Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya

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Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya
الاتحاد الإسلامي
LeadersHassan Aweys
Hassan Turki
Aden Ayro
Dates of operation1992–2006
Active regionsSomalia, Somali Region in Ethiopia
Allies al-Qaeda
OpponentsSomalia Transitional Federal Government
 United States
Somali Salvation Democratic Front
Isaaq clan
Dhulbahante clan
Absguul clan

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI; Arabic: الاتحاد الإسلامي, lit.'The Islamic Union') was an Islamist militant group in Somalia. It is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States,[1] the United Kingdom[2] and New Zealand.[3]


In the early 1990s, as Somalia fell into disorder following the collapse of the Siad Barre regime, Osama bin Laden took advantage of the chaos to fund al-Itihaad, later sending foreign militants who trained and fought alongside al-Itihaad members, with the goal of creating an Islamist state in the Horn of Africa.[4] AIAI was also active in setting up sharia courts. Despite its association with al-Qaeda, other analysts cautioned against overgeneralisation, noting that al-Itihaad had elements of a genuine social movement and that the characters of sub-factions throughout the country substantially differed from each other.[5]

By 1994, al-Itihaad had established itself in the Somali Region of Ethiopia. According to a report by the Emergency Unit for Ethiopia of the UNDP, al-Itihaad were most active in the area between Kebri Dahar, Danan, Kelafo and Degehabur. Some elements were reported to be active near Danot, Nusdariiq and 'Adow. Although they had support amongst the Ogaden, at the time their activities were not tolerated by the Isaaq and Dhulbahante clans.[6] Al-Itihaad sent a delegation to the Peace and Unity Conference of the Somali Nation, which was held February 1995 at Kebri Dehar, at which they made pledges which would cause the organisation to effectively cease to exist as a political and military force within the Ogaden.[7] Despite this promise al-Itihaad continued to engage in violent actions after this congress. One was the attempted assassination of then Minister of Transportation and Communications, Abdul Majid Hussein in 1996.[8] Another was in March of that year, when they raided areas in the Jigjiga Zone controlled by the Abskuul clan, apparently in collaboration with disaffected members of this clan. Established local security forces cleared al-Itihaad infiltrators from the Jigjiga Zone, and the defeated remnants retreated to disputed border areas between the Somali and Oromia regions, which has served as a refuge for them, as well as for Oromo fundamentalist rebel groups.[9]

An article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on 16 December 2001 quoted unnamed intelligence officials who claimed AIAI was extensively connected to al-Barakat.[5] The San Francisco Chronicle called al-Barakat a Somali-based business conglomerate and money transfer organisation. They quoted former U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill who called al-Barakat as one of the "financiers of terrorism". The 9/11 Commission report subsequently cleared al-Barakat of involvement in financing the 9/11 hijackers, the 9/11 Commission determined that the 9/11 hijackers received their remote funds transfers through US financial institutions, not Islamic financial institutions.[10]

Funded by wealthy Saudis, al-Itihaad had extensive connections with the Somali expatriate community in Kenya, in particular the Eastleigh district of Nairobi and the predominantly Muslim coastal regions. At its height, the AIAI militia numbered over 1,000.[11] According to U.S. intelligence officials, al-Itihaad cooperated with the al-Qaeda operatives who carried out the 1998 United States embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people.

On 7–8 March 1999, Ethiopia claimed it had made a cross-border incursion into Balanbale searching for members of AIAI who had reportedly kidnapped a person and stolen medical supplies, and denied reports of looting. Allegations from that time also claim Ethiopia was the supplier of various Somali warlords, while Eritrea was arming other warlords.[12][13]

On 24 September 2001, AIAI's finances were sanctioned by the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush under Executive Order 13224. Its then-head Hassan Dahir Aweys was also sanctioned under Executive Order 13224 in November of that year.[14] In June 2004, Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki, who had become leader of the organisation, was also sanctioned for his connections to bin Laden.[15] Al-Qaeda operatives were reported to have used the AIAI base on the island of Ras Kamboni, south of Kismayo near the border with Kenya.[16] Other sources indicate that al-Qaeda formed a training camp on Kamboni, while al-Itihaad set up its own training camp at Las Quoay near the northeast port of Bosaso. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001, these camps were dismantled and the hundreds of trained militants sailed for the safety of tribal areas in Yemen.[5]

Shortly thereafter it was claimed that al-Itihaad had dissolved as an organisation. Sheikh Aweys went on to become one of the leaders of the Courts of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).[17] Hassan al-Turki went on to lead Hizbul Shabaab before ceding the organisation to Aden Hashi Farah Ayro.


The following individuals were considered to be members of AIAI:


  1. ^ "Appendix C: Background Information on Other Terrorist Groups" (PDF). Patterns of Global Terrorism 2001 (Report). United States Department of State. May 2002. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  2. ^ "Terrorism Act 2000". Schedule 2, Act No. 11 of 2000.
  3. ^ "Designated individuals and organisations" (PDF). New Zealand Police. Retrieved 19 August 2015.
  4. ^ Hammer, Joshua (23 December 2007). "The African Front". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
  5. ^ a b c Reeve, Simon (16 December 2001). "U.S. returning to a nightmare called Somalia". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on 10 August 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  6. ^ Bryden, Matt (20 November 1994). Report on Mission to Haud Area, Region 5 (Report). UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
  7. ^ Bryden, Matt (March 1995). Peace and Unity Conference of the Somali Nation of Region 5 (Report). UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia. Retrieved 20 December 2008.
  8. ^ Pham, J. Peter (2007). "Regional Dimensions of the Human Rights and Humanitarian Situation in the "Ogaden", Somalia, and Beyond: Testimony before the United States House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, October 2, 2007". Ethiopia and the State of Democracy: Effects on Human Rights and Humanitarian Conditions in the Ogaden and Somalia: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Tenth Congress, First Session, October 2, 2007. Vol. Serial No. 110–111. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 74–94. ISBN 978-0-16-079776-7. LCCN 2008354520. Archived from the original on 27 November 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
  9. ^ Farah, Ahmed Yusuf (3 April 1996). Report on the Peace and Development Conference Jigjiga, 10–13 March 1996 (Report). UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia. Retrieved 26 December 2008.
  10. ^ "US ends Somali banking blacklist". BBC. 28 August 2006. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007. Retrieved 24 February 2007.
  11. ^ "Counter-Terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?" (PDF). Crisis Group Africa Report (95). 11 July 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 26 June 2007.
  12. ^ "Ethiopia denies looting Somali border town". Integrated Regional Information Networks. 10 March 1999. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  13. ^ "Somalia - Emerging Third Front in the Ethiopia-Eritrea War?". Stratfor. 7 April 1999. Archived from the original on 10 June 2020. Retrieved 12 September 2021. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Galvin, William Francis (24 September 2001). "Suspected Terrorist List: To Massachusetts Registered Investment Advisers". Massachusetts Securities Division. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  15. ^ a b Ereli, Adam (3 June 2004). "Designation of Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki under Executive Order 13224" (Press release). United States Department of State. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  16. ^ Shahzad, Syed Saleem (14 December 2001). "Next stop Somalia?". Asia Times. Archived from the original on 21 April 2005. Retrieved 4 September 2007.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ "SOMALIA: Islamic courts set up consultative council". Integrated Regional Information Networks. 26 June 2006. Archived from the original on 21 September 2006.