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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Somalian-based Terrorist Group Al-Shabaab Threat to U.S. Interests in Uganda

Link: Uganda Foils Imminent Al-Shabaab terror Plot

To understand the particular brand of compost that makes up the Somalian terrorist group Al-Shabaab (The Younger), Mookie Baby will have to take a quick trip through history.  Somalia, which occupies the eastern Horn of Africa, was an Italian colony until the end of World War II.  At one time it was home to a sizable Italian population, and would have made a strategic port for the Italian Navy. (Why does the new Italian Navy have glass bottom boats?  So they can look at the old Italian Navy.)  After the war it was administered as a protectorate by the Brits until Independence in 1960.  In 1991 Somalia descended into the nastiest kind of civil war.  In the ten years leading up the civil war, the economy had broken down, the capital Moqdishu was often without power, and the government had become more unpopular and repressive.  When the government finally fell, Somalia collapsed into many separate areas of authority.  A group of Islamic Courts was created to help the people work through conflicts (using Sharia Law, of course).  These Courts eventually started providing aid and healthcare and adopted the name "Islamic Courts Union" (ICU).  The ICU swallowed up weaker authorities and expanded quickly. 

In 1999 the Courts and various affiliated groups merged to create a militia, the ICUP.  At its greatest strength, ICU was in control of Moqdishu and all of south Somalia.  Interestingly enough, a government run by judges is called a "Krytocracy" (thank you, Wikipedia).  From 1999 to 2006, the ICU fought against a variety of different home-grown groups including a number of "Transitional Governments" supported by the Arab League and African Union.  In 2006, with the ICU apparently in control of all of Moqdishu and large parts of Somalia, Ethiopia invaded.  The Ethiopians had no trouble defeating the various militias aligned with the ICU.  A Transitional Federal Government (TFG), supported by Ethiopia, the African Union, and apparently the UN, forced the remaining elements of ICU into the rural areas (although certain sectors of Moqdishu remained in Al-Shabaab control until 2011).  The ICU splintered into a number of groups, including Al-Shabaab, which describes itself as carrying out a jihad against the enemies of Islam, the TRG, and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Al-Shabaab is known to butcher herds of elephants to raise money from their Ivory, and also collects ransoms from kidnappings.  Internationally, Eritrea (Eritrea's Intelligence Service in particular), has been accused of providing support to Al-Shabaab (Eritrea hates Ethiopia, Ethiopia is at war with Al-Shabaab, therefore Eritrea supports Al-Shabaab; just another verse in the famous tune "the enemy of my enemy is my friend").

After 2006, Al-Shabaab began to resemble a smaller, more tactile terrorist group.  Attacks were conducted against targets in Kenya, especially areas frequented by western tourists.  Starting in 2011, Al-Shabaab began conducting small scale attacks against defenseless targets in Nairobi and also in areas of northeast Kenya.  Hundreds of people were killed.  In December 2013, Al-Shabaab attacked an upscale shopping market in Nairobi (frequented by ex-pats, diplomats, and wealthy Kenyans) and thirty-nine people were killed.  In September 2014, a Drone strike killed Al-Shabaab leader Moktar Ali Zubayr.  Operations by Kenyan police and Special Forces, with assistance from western allies, conducted many successful raids against Al-Shabaab in 2013 and 2014.  It was believed by many that the death of Zubayr spelled the beginning of the end for Al-Shabaab.  It might have been wishful thinking, as the link provided above details Ugandan authorities working against a suspected Al-Shabaab operation in Entebbe, Uganda.  In 2012 Al-Shabaab announced a merger with a Somali-based Al-Qaeda group.  Intelligence has also confirmed that Al-Shabaab is in contact with Al-Qaeda In the Maghreb (AQIM) and Nigerian Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram (see previous post on Boko Haram).

It would be unwise to consider Al-Shabaab irrelevant.  In many instances, terrorist groups become more of a threat as they become smaller.  They are able to travel easier and don't require much in the way of resources (although everyone needs an AK-47, a beheading knife, and a bomb or two).  I can imagine the poor folks at CTC in Langley trying to make sense of all these various groups.  One of the reasons they splinter in this manner is to make it difficult for the good guys to stay on top of their game.  It would be much easier to follow and destroy three large terrorist networks, as opposed to the difficulty (and resources needed) to combat over one hundred different groups.  The key is not to get bogged down in the different names and titles.  These people all have the same basic goal, creating chaos and fear through murder and destruction.  They are best confronted as one monster: International Terrorism.

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