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What is with these kidnappings in Kenya?

Interesting Article: Kenya says kidnapping provocation by al Shabaab by HUMPHREY MALALO / Nairobi published Monday October 3, 2011
A recent article spoke about the abduction of a wheelchair-bound French woman on the northern coast island of Manda off the Kenyan coast. This is the second such kidnapping recently. Early last month, gunmen attacked British tourists at a camp resort a short speedboat ride away from northern Kenya's Lamu archipelago (island right next to Manda), killing a man and kidnapping his wife. Al Shabaab is suspected of both incidents. So who is the al Shabaab?

Al Shabaab (also known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM), Ash-Shabaab, Hizbul Shabaab (Arabic, "The Party of Youth"/ (Shabaab means "youth" in Arabic)),and the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM), Hizbul Shabaab, Al Shabaab al-Islamiya, Youth Wing, Al Shabaab al Islam, Al Shabaab al Jihaad-the Unity of Islamic Youth), is an Islamic militant group that seeks to create an Islamic state in Somalia  by ridding the country of foreigners and outside influences. Formed in 2004 as the militant wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a network of Islamist militant tribes that controlled southern and central Somalia, Al Shabaab, now controls much of southern Somalia (see map on right) and is comprised of both local Somalis and recruits from overseas, including Somali youth from the U.S. Estimates of the group’s size range from 3,000 to 7,000 (many of whom are from the Hawiye clan). Al Shabaab has waged an insurgency against Somalia’s transitional governments and its Ethiopian supporters since the ICU lost power in December 2006. Fighting between Al Shabaab and Somali government forces have flared since May 2009. Although the group primarily targets Somali governmental officials and Ethiopian military forces, it has also conducted attacks against African Union Mission forces and international peacekeepers inside Somalia. Since the U.S. designated Al Shabaab a Foreign Terrorist Organization in October 2008, the group has also stated its intent to target Western interests both inside and outside Somalia. In April 2009, Al Shabaab fired mortar shells at a U.S. congressman as his plane lifted off from a Somalia airport. In November 2009, the terrorist organization announced the establishment of Al Quds Brigade, a military unit specifically tasked with attacking Israel. The organization's current leader is Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad, also known as Ibrahim "al-Afghani". He hails from Somalia's North-Western separatist region of Somaliland and belongs to Somaliland's acad Muse sub-clan of Northern Isaaq. He was reportedly killed on June 25th 2011, but those reports have not been verified. What has been verified is that a core group of senior leaders guide the group’s actions. This leadership is divided into three geographical units: Somalia’s Bay and Bokool regions; south-central Somalia and Mogadishu; and Puntland and Somaliland. Al Shabaab shares ideological ties with Al Qaeda and is linked to the terrorist network through leadership contacts, training and joint operations in the Horn of Africa. In September 2008, a senior al-Shabaab leader released a video in which he pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and called for Muslim youth to come to Somalia. In February 2009, Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda's second-in-command, released a video that began by praising al-Shabaab's seizure of the Somali town of Baidoa.  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. While most of its fighters are predominantly interested in the nationalistic battle against the TFG and not supportive of global jihad, al-Shabaab’s senior leadership is affiliated with al-Qaeda, and certain extremists aligned with al-Shabaab are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan. In a February 2010 press conference, Al Shabaab announced it will be aligning with Al Qaeda. Al Shabaab, like al Qaeda, espouses a strict form of Salafi Islam that stresses a literal and rigid reading of the Quran. Al Shabaab is dependent on fundraising among the global Somali diaspora and Somalis abroad utilize the hawala system, which legally transfers money across borders using a network of individuals on an honor code instead of banks with traceable records, to provide the terrorist group with money and resources. The group is so vast that several Somali-Americans have been arrested for supporting them. For example, Shirwa Ahmed, a naturalized U.S. citizen who left Minnesota for Somalia in August 2008, was one of five terrorists who carried out an October 2008 suicide attack on the United Nations compound, the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Hargesis, killing 24 people. Ahmed is reportedly the first known American suicide bomber. In 2009, three Somali-Americans pleaded guilty to providing material support to Al Shabaab. Abdifatah Yusuf Isse and Salah Osman Ahmed left for Somalia in December 2007 and trained with Al Shabaab, and Kamal Said Hassan also attended an Al Shabaab training camp before returning to the U.S. In the summer of 2010, four American men were arrested for attempting to join Al Shabaab in Somalia. Two of the men – Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte – were arrested in June 2010 for allegedly planning to kill American troops who they thought would soon be deployed to Somalia to help fight Al Shabaab. Zachary Chesser was arrested in July 2010 for attempting to travel to Somalia to train with Al Shabaab. In August 2010, Shaker Masri was arrested after he mapped various routes to Somalia to avoid detection by American federal authorities and stated his intentions to become a suicide bomber in Somalia. 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. The group even has an American leader; Abu Mansoor Al-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. Most recent action was on October 4th, 2011, when Al Shabaab detonated a truck bomb outside a compound housing government buildings in Mogadishu (Somalia), killing at least 65 people and maiming scores in one of the most devastating attacks since they pulled their fighters out of Mogadishu in early August. Al Shabaab is a dangerous organization in Somali and a national security threat to Kenya, the sooner this group is targeted, the less influence al Qaeda will have in the region to export their terrorist agendas. 

 
References:
http://www.adl.org/terrorism/symbols/al_shabaab.asp
Jon Lee Anderson, Letter from Mogadishu, “The Most Failed State,” The New Yorker, December 14, 2009, p. 64
Abdisaid M. Ali 2008, 'The Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahidiin: A profile of the first Somali terrorist organisation', Institut für Strategie Politik Sicherheits und Wirtschaftsberatung (ISPSW), Berlin, Germany, June 2008.
Washington’s Self-Defeating Somalia Policy Matt Bryden, CSIS Policy Forum
The rise of the Shabab—The Economist Dec 18th 2008". Economist.com. 2008-12-18.
Al- Shabaab led by "dozens of foreign jihadists, most from Arab nations"". Mcclatchydc.com. 2008-11-18.
FBI aware of report that suicide bomber was Somali-American September 23rd, 2009.
Diplomats stress need for all-inclusive talks on the future of Somalia". USA Today. Associated Press. 2007-02-09.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/04/mogadishu-truck-bomb-al-shabaab?newsfeed=true
http://www.cfr.org/somalia/al-shabaab/p18650

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