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Al Qaeda welcomes Al Shabab into their Arms!

Interesting Article: "Al-Shabab, Al Qaeda: Linkup of groups in decline?" by Associated Press / Nairobi published Friday, February 10th, 2012

An interesting article mentioned that al Qaeda's decision to formally extend its terror franchise to what once was a nationalist movement in Somalia may only be a desperate joining of hands to prop up two militant groups that are both losing popular support and facing increasingly deadly military attacks, analysts said Friday. Somalia's main militant group, al-Shabab, and Al Qaeda have been patting each other on the back for years. On Thursday, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri formalized the relationship by giving "glad tidings" that al-Shabab had joined Al Qaeda. Would you like to know more?

Al-Shabab, which began as a movement to oust Ethiopian troops from Somalia (see map on right) some six years ago, has long been using terror tactics like suicide bombings and car bombings against the weak Somali government and African Union troops in Mogadishu. The group also has hosted Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters with experience in Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

The Somali government dismissed Thursday's announcement as non-news, given the close ties between al-Shabab and Al Qaeda over the years. Abdi Rashid, a Somalia expert, said it's not clear what benefit Al Qaeda gets out of the newly announced partnership, given that al-Shabab has been losing large chunks of territory to the East African militaries fighting it in Somalia. Only a year ago, al-Shabab held sway in most of Mogadishu and much of south-central Somalia. But the group is now losing its grip on the country.

"For me the message they are sending is clear. It is basically an admission that their conventional militarily capabilities probably cannot recover so the only way forward they have in the so-called jihad is to merge with Al Qaeda in the terror campaign," said Rashid, a former Somalia analyst with the International Crisis Group who is setting up an independent policy forum.

According to Thomas Joscelyn, a terrorism researcher, writer, economist and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. this is one of the most unsurprising moves in the history of al Qaeda and the formal merger of Shabaab and al Qaeda is merely the final step in a longstanding and close working relationship. To see the tight bonds between al Qaeda and Shabaab all one has to do is look at Shabaab’s leadership. Virtually every key Shabaab leader is either a dual-hatted al Qaeda-Shabaab personality, or has publicly expressed his loyalty to al Qaeda, or both. Some of Shabaab’s most notorious commanders served al Qaeda since the early to mid-1990s and were even involved in al Qaeda’s 1998 embassy bombings – the terrorist organization’s most successful attack prior to September 11.

For example: Fazul Mohammed was killed in June 2011. Before his demise, Fazul was both the head of East Africa Al Qaeda (EAAQ) and a senior Shabaab commander. When Osama bin Laden named Fazul the EAAQ chieftain in 2009, Shabaab’s emir, Mukhtar Abu al Zubayr, attended the ceremony commemorating Fazul’s new leadership position. Fazul was long wanted for his role in al Qaeda’s 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

Another example is Mukhtar Robow, a senior Shabaab leader and spokesman. In August 2008, according to the Los Angeles Times, Robow admitted: “We are negotiating how we can unite into one [with al Qaeda]. We will take our orders from Sheik Osama bin Laden because we are his students.” Robow continued: “Al Qaeda is the mother of the holy war in Somalia. Most of our leaders were trained in Al Qaeda camps. We get our tactics and guidelines from them. Many have spent time with Osama bin Laden.”

Unfortunately, Al Qaeda, does not advertise all of its business publicly. While al Qaeda is prolific in issuing propaganda statements, it is still a clandestine organization intent on keeping some secrets. There is little to no transparency, for example, concerning how al Qaeda decides to formally or publicly accept an organization such as Shabaab as an affiliate.

In the wake of Ethiopia’s US-backed invasion of Somalia in 2006, Al Shabaab attracted a hard-core contingent of foreign fighters with a decidedly ‘internationalist’ agenda and strong Al Qaeda credentials. The killing of prominent leaders such as Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in 2009 and Fazul Abdallah Mohammed aka ‘Harun Fazul’ last year, have done little to stamp out the Al Qaeda influence. Instead, the presence of foreign terrorists has subsumed Al Shabaab’s nationalist agenda and shaped international reaction to the group.

'Operation Linda Nchi’, Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia, was launched in response to the growing threat and constant provocations of Al Shabaab’s internationalist factions. It came in the wake of several provocations involving foreign tourists and Kenyan security officers. At this point it would be smart to also drive a wedge between nationalist and internationalist factions of Al Shabaab in preparation for the battle for hearts and minds that comes after the war. Al Shabaab presents a danger, both regionally and internationally, that goes well beyond ‘Operation Linda Nchi’ and the offensives in and around Mogadishu with the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom.

Now is the time to go in to Somalia. There is a widespread and justified fear that the hundreds of foreign fighters receiving terrorist training and radicalization in the conflict are poised to export terror to their home countries should the group lose the territory it holds and be forced underground. The United States counts more than 30 nationals among the terrorists, with some of the 45 or so known to have been recruited killed in battle or as suicide bombers. There are dozens of other Westerners, East Africans and foreigners from around the world. Their effectiveness as recruiters can be greatly reduced by conducting the campaign in Somalia responsibly. Let us hope we get ahead of this curve.



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