conscripted, typically to do undesirable or difficult work.
Although al-Shabaab's leadership ultimately falls upon al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the internal leadership is not fully clear, and with foreign fighters trickling out of the country, its structure is increasingly decentralized. Ahmed Abdi Godane was publicly named as emir of al-Shabaab in December 2007. In August 2011, Godane was heavily criticized by Al-Shabaab co-founder Hassan Dahir Aweys and others for not letting aid into the hunger stricken parts of southern Somalia. Although not formally announced, Shabaab was effectively split up into a "foreign legion," led by Godane, and a coalition of factions forming a "national legion" under Aweys. The latter group often refused to take orders from Godane and the two groups hardly talked to each other. In February 2012, Godane made Bay'ah, or an oath of allegiance, to al-Qaeda. With it he likely hoped to reclaim and extend his authority, and to encourage foreign fighters to stay. This move will further complicate the cooperation with the "national legion" of al-Shabaab. Godane was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Somalia on September 1, 2014. Ahmad Umar was named Godane's successor on 6 September 2014, he is believed to have previously played a role in al-Shabaab's internal secret service known as Amniy.Foreign Participation:
al-Shabaab is said to have many foreigners within its ranks, particularly at the leadership level. 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 have been blamed for several suicide bombings. A 2006 UN report identified Libya, and Egypt, among countries in the region, as the main backers of the Islamist extremists. Egypt has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia.
Formerly a predominantly nationalist organization, al-Shabaab repositioned itself as a militant Islamist group that also attracted a large cadre of Western devotees. As of 2011, the group's foreign recruitment strategy was active in the United States, where members attempted to recruit from the local Muslim communities. According to an investigative report by the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, Al Shabaab recruited over 40 Muslim Americans since 2007. In 2010, the New York Times reported that after more than a dozen Americans were killed in Somalia, the organization's recruiting success had decreased in the US.
These American and foreign recruits played a dual role within the organization, serving as mercenaries and as a propaganda tool for radicalization and recruitment. These individuals, including Omar Hammami, appeared in propaganda videos posted in online forums in order to appeal to disaffected Muslim youth and inspire them to join the Islamist struggle. This was a top-down strategy, wherein Islamist agents attempted to use mosques and legitimate businesses as a cover to meet, recruit, and raise funds for operations in the US and abroad. By mid-2013, the U.S. Congress reported that such militant recruitment appeared to have halted.
Most of the foreign al-Shabaab members come from Yemen, Sudan, the Swahili Coast, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. As of 2010, their number was estimated at between 200 to 300 militants, augmented by around 1,000 diasporan ethnic Somalis. Many of Al-Shabaab's foot soldiers also belong to Somalia's marginalized ethnic minorities from the farming south.
Of the foreign members, Jonathan Evans, the former head of MI5, addressing a London security conference in 2010, advised that "a significant number of UK residents" were training with al-Shabaab. Linking this increased involvement with a reduction in Al Qaida activity in Pakistan's tribal areas, he also suggested that since Somalia, like Afghanistan, at the time had no effective central government, the presence of foreign fighters there could inspire terrorist incidents in the UK. "It is only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab." The actual number has been estimated at between 50 and 100 persons; one source estimating around 60 active Al-Shabaab recruiters, including 40 Somalis and an additional 20 mainly British based 'clean skins', individuals who have not committed any crimes but are believed to have ties with the group.There is also evidence of funding of the group by Somalis resident in Britain.
In 2012, it was also reported that the group was attracting an increasing number of non-Somali recent converts from Kenya, a predominantly Christian country in the African Great Lakes region. Estimates in 2014 placed the figure of Kenyan fighters at around 25% of Al-Shabaab's total forces. Referred to as the "Kenyan Mujahideen" by Al-Shabaab's core members,the converts are typically young and overzealous. Poverty has made them easier targets for the group's recruiting activities. The Kenyan insurgents can blend in with the general population of Kenya, and they are often harder to track by law enforcement. Reports suggest that al-Shabaab is attempting to build an even more multi-ethnic generation of fighters in the larger region. One such recent convert, who helped carry out the Kampala bombings but now cooperates with the Kenyan police, believes that the group is trying to use local Kenyans to do its "dirty work" for it, while its own core members escape unscathed. According to diplomats, Muslim areas in coastal Kenya and Tanzania, such as Mombasa and Zanzibar, are especially vulnerable for recruitment.
Foreigners from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Afghan-trained Somalis, play an important role in the group's leadership ranks owing to their combat experience. Bringing with them specialized skills, these commanders often lead the indoctrination of new recruits, and provide training in remote-controlled roadside bombings, suicide attack techniques, and the assassination and kidnapping of government officials, journalists, humanitarian and civil society workers.
In January 2009, Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia and Al-Shabaab carried on its fight against former ally and Islamic Courts Union leader, President Sharif Ahmed, who was the head of the Transitional Federal Government.Al-Shabaab saw some 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.
Before the drought in 2010, Somalia, including the Al-Shabaab controlled areas, had its best crop yield in seven years. Al-Shabaab claimed some credit for the success, saying that their reduction of over-sized cheap food imports allowed Somalia's own grain production, which normally has high potential, to flourish. They asserted that this policy 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. However, in response to the drought, Al-Shabaab announced in July 2011 that it had withdrawn its restrictions on international humanitarian workers.
In 2011, according to the head of the U.N.'s counter-piracy division, Colonel John Steed, Al-Shabaab increasingly sought to cooperate with other criminal organizations and pirate gangs in the face of dwindling funds and resources.Steed, however, acknowledged that he had no definite proof of operational ties between the Islamist militants and the pirates. Detained pirates also indicated to UNODC officials that some measure of cooperation on their part with Al-Shabaab militants was necessary, as they have increasingly launched maritime raids from areas in southern Somalia controlled by the insurgent group. Al-Shabaab members have also extorted the pirates, demanding protection money from them and forcing seized pirate gang leaders in Harardhere to hand over 20% of future ransom proceeds.
Despite routinely expelling, attacking and harassing aid workers, Al-Shabaab permits some agencies to work in areas under its control. At the height of its territorial control it implemented a system of aid agency regulation, taxation and surveillance. Where agencies are allowed to operate, this is often due to the desire of Al-Shabaab to coopt and materially and politically benefit from the provision of aid and services. Senior aid agency representatives often strongly rejected claims that they talked with Al-Shabaab, while aid workers working in Al-Shabaab controlled areas often reported they directly negotiated with the group out of necessity.
While Al-Shabaab has been reduced in power and size since the beginning of the coordinated operation against it by the Somalian military and the Kenyan army, the group has continued its efforts at recruitment and territorial control. The group maintains training camps in areas near Kismayo in the southern regions of Somalia. One such camp was constructed in Laanta Bur village near Afgooye, which is also where the former K-50 airport is located.On July 11, 2012, Somali federal troops and their AMISOM allies captured the area from the militants.
The U.S. has asserted that al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda pose a global threat. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that "U.S. operations against al-Qaida are now concentrating on key groups in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa."
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.
Shabaab have persecuted Somalia's small Christian minority, sometimes affixing the label on people they suspect of working for Ethiopian intelligence.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. This has led to confrontations with Sufi organized armed groups who have organized under the banner of Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a.
Echoing the transition from a nationalistic struggle to one with religious pretenses, Al Shabaab propaganda strategy is starting to reflect this shift. Through their religious rhetoric Al Shabaab attempts to recruit and radicalize potential candidates, demoralize their enemies, and dominate dialogue in both national and international media. According to reports Al Shabaab is trying to intensify the conflict: "It would appear from the alleged AMISOM killings that it is determined to portray the war as an affair between Christians and Muslims to shore up support for its fledgling cause... The bodies, some beheaded, were displayed alongside Bibles and crucifixes. The group usually beheads those who have embraced Christianity or Western ideals. Militants have begun placing beheaded corpses next to bibles and crucifixes in order to intimidate local populations."In April 2010 Al Shabaab announced that it would begin banning radio stations from broadcasting BBC and Voice of America, claiming that they were spreading Christian propaganda. By effectively shutting down the Somali media they gain greater control of the dialog surrounding their activities.
Operation Linda Nchi :
Since the TFG-led Operation Linda Nchi between the Somalian National Army (SNA) and the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) against Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia began,Al Shabaab has been intensifying its propaganda effort .Additionally, Al-Shabaab has been conducting militia parades as a show of force in cities such as Marka.
As Al Shabaab is suffering heavy military losses, the effectiveness of their propaganda campaign to date is somewhat inconclusive. What is apparent, however, is that they are increasing their propaganda efforts without corresponding response from TFG, AMISOM and KDF forces. Al-Shabaab retreats from regions in southern Somalia and areas around Mogadishu are falsely heralded as tactical maneuvers by the militants who are facing defeat .
The propaganda techniques employed by Al-Shabaab show the stark contrast between militant forces and the conventional armies of AMISOM. While Shabaab forces act with impunity in regards to their guerrilla tactics, the allied forces are obligated to comply with articles of the Geneva Convention which require them to warn civilians of air raids and troop movements According to Al-Jazeera, Al-Shabaab have also attempted to capitalize on the coordinated incursion by depicting itself as a resistance force fighting foreign occupiers and urged local residents to take up arms against the Kenyan soldiers.
In 2012, the United States government began a new policy of offering financial rewards in exchange for information as to the whereabouts of Al-Shabaab members. On June 7, the U.S. Department of State put forth an offer totaling $33 million for the capture of seven of Al-Shabaab's senior commanders, including a reported $3to $7 million of the total funds were set aside for information regarding the insurgent group's Amir or Spiritual Leader, Ahmed Godane (Abu Zubayr), with another $5 million bounty on Al-Shabaab's Deputy Leader, Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur). Additionally, a $3 million bounty was reserved for the senior commander Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi.
On June 8, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) released an official statement expressing support for the initiative.
In response, senior Al-Shabaab commander Fu'ad Mohamed Khalaf (Sheikh Shongole) issued a mock offer of his own the same day, promising 10 camels to anyone possessing information on U.S. President Barack Obama. Shongole also mockingly offered a less valuable bounty of 10 cocks and 10 hens for information concerning American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
During an official state visit to Mogadishu, top U.S. envoy Johnnie Carson dismissed Al-Shabaab's counter-offer as "absurd". He also indicated that the American government would impose sanctions on anyone attempting to thwart the ongoing political process, including invoking visa and travel bans and freezing assets.
On March 21, 2013, the U.S. Department of State announced another bounty of $5 million apiece for information on two American senior Al-Shabaab commanders, Abu Mansour al-Amriki (Omar Shafik Hammami) and Jehad Serwan Mostafa.
On March 15, 2014, the U.S. Department of State also began offering bounties of up to $3 million apiece for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the Al-Shabaab senior members Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Yasin Kilwe and Jafar. According to State Department officials, Abdikadir coordinates Al-Shabaab's recruitment activities in Kenya, with Jafar acting as his deputy; Kilwe serves as Al-Shabaab's Emir for the northeastern Puntland region. The bounties are part of the "Rewards for Justice" program, wherein money is issued for leads on terror suspects.
On September 27, 2014, the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) offered a $2 million reward to any individual who provides information leading to the arrest of the new Al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyda. According to the NISA Commander Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, a separate $1 million would be rewarded to any person who supplies information that could result in the killing of Ubeyda. Turyare also pledged that the informers' identities would be kept private. This is reportedly the first time that a Somalia security official is offering such large dead-or-alive bounties on an Al-Shabaab leader.
On April 3, 2015, the Kenyan government offered a 20 million Kenyan shillings ($215,000) reward for the arrest of Mohamed Mohamud, who serves as a commander of Al-Shabaab operations in Kenya.
On April 10, 2015, the Federal Government of Somalia offered a $250,000 reward for the capture of Al-Shabaab commander Ahmed Diriye. It also placed bounties of between $100,000 to $150,000 for information on the whereabouts or leading to the arrest of several other of the militant group's leaders, including Mahad Warsame Galay (Mahad Karate), Ali Mohamed Raage (Ali Dhere), Abdullahi Abdi (Daud Suheyb), Mohamed Mohamud Noor Sultan
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. 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.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.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.
On July 5, 2012 the Obama administration announced sanctions on Eritrea's intelligence chief and on a high-ranking military officer related to allegations of their support of Al-Shabaab. Col. Tewolde Habte Negash is accused of providing training and support while Col. Taeme Abraham Goitom is alleged to organize armed opposition to the Somalian government. The sanctions freeze any of the individual's U.S. assets and prohibits Americans from conducting business with them.On July 16, 2012, a United Nations Monitoring Group report stated that "it had found no evidence of direct Eritrean support for al Shabaab in the past year."
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. 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.
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.
Atom and his men were reportedly hiding out and receiving medical attention in Somaliland after being pursued by Puntland forces in late 2010. 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. 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.
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.
By Dibyendu Sekhar Kumar