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Al-Shabaab ( , "The Youth"), also known as Ash-Shabaab, Hizbul Shabaab (Arabic, "The Party of Youth") Washington’s Self-Defeating Somalia Policy Matt Bryden, CSIS Policy Forum, and the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM) is a group of Somali Islamists, primarily acting in Somaliamarker. In its media productions, the group refers to itself as "Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen," or the "Movement of Warrior-Youth."

The group, which was founded in 2004, developed in the wake of the loss of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) at the hands of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and its backers, primarily the military of Ethiopiamarker, in the War in Somalia . An estimated 3,000 or so members of the ICU went underground to form an insurgency and armed cells across Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia, and are conducting attacks against the government and the allied Ethiopian forces. The term Shabaab ("youth") is common in the Islamic world for youth groups, and the current movement should not be confused with other similarly named organizations.

While Al-Shabaab previously represented the hard-line militant youth movement within the Islamic Courts Union, 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.

Al-Shabaab recruits jihadists to wage war against "enemies of Islam". It is designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States Department of Statemarker, is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Australian government, and is also described as a terrorist organization by the Norwegian Police Security Service and the Swedish Security Servicemarker. One of the group's primary objectives is the establishment of the rule of sharia.

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. "Extremist" Splinter Group Of Somali Islamic Courts Formed Somaliland Times 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.

Before the losses sustained by the Islamic Courts Union in December 2006, estimates of their strength varied between 3,000 to 7,000 members. Training comprised a six-week basic course. A few were sent to advanced training in Eritreamarker for guerrilla tactics and explosives. Former Members of Radical Somali Group Give Details of Their Group Voice of America It has been alleged that some of the funding for Al-Shabaab's activities comes from Somali pirates. an allegation denied by the International Maritime Organization in East Africa

Organization and leadership

The organization's current leader is Axmed Cabdi Goodane, also known as Moktar Ali Zubeyr. 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 Ali Zubeyr. Xasan Xuseen has been described as the spiritual leader of the organization.



Al-Shabaab is said to have non-Somali foreigners in its ranks, particularly at its leadership. 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 use suicide bombing tactics before, the foreign elements of Al-Shabaab are blamed for several suicide bombings. UN's 2006 report stated Iranmarker, Libyamarker, Egyptmarker and others in the Persian Gulfmarker region as the main backers of the Islamist extremists. Egyptmarker has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia. Similarly, recent media reports also cited Egyptian and Arab jihadists as the core elements of the Al-Shabaab, who are training Somalis in sophisticated weaponry and suicide bombing techniques.

A few young Somali men who have emigrated with their families to the United States have also reportedly been recruited to fight in Somalia. According to UN Security Council documents, submitted by the US there are some 280-300 fighters being used by Somali rebel groups, mostly Al-Shabaab. The Eritrean government has been accused of arming and financing Al Shabab by the Somali government, the AU, the UN and the US government. 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.

Shabaab have persecuted Christians, 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.



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 counterterrorism alliance" (see page 39). (Also see ARPCT, Second Battle of Mogadishu)


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. Ethiopian troops to leave Somalia 'within weeks' The Guardian 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. Disbanded Militant Youth Group in Somalia Support Al-Qaida Message

  • January 19, 2007 - Pro-Islamic Courts Union website 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 Banadirmarker region.
  • 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."
  • February 9, 2007 - 800 Somali demonstrators in north Mogadishumarker, 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.


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. 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. The group has been blamed or claimed responsibility for, among other attacks, the February 2008 Bosaso bombings and the 2008 Hargeisa–Bosaso bombings. 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.


  • February 22, 2009 - al-Shabaab carried out a suicide car bomb attack against an African Union military base in Mogadishumarker, killing at least six Burundianmarker peacekeepers.
  • May, 2009 - 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.
  • July 8, 2009 - A video message featuring an American commander in al-Shabaab, Abu Mansur al-Amriki, is released in which he responds and refutes U.S. President Barack Obama's June 2009 Cairo speech to Arabs and Muslims.
  • August 4, 2009 - Four men allegedly connected with al-Shabaab in Melbournemarker, Australia were charged over the Holsworthy Barracks terror plot, a plan to storm the Holsworthy Barracksmarker with automatic weapons; and shoot army personnel or others until they were killed or captured. Al-Shabaab has denied any connection with the men. It has subsequently been listed as a terrorist organisation in Australia.
  • September 14, 2009 - Members of the group were killed in a raid targeting Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was also killed.

  • September 20, 2009 - 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.

  • October 15, 2009 - 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 have a firm bust. The women were then inspected to see if the firmness is natural, or if it is the result of wearing a bra. If they are found wearing a bra, they are ordered to remove it and shake their breasts after the whipping.

  • November 1, 2009 - 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."


In 2009, Al-Shabaab witnessed a number of its fighters, including several leaders, defect to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. One such high profile departure came in early November of the year with the defection of Sheikh Mohamed Abdullahi (also known as "Sheikh Bakistani"), who commanded the Maymana Brigade. Sheikh Bakistani told 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. During the same month, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Villa Somaliamarker 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". Following the murder of one of his family members (another Hizbul Islam commander) by Al-Shabaab militants as punishment for having escorted a UN convoy, an ertswhile Hizbul Islam commander who also recently defected to the side of the Somali government similarly indicated in the interview that "if you don't want to fight anymore, there's no point. That's why I quit".


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  3. Somalia: Foreigners fighters in the network of Al-Shabaab
  4. Wallis, D. 2008, 'Piracy ransoms funding Somalia insurgency', Reuters Africa, 24 August. Retrieved on 26 August 2008.
  6. The rise of the Shabab - The Economist Dec 18th 2008
  7. Suicide bombs kill 22 in northern Somalia, UN hit
  8. Al- Shabaab led by "dozens of foreign jihadists, most from Arab nations"
  9. Egypt and the Hydro-Politics of the Blue Nile River
  10. Nile River Politics: Who Receives Water?
  11. Jihadists from Arab nations and Egyptians
  14. AU, Somalia and UN accuse Eritrea of armed shabab
  15. Eritrean prisoners of war "in the custody of AU"
  16. Shabaab rebels destroy grave and mosque in Somalia
  17. Al Jazeera 2008, 'Scores dead in Somalia fighting', Al Jazeera English, 23 August. Retrieved on 24 August 2008.
  18. IRIN 2008, 'SOMALIA: Thousands displaced as insurgents take control of Kismayo', IRIN News, 25 August. Retrieved on 25 August 2008.
  21. Somalia: ends and beginnings, Georg-Sebastian Holzer, 2008-12-18
  22. "American Abu Mansur al-Amriki Responds to President Obama's Cairo Speech" Views from the Occident. 9 July 2009.
  23. Cameron Stewart and Milanda Rout, August 05, 2009. "Somali extremists on a 'fatwa order' from God". The Australian, Retrieved on August 5, 2009
  24. Melissa Iaria, August 04, 2009. "Terror suspects 'sought holy approval'"., Retrieved on August 4, 2009
  25. August 07, 2009. "US uses Aussie terror plot to warn of Somali threat". NEWS.COM.AU, Retrieved on August 7, 2009
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  27. "Shabab to avenge US raid in Somalia", September 15, 2009, Al-Jazeera
  28. "Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen's Statement on the Martyrdom of al-Nabhan," September 15, 2009
  29. "Leaps and Bounds: The Rapid Development of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen's Media," September 21, 2009
  30. "Whipped for wearing a 'deceptive' bra: Hardline Islamists in Somalia publicly flog women in Sharia crackdown," October 16, 2009
  31. "Al Shabaab Threatens Attacks on Israel," November 9, 2009
  32. Somali Government Displays Defecting Al-Shabab Commander
  33. 'If you don't want to fight anymore, there's no point'

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