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What is Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen?

Interesting Article: Experts: Pirates abducted English tourist, hold her in Somalia By DAVID MCKENZIE / Nairobi published Monday, September 19, 2011
An English tourist was recently kidnapped from a remote Kenyan resort. Her husband was killed trying to resist the kidnappers, and she is believed to be in Somalia. Early reports indicated that it might have been the work of Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, an al Qaeda-linked militant group, but now the belief is that it might be the work of armed gangs or pirates. In any case, why was Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen mentioned? Who are they?


Somalia has seen conflict for many years, the most recent being the war in Somalia from 2006 to 2009 between Ethiopian/government forces and several militias. From this conflict rose Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), an Islamist militant group fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia. HSM was a hardline (Islamist) offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a group of Sharia Courts who united themselves to form a rival administration to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. Until the end of 2006, they controlled most of southern Somalia and the vast majority of its population, including most major cities such as Jowhar, Kismayo, Beledweyne, and the capital Mogadishu. HSM describes itself as jihadist wanting to impose a strict form of Sharia law in 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. HSM's troop strength as of May 2011 is estimated at 14,426 militants. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments and security services. The organization's current leader is Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad, who took over for Sheikh Moktar Ali Zubeyr (also known as Muktar Abdirahman "Godane", Ahmad Abdi Godane, Ahmad Abdi Aw Muhammad, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr and Muqtar Abdurahman Abu Zubeyr), who in September 2009 appeared in an HSM video where he offered his services to Bin Laden. The video appeared to be a response to a Bin Laden from March 2009 in which he urged the Somalis to overthrow the newly elected President of Somalia Sharif Ahmed. In January 2010, Godane, speaking on behalf of HSM, released a statement reiterating his support for Al-Qaeda and stated that they had "agreed to join the international jihad of al Qaeda". HSM is said to have non-Somali foreigners in its ranks after 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 HSM are blamed for several suicide bombings. Twenty or so Somali–American youth from the area of the Twin Cities in Minnesota whose families emigrated to the United States have also reportedly been recruited to fight in Somalia. In September 2009, a Somali–American from Seattle drove a truck bomb into an AMISOM base in Mogadishu, killing twenty-one peacekeepers and himself. HSM's funding relies upon remittances and business creation within the migrant Diaspora to fund its operations. HSM's weapons seem to come from Mohamed Said Atom (alternatively Sheikh Mohamed Said Atom), a Somali arms-smuggler, warlord and HSM commander (allegedly hiding out in Somaliland after being pursued by the neighboring Puntland region's authorities for his role in targeted assassination attempts against Puntland officials as well as bomb plots). Issa Osman Issa is another top al Qaeda recruiter and military strategist for HSM. Before joining HSM, 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. As of August 9th, 2011, an ideological split has reportedly emerged within HSM'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 a devastating drought), reportedly want to extend relief efforts to the impacted peoples. However, they were overruled by Godane (the northern commander credited with strengthening the group's ties with Al-Qaeda). With this rift, we see an ideological center of jihadist mentality taking over, whereby, the group is now further displaying itself as the al Qaeda arm in Somalia. With that type of ideology, going after the leadership of this organization should be at the forefront, lest the west lose all ability to help the innocent locals that have been suffering from the  regional wars and devastating droughts.

References:
Ibrahim, Mohammed (2010-08-09). "Government Forces Fight Militants in Northeast Somalia". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-04-07.
Garowe Online. "Somalia: Al Shabaab rebel Atom 'hiding in Somaliland': Report". Retrieved April 07, 2011.
Somalia: '70 Somaliland soldiers fought alongside Al Shabaab in Galgala': Puntland
Militant Leadership Monitor - Personalities Behind the Insurgency
Somali Islamists al-Shabab 'join al-Qaeda fight'". BBC News. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
Somali Islamists al-Shabab 'join al-Qaeda fight'". BBC News. 2010-02-01. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
Somalia: UN Envoy Visits Mogadishu, Suicide Bomber Was Al Shabaab". allAfrica.com. 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
Sipus, Mitchell, "The support of al-Shabaab by diaspora", Forced Migration Review, March 2011, p.29
United Nations Security Council Somalia Report (page 14)

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