Al-Shabaab (militant group)

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حركة الشباب المجاهدين
Dates of operation2006–present
Active regions Somalia
 Ethiopia[note 1]
  • 4,000–6,000[7] (2014 estimate)
  • 7,000–9,000 (2017 estimate)[8]
  • 5,000–10,000 (2020 estimate)[9]
  • 7,000–12,000 (2022 estimate)[10]
Part of Al-Qaeda
Battles and warsSomali Civil War

Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM; Arabic: حركة الشباب المجاهدين, romanizedḤarakat ash-Shabāb al-Mujāhidīn, Somali: Xarakada Mujaahidiinta Alshabaab, lit.'Mujahideen Youth Movement' or 'Movement of Striving Youth'), more commonly known as al-Shabaab,[note 3] is a Somalia-based Islamic insurgence group active in East Africa.[17] The group describes itself as waging jihad against "enemies of Islam"[citation needed] and is engaged in combat against the Federal Government of Somalia and the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). The group has been suspected of having links with al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb and Boko Haram. Due to its Wahhabi roots, al-Shabaab is hostile to Sufi traditions[18] and has often clashed with the Somali Sufi militia Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a.[19] Al-Shabaab’s leaders and commanders are mainly from the Hawiye clan, which is one of the largest clans in Somalia.[20] It has attracted some members from Western countries, including Briton Samantha Lewthwaite and American Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki.

Formed in the mid-2000s, al-Shabaab came to prominence in the 2006–2009 Somalia War. In early August 2011, the Transitional Federal Government under Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and its AMISOM allies managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the al-Shabaab militants.[21] In 2012, al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to the militant Islamist organization al-Qaeda and its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.[22] In February 2012, some of the group's leaders quarreled with al-Qaeda over the union[23][24] and quickly lost ground.[25] Al-Shabaab's troop strength was estimated at 7,000–9,000 militants in 2014.[7] In August 2014, the Somali-government-led Operation Indian Ocean was launched to clean up the remaining insurgent-held pockets in the countryside.[26] On 1 September 2014, a U.S. drone strike carried out as part of the operation killed al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair.[27] U.S. authorities hailed the raid as a major symbolic and operational loss for al-Shabaab, and the Somali government offered a 45-day amnesty to all moderate members of the militant group.[28]

As of 2015, the group had retreated from the major cities, however al-Shabaab still controlled large parts of the rural areas.[29] The group remains strong and active and is responsible for many terrorist attacks with high death tolls, including the September 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya, the 14 October 2017 Mogadishu bombings and the December 2019 Mogadishu bombing. Al-Shabaab has been designated as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, Malaysia,[30] the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.[31][32] As of June 2012, the U.S. State Department had open bounties on several of the group's senior commanders.[33] As of 2020, al-Shabaab had an estimated 5,000–10,000 fighters across Somalia.[9] Attendant to its resurgence in 2022, it is estimated to have increased its deployable combat strength to 15,000 fighters.[34]


Al-Shabaab is also known as Ash-Shabaab, Hizb al-Shabaab ("Party of the Youth"),[35] and Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM) (Arabic: حركة المقاومة الشعبية في بلاد الهجرتين).[36] For short, the organization is referred to as HSM, which stands for "Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen". The term Shabaab means "youth" in Arabic, and the group should not be confused with similarly named groups.

Organization and leadership[edit]

Al-Shabaab's composition is multiethnic, with its leadership positions mainly occupied by Afghanistan- and Iraq-trained ethnic Somalis and foreigners.[37] According to the National Counterterrorism Center, the group's rank-and-file members hail from disparate local groups, sometimes recruited by force.[38] Unlike most of the organization's top leaders,[39] its foot soldiers are primarily concerned with nationalist and clan-related affairs as opposed to the global jihad. They are also prone to infighting and shifting alliances.[38] According to the Jamestown Foundation, al-Shabaab seeks to exploit these vulnerabilities by manipulating clan networks in order to retain power. The group itself is likewise not entirely immune to local politics.[39] More recently, Muslim converts from neighbouring countries have been conscripted, typically to do undesirable or difficult work.[40]

Although al-Shabaab's leadership ultimately falls upon al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the internal leadership is not fully clear, and with foreign fighters trickling out of the country, its structure is increasingly decentralized. Ahmed Abdi Godane was publicly named as emir of al-Shabaab in December 2007.[41] In August 2011, Godane was heavily criticized by al-Shabaab co-founder Hassan Dahir Aweys and others for not letting aid into the hunger-stricken parts of southern Somalia. Although not formally announced, al-Shabaab was effectively split up into a "foreign legion", led by Godane, and a coalition of factions forming a "national legion" under Aweys. The latter group often refused to take orders from Godane and the two groups hardly talked to each other. In February 2012, Godane made Bay'ah, or an oath of allegiance, to al-Qaeda. With it, he likely hoped to reclaim and extend his authority and to encourage foreign fighters to stay. This move will further complicate the cooperation with the "national legion" of al-Shabaab.[22] Godane was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Somalia on September 1, 2014.[42] Ahmad Umar was named Godane's successor on 6 September 2014, he is believed to have previously played a role in al-Shabaab's internal secret service known as Amniya.[43]


Mukhtar Robow ("Abu Mansoor"), the Second Deputy Leader of al-Shabaab
Name Role Status
Mukhtar Robow "Abu Mansoor" Second Deputy Leader and regional commander in charge of Bay and Bakool[48] surrendered to Somali forces in 2017
Fuad Mohammed Khalaf "Shangole" second-most important leader.[49] In charge of public affairs. (Awrtabe sub-clan of Darod)[45]
Hassan Dahir Aweys spiritual leader[50] surrendered to federal government in 2013
Hussein Ali Fidow political chief and Wasiir (Prime Minister)[51]
Ali Mohamud Raghe "Dheere" a.k.a. Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage a.k.a. Sheikh Ali Dhere current Deputy Amir. He is from Hawiye Murusade clan. Official spokesman.[49] (Not to be confused with the Sheikh Ali Dhere who established the first Islamic court in Mogadishu in 1996.)
Aden Hashi Farah "Ayro" central Hawiye clan[52] killed in U.S. airstrike in 2008
Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee'aad "al-Afghani" (Abubakar al-Seyli'i) was Governor of the Kisimayo administration[49] killed by Godane loyalists in 2013
Hassan Yaqub Ali was official spokesman of the Kisimayo administration but currently he is Waali (governor) of Gal-Mudug.[49] (Rahanwayn clan)[45]
Abdirahman Hassan Hussein leader (Governor) of the Middle Shabelle region[53]
Hassan Abdullah Hersi "al-Turki" leader of the Ras Kamboni Brigades, which controls the Juba Valley and was first part of Hizbul Islam but merged with al-Shabaab in 2010.[54] (Ogaden sub-clan of Darod)[45] Died of natural causes in 2014[55]
Mohamed Said Atom faction leader and arms dealer[56] who in July 2010 announced allegiance to al-Shabaab and the al-Shabaab commander in Puntland.[57] surrendered to Federal Government in 2014. Escaped in 2016, and was granted asylum in Qatar[58][59][full citation needed]
Mukhtar Abu-Muslim head of fatwas,[60] from Rahanweyn clan.
Abdulahi Haji "Daud"[60] head of assassinations, from Hawiye clan of Murursade sub-clan.
Sahal Isku Dhuuq[60] head of kidnappings of aid workers for ransom, from Dir clan of Bimaal sub-clan killed in US drone strike in 2014
Hassan Afrah,[60] head of relationship with pirates, from Hawiye clan of Saleban sub-clan.
Dahir Gamaey "Abdi Al-Haq"[60] judge of al-Shabaab, from Hawiye clan of Duduble sub-clan.
Tahliil Abdishakur head of the elite Al-Amniyat assassination unit killed in U.S. drone strike in 2014.[61]
Yusuf Dheeq chief of external operations and planning for intelligence and security killed in U.S. drone strike in 2015.[62]
Aden Garaar head of external operations of al-Shabaab; reportedly orchestrated the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi killed in U.S. drone strike in 2015.[63]
Mohamed Musa Gedo province commander killed in skirmish with Somali army in 2015.[64]
Abdiasis Abu Musab military operations spokesman


Al-Shabaab is said to have many foreigners within its ranks, particularly at the leadership level.[37][65] 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 originally use suicide bombing tactics, the foreign elements of al-Shabaab have been blamed for several suicide bombings.[66][67] A 2006 UN report identified Libya, and Egypt, among countries in the region, as the main backers of the Islamist extremists. Egypt has a longstanding policy of securing the Nile River flow by destabilizing Ethiopia.[68][69]

A senior U.S. military official told the New York Times in mid-2011 that about 30 U.S. citizens were al-Shabaab fighters; in that year, two Somali-Americans in Minnesota were convicted of illegally funding al-Shabaab.[70] A 2011 House Committee on Homeland Security report stated that the group recruited more than 40 Muslim Americans and 20 Canadians to battle in Somalia, with at least 15 of those being killed.[71] Experts stated that the peak of recruitment was 2007–08, and that after more than a dozen Americans were killed in Somalia, the organization's recruiting success decreased in the U.S.[72]

These American and foreign recruits played a dual role within the organization, serving as mercenaries and as a propaganda tool for radicalization and recruitment. These individuals, including Omar Hammami, appeared in propaganda videos posted in online forums to appeal to disaffected Muslim youth and inspire them to join the Islamist struggle.[73] This was a top-down strategy, wherein Islamist agents attempted to use mosques and legitimate businesses as a cover to meet, recruit, and raise funds for operations in the US and abroad.[73] By mid-2013, the U.S. Congress reported that such militant recruitment appeared to have halted.[74]

Most of the foreign al-Shabaab members come from Yemen, Sudan, the Swahili Coast, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. As of 2010, their number was estimated at between 200 and 300 militants, augmented by around 1,000 diasporan ethnic Somalis.[37] Many of al-Shabaab's foot soldiers also belong to Somalia's marginalized ethnic minorities from the farming south.[75]

Jonathan Evans, the former head of MI5, said at a London security conference in 2010[76] that "a significant number of UK residents" were training with al-Shabaab. Linking this increased involvement with a reduction in Al Qaida activity in Pakistan's tribal areas, he also suggested that since Somalia, like Afghanistan, at the time had no effective central government, the presence of foreign fighters there could inspire terrorist incidents in the UK. "It is only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab."[77] The actual number has been estimated at between 50[78] and 100[79] persons; one source estimating around 60 active al-Shabaab recruiters, including 40 Somalis and an additional 20 mainly British-based "clean skins", individuals who have not committed any crimes but are believed to have ties with the group.[80] There is also evidence of funding of the group by Somali residents in Britain.[77]

Of the ten people subject to control orders (now Tpim orders) in 2012, at least five are associated with al-Shabaab: (pseudonymously) CC, CE "a British citizen of Iranian origin, aged 28 in 2012", CF, and DD "a non-British citizen […] believed […] to have been associated with the funding and promotion of [terrorism-related activity] in East Africa."[81] At least one British Somali, Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed,[82] has absconded.

In 2012, it was also reported that the group was attracting an increasing number of non-Somali recent converts from Kenya, a predominantly Christian country in the African Great Lakes region. Estimates in 2014 placed the figure of Kenyan fighters at around 25% of al-Shabaab's total forces.[83] Referred to as the "Kenyan Mujahideen" by al-Shabaab's core members,[40] the converts are typically young and overzealous. Poverty has made them easier targets for the group's recruiting activities. The Kenyan insurgents can blend in with the general population of Kenya, and they are often harder to track by law enforcement.[84] Reports suggest that al-Shabaab is attempting to build an even more multi-ethnic generation of fighters in the larger region.[85] One such recent convert, who helped carry out the Kampala bombings but now cooperates with the Kenyan police, believes that the group is trying to use local Kenyans to do its "dirty work" for it, while its own core members escape unscathed.[40] According to diplomats, Muslim areas in coastal Kenya and Tanzania, such as Mombasa and Zanzibar, are especially vulnerable for recruitment.[85]

Foreigners from Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Afghan-trained Somalis, play an important role in the group's leadership ranks owing to their combat experience. Bringing with them specialized skills, these commanders often lead the indoctrination of new recruits and provide training in remote-controlled roadside bombings, suicide attack techniques, and the assassination and kidnapping of government officials, journalists, humanitarian and civil society workers.[37]

Foreign al-Shabaab commanders include:[86]

Foreign leaders and members:

Jehad Serwan Mostafa ("Emir Anwar"), a senior al-Shabaab commander and trainer.
  • Fazul Abdullah Mohammed: Mohammed, a Kenyan national, was appointed by Osama bin Laden as Al-Qaeda's leader in East Africa in late 2009. Before the death of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, Mohammed served as the military operations chief for Al-Qaeda in the region. He was an experienced militant commander who was known to be able to cross national borders with ease. In August 2008, he eluded a police dragnet in Kenya. Mohammed had been hiding in Somalia with Shabaab and the Islamic Courts for years. Mohammed was considered al-Shabaab's military leader, while Muktar Abdelrahman Abu Zubeyr was al-Shabaab's spiritual leader. He was killed on June 8, 2011.[87]
  • Jehad Serwan Mostafa (alias "Ahmed Gurey", "Anwar al-Amriki" and "Emir Anwar"): a US-born senior al-Shabaab commander. In charge of various functions for the militant group, including serving as a leader for foreign fighters within the organization as well as training insurgents. Fluent in English, Somali and Arabic, he is also a media specialist.[88]
  • Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa'id: Fai'd, a Saudi citizen, serves as a top financier and a "manager" for Shabaab.
  • Abu Musa Mombasa: Mombasa, a Pakistani citizen, serves as Shabaab's chief of security and training.
  • Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki: Amriki, whose real name was Omar Hammami, was a U.S. citizen who converted to Islam and traveled to Somalia in 2006. Once in Somalia, he quickly rose through the ranks. He served as a military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist. Amriki appeared in several al-Shabaab propaganda tapes. He became a primary recruiter for al-Shabaab; issued written statements on their behalf and appeared in its propaganda videos and audio recordings. An indictment unsealed in August 2010 charged him with providing material support to terrorists.[89] In January 2013, Amriki was ousted from al-Shabaab because it felt he had joined in a "narcissistic pursuit of fame". He then publicly voiced ideological differences with the group via YouTube and Twitter, asserting that local militant leaders were only concerned with fighting in Somalia and not globally. He was assassinated by the insurgents in September 2013.[90] He was removed from the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list in November 2013.[91] He was removed from the US State Department's Rewards for Justice list in January 2014.[92]
Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir ("Ikrima"), a senior al-Shabaab regional commander
  • Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir ("Ikrima"): a Kenya-born Somali al-Shabaab commander alleged by the Kenyan government to have planned several attacks in the country, including a plot to target the UN's bureau in Nairobi, the Kenyan parliamentary building, and an Ethiopian restaurant patronized by Somali government representatives. According to US officials, Abdulkadir was also a close associate of the late Al-Qaeda operatives Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan.[93][94]
  • Mahmud Mujajir: Mujajir, a Sudanese citizen, is Shabaab's chief of recruitment for suicide bombers.
  • Samantha Lewthwaite: Allegedly an al-Shabaab member, she is believed to have been behind an attack on a sports bar in Mombasa in 2012. Widow of 7/7 suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay.
  • Issa Osman Issa: Issa serves as a top al-Qaeda recruiter and military strategist for Shabaab. Before joining, he participated in the simultaneous attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998. He has been described as a central player in the simultaneous attacks on the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, Kenya, in 2002, and the attempt that year to down an Israeli airliner in Mombasa.[95][96]
  • Mohamed Mohamud, also known as Sheikh Dulayadayn, Gamadhere, or Mohamed Kuno, a Kenyan citizen of Somali origin who served as a commander of al-Shabaab operations in Kenya. Named by the Kenyan government as the mastermind behind the Garissa University College attack.[97][98] He was killed alongside 16 other militants in an overnight raid by Somali forces on June 1, 2016.[99]

Terrorist designation[edit]

Countries and organizations below have officially listed al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization.

Country Date References
 United States 29 February 2008 [31]
 Australia 22 August 2009 [100]
 Norway [32]
 New Zealand 10 February 2010 [101]
 Canada 5 March 2010 [102][103]
 United Kingdom March 2010 [104]
 United Arab Emirates 15 November 2014 [105]
 Singapore 18 March 2016 [106]

History and activities[edit]

Political situation in Somalia as of April 2017

In February 2012, Fu'ad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole, the chief of awareness raising of al-Shabaab, said that "At this stage of the jihad, fathers and mothers must send their unmarried girls to fight alongside the (male) militants". The addition of elders and young girls marks a change in the movement, which had previously involved only men, particularly young boys.[107]

Their core consisted of veterans who had fought and defeated the secular Mogadishu faction leaders of the Alliance for the Restoration of Peace and Counter-Terrorism (ARPCT) at the Second Battle of Mogadishu. Their origins are not clearly known, but former members say Hizbul Shabaab was founded as early as 2004. The membership of al-Shabaab also includes various foreign fighters from around the world, according to Islamic hardliner Mukhtar Robow "Abu Manssor".[108]

In January 2009, Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia and al-Shabaab carried on its fight against Islamic Courts Union leader President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who was the head of the Transitional Federal Government.[109] Al-Shabaab saw some success in its campaigns against the weak Transitional Federal Government, capturing Baidoa, the base of the Transitional Federal Parliament, on January 26, 2009, and killing three ministers of the government in a December 3, 2009 suicide bomb attack on a medical school graduation ceremony.[110]

In 2009, Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane imposed a ban on the UN World Food Programme and Western agencies in Somalia. The ban was opposed by deputy leader Mukhtar Robow and senior member Hassan Dahir Aweys, but Godane overruled them and proceeded to forge ties with al-Qaeda.[111]

Before the drought in 2010, Somalia, including the al-Shabaab-controlled areas, had its best crop yield in seven years. Al-Shabaab claimed some credit for the success, saying that their reduction of oversized cheap food imports allowed Somalia's own grain production, which normally has high potential, to flourish.[112] They asserted that this policy had the effect of shifting income from urban to rural areas, from mid-income groups to low-income groups, and from overseas farmers to local farmers. However, in response to the drought, al-Shabaab announced in July 2011 that it had withdrawn its restrictions on international humanitarian workers.[113]

In June 2011, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al-Qaeda's military operations chief in East Africa and an al-Shabaab top military commander, was killed at a government roadblock in Mogadishu.[111]

In 2011, according to the head of the UN's counter-piracy division, Colonel John Steed, al-Shabaab increasingly sought to cooperate with other criminal organizations and pirate gangs in the face of dwindling funds and resources.[114] Steed, however, acknowledged that he had no definite proof of operational ties between the Islamist militants and the pirates. Detained pirates also indicated to UNODC officials that some measure of cooperation on their part with al-Shabaab militants was necessary, as they have increasingly launched maritime raids from areas in southern Somalia controlled by the insurgent group. Al-Shabaab members have also extorted the pirates, demanding protection money from them and forcing seized pirate gang leaders in Harardhere to hand over 20% of future ransom proceeds.[115]

Al-Shabaab fighters disengage and lay down arms in September 2012.

Despite routinely expelling, attacking, and harassing aid workers, al-Shabaab permits some agencies to work in areas under its control. At the height of its territorial control it implemented a system of aid agency regulation, taxation and surveillance. Where agencies are allowed to operate, this is often due to the desire of al-Shabaab to coopt and materially and politically benefit from the provision of aid and services.[116] Senior aid agency representatives often strongly rejected claims that they talked with al-Shabaab, while aid workers working in al-Shabaab-controlled areas often reported they directly negotiated with the group out of necessity.[117]

Al-Shabaab was known as the most prominent terrorist organization in Somalia which was succeeded to clear away from the bigger cities of the state by the end of 2013.[118]

While al-Shabaab has been reduced in power and size since the beginning of the Kenya Army's Operation Linda Nchi southern incursion, the group has continued its efforts at recruitment and territorial control. The group maintains training camps in areas near Kismayo in the southern regions of Somalia. One such camp was constructed in Laanta Bur village near Afgooye, which is also where the former K-50 airport is located.[119] On July 11, 2012, Somali federal troops and their AMISOM allies captured the area from the militants.[120]

In October 2017, more than 500 people were killed by a suicide truck bombing in Somalia's capital city Mogadishu.[121]

An attack on a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya on 15–16 January 2019 is attributed to al-Shabaab.[122][123]

In 2019, al-Shabaab committed its deadliest attack since the 2017 twin bomb explosions. A vehicle borne IED was detonated at one of the busiest intersections in the capital city, Mogadishu. In this attack 94 people perished, most of whom were students, and another 147 others were injured.[124]

On January 2, 2020, three passengers on a bus in Lamu County, Kenya, were killed by al-Shabaab insurgents. On January 5, 2020, one United States service member and two contractors were killed during an al-Shabaab attack on the Kenya Defense Forces' Manda Bay Airfield at Camp Simba in Lamu County, Kenya. Two United States Department of Defense workers were injured during the attack and two airplanes, two helicopters, and multiple American vehicles were destroyed. The Kenyan military reported that five militants were killed. According to U.S. Africom, fewer than 150 United States personnel providing training and counter-terrorism support are stationed at the Manda Air Strip near Lamu Island. Following the January 5 attack, additional United States assets of the East Africa Response Force (EARF) were deployed from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, to secure the Manda Bay Base and augment security.[125][126][127][128][129] On January 13, 2020, the al-Shabaab insurgents killed 3 teachers and abducted one in Kamuthe Region in Garissa.[130] The attack also saw the destruction of a communication mast and a police Post.[131]


In 2009 testimony to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security Committee, Michael E. Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said: "although al-Shabaab's rank-and-file fighters remain focused on removing the current government of Somalia by pursuing al-Qaeda's agenda, we are particularly concerned with training programs run by al-Shabaab that have attracted violent extremists from throughout the globe, including the United States."[132] Andrew M. Liepman, the deputy director of intelligence, National Counterterrorism Center, said that while the top al-Shabaab leadership had links to the Pakistan-based leadership of al-Qaeda, "whether that trickles down to the average 17 or 20-year-old fighter on the streets of Somalia is really quite questionable. They are devoted to the fight in Somalia. They are not yet, most of them, devoted to Osama bin Laden's global jihad."[132] Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated in 2011 that "U.S. operations against al-Qaida are now concentrating on key groups in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa."[133]

Complaints made against the group include its attacks on aid workers and harsh enforcement of Sharia law. According to journalist Jon Lee Anderson:

The number of people in Somalia who are dependent on international food aid has tripled since 2007, to an estimated 3.6 million. But there is no permanent foreign expatriate presence in southern Somalia, because the Shabaab has declared war on the UN and on Western non-governmental organizations. International relief supplies are flown or shipped into the country and distributed, wherever possible, through local relief workers. Insurgents routinely attack and murder them, too; forty-two have been killed in the past two years alone.[109]

Al-Shabaab have persecuted Somalia's small Christian minority, sometimes affixing the label on people they suspect of working for Ethiopian intelligence.[134] 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.[135][136] This has led to confrontations with Sufi organized armed groups who have organized under the banner of Ahlu Sunna Waljama'a.[137]

Echoing the transition from a nationalistic struggle to one with religious pretenses, al-Shabaab's propaganda strategy is starting to reflect this shift. Through their religious rhetoric, al-Shabaab attempts to recruit and radicalize potential candidates, demoralize their enemies, and dominate dialogue in both national and international media. According to reports, al-Shabaab is trying to intensify the conflict: "It would appear from the alleged AMISOM killings that it is determined to portray the war as an affair between Christians and Muslims to shore up support for its fledgling cause... The bodies, some beheaded, were displayed alongside Bibles and crucifixes. The group usually beheads those who have embraced Christianity or Western ideals. Militants have begun placing beheaded corpses next to bibles and crucifixes in order to intimidate local populations."[138] In April 2010, al-Shabaab announced that it would begin banning radio stations from broadcasting BBC and Voice of America, claiming that they were spreading Christian propaganda. By effectively shutting down the Somali media they gain greater control of the dialog surrounding their activities.[139] In july 20/2022 Alshabab attacked two camps in Ato and Yed towns, the camps were under the somali region Liyu Polis Forces. The aim of this attack was to reconcile the death of Sheik Mohamed, Alshabab member in Bakool, and to give entrance way to hheir alliance group from Ethiopia's OLA (Oromo Liberation Alliance) group members.


In 2009, al-Shabaab witnessed a number of its fighters, including several leaders, defect to Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. One such high-profile defection was that in early November 2009 of Sheikh Mohamed Abdullahi (also known as "Sheikh Bakistani"), who commanded the Maymana Brigade. Sheikh Bakistani told Voice of America (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.[140] During the same month, in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) in Villa Somalia 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". Similarly, a former Hizbul Islam commander recently defected to the Somali government; one of his family members (another Hizbul Islam commander) had been murdered by Al-Shabaab militants as punishment for having escorted a UN convoy. He said in the VOA interview that "if you don't want to fight anymore, there's no point. That's why I quit".[141] In December 2009, Sheikh Ali Hassan Gheddi, who at the time served as Deputy Commander in-Chief of al-Shabaab militants in the Middle Shabele region, also defected to the government, indicating that "al-Shabaab's cruelty against the people is what forced me to defect to the government side. They extort money from the people and deal with them against the teaching of Islam". Another reason he gave for defecting was al-Shabaab's then prohibition on the UN World Food Programme (WFP) because he felt that it directly affects civilians.[142]

With money from extortion dwindling in areas like Mogadishu,[143] defections in the face of AMISOM forces, among other internal issues, al-Shabaab is turning to other militant Islamic groups for support. Al-Shabaab has declared their support to bolster their numbers, and has made a number of strategic operational ties to both Al Qaeda and AQAP in Yemen. In some cases, al-Shabaab has begun flying the Al Qaeda-Iraq banner at some of its rallies to demonstrate solidarity with the group. There are signs that al-Shabaab militants are learning from Al Qaeda's propaganda methods. "Shabaab's propaganda has increasingly been slicked up to resemble messages produced by Al Qaeda's 'As-Sahab' ('The Clouds') media wing and AQAP's Inspire magazine, including the release of rap songs by Omar Hammami."[73] It is unclear how the death of AQAP leader Anwar al-Aulaqi and others has affected this bourgeoning relationship between the two. As is evident by their merger with Hizb-ul-Islam in December 2010, al-Shabaab is turning to former rivals for assistance as their numbers decrease due to defections and casualties directly resulting from battles with AMISOM forces.[144]

In June 2012, TFG spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman announced that around 500 militants had already defected from al-Shabaab to fight alongside government forces. He added that the defections were reportedly increasing on a daily basis since TFG forces had captured the strategically important town of Afgooye from the insurgent group. AMISOM spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda similarly indicated that AU commanders were witnessing more defections than at any previous time, a fact he suggested was "a sign al-Shabab is losing cohesion, losing command and control".[145] Al-Shabaab's increasingly strident rules, compounded by extortion, harsh punishments, indiscriminate killings and forced conscription of young men and boys, had also reportedly alienated local residents, encouraging a wave of defections.[146]

On September 5, 2012, a further 200 al-Shabaab militants and a few senior commanders in Afmadow surrendered to the coalition forces. The defections were interpreted as substantially enhancing the allied offensive since the insurgents could provide details on the Islamist group's combat strategy.[147]

On September 22, 2012, an additional 200 al-Shabaab insurgents in the town of Garsale near Jowhar surrendered to allied troops. This followed a round of internal battles between rival militants, which left eight of the group's fighters dead, including two top commanders. AMISOM announced in a press statement that it expects the total number of al-Shabaab defections in the area to reach 250 men.[148]

Since the start of Operation Indian Ocean in August 2014, over 700 al-Shabaab militants have surrendered to the Federal Government.[149]

On 27 December 2014, a Somali intelligence officer indicated that senior al-Shabaab commander Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi ("Zaki") surrendered to local police in the southwestern Gedo province. According to the official, Hersi may have turned himself in after having fallen out earlier in the year with other al-Shabaab members loyal to the group's late leader Godane.[150] On 8 March 2015, the US government officially removed Zaki from its Rewards for Justice List. The decision was reached after negotiations between the Somali federal government and US authorities, which concluded that the former insurgent commander had met the conditions unambiguously establishing that he was no longer associated with the militant group. This in turn came after Zaki had publicly disavowed ties to al-Shabaab, renounced violence, and fully took part in the peace process.[151]

On 17 January 2015, Luq District Police Commissioner Siyad Abdulkadir Mohamed announced that Sheikh Osman Sheikh Mohamed, the commander of al-Shabaab's militia in the Luq area, had turned himself in to the federal authorities. The rebel leader likewise reportedly handed over all of his weaponry. According to the police official, further al-Shabaab members intend to defect. He also indicated that the federal government welcomes all former insurgents who disavow of the use of violence and instead pledge to take part in the peace process.[152]

On 7 March 2015, the Dhusamareeb administration announced that al-Shabaab landmine expert Abdullahi Mohamed "Madoobe" had surrendered to government forces stationed in the town. According to the local district commissioner Abdirahman Ali Mohamed "Geeda-Qorow" and police commander Abdullahi Garar, the bomb specialist was subsequently put under their protective custody. Garar indicated that Mohamed had also previously trained as a bodyguard. At a press conference, Mohamed concurrently renounced ties with al-Shabaab, denounced its ideology, and urged young fighters within the militant group to follow suit and defect.[153]

On March 30, senior al-Shabaab officer Bashaan Ali Hassan ("Mohamed Ali") turned himself in to Somali National Army officials in Hudur. According to local residents, the militant leader had served in the insurgent group's Bakool and Lower Shabelle province contingents. SNA commander in Bakool Abdirahman Mohamed Osman "Tima-Adde" indicated that the government forces were conducting a probe to ascertain the circumstances surrounding Hassan's surrender. He also hailed the defection as a major setback for al-Shabaab and its leadership.[154]



Send me a cruise like Maa'lam Adam al Ansari
And send me a couple of tons like Zarqawi
And send me a drone like Abu Layth al Libi
And Special Forces like Saalih an Nabhani.

Send me all four and send me much much more
I pray for that on my way to heavens door
Send me four and send me more, that what I implore
An amazing martyrdom I strive for and adore.

— "Send Me a Cruise"
by Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki[155]

Al-Shabaab proliferates their propaganda through various media. It operates its own radio station, Radio Andalus, and has acquired relay stations and seized other equipment from private radio stations, including some from the BBC. Presenters broadcast in Somali, Arabic, Swahili and English.[156] Besides radio, the Internet is the most heavily utilized by al-Shabaab and other militant Islamic groups such as Al-Qaeda because it is the easiest and most cost-effective way to reach a large audience. As the Internet is especially popular with today's youth, organizations such as al-Shabaab are using online forums and chat rooms to recruit young followers. Al-Shabaab's official website, which has since been taken down, featured posts, videos and official statements in English, Arabic and Somali, as well as online classrooms to educate followers.[157] Prior to its expulsion from Mogadishu in mid-2011, al-Shabaab had also launched the Al-Kataib propaganda television station the year before. The channel's pilot program aired the confessions of Ahmed Kisi, an alleged CIA spy who had been executed earlier in the week.[158]

In addition, al-Shabaab also uses music to influence and appeal to young followers. According to Robin Wright, "By 2010, almost eight out of every ten soldiers in Somalia's many rebel forces were children," who are especially influenced and susceptible messages conveyed to modern, western-themed music.[159] One of al-Shabaab's foreign-born leaders, American Omar Hammami, a.k.a. Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, gained notoriety after an April 2009 video of him rapping about jihad.[160] Hammami's most recent song, "Send Me a Cruise", debuted online on April 9, 2011.[155]

In October 2013, al-Shabaab issued a propaganda video targeting several British Muslims who had spoken out against Islamist extremism, some of them explicitly against the murder of Lee Rigby.[161] The video urged jihadists in the UK to follow the example of Rigby's killers, to arm themselves if necessary with knives from B&Q.[161] The Muslims named in the video for "selling out"[162] included Mohammed Shafiq, Mohammed Ansar, Usama Hasan and Ajmal Masroor.[161]

In February 2015, al-Shabaab released another propaganda video calling for attacks on shopping malls in Canada, the UK, and the US, including the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.[163] Although the group had hitherto only ever launched attacks within East Africa, security at both malls was tightened in response.[164] The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also indicated that there was no evidence of any imminent threat.[163]

Twitter account[edit]

On December 7, 2011, al-Shabaab also reportedly began using the Twitter social media network. The move is believed to be an attempt by the group to counteract tweets by allied officials, and to serve as a venue for the dissemination of information on alleged casualties as well as a way to interact with the press.[165] The account, HSMPress, has attracted over eight thousand followers for its witty taunts of the KDF in general and its official spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, with whom it has frequent exchanges, in particular.[166]

For example, after Chirchir upbraided the Shabaab for not letting women in the areas under their control wear bras, saying life had more to offer, HSMPress retorted "Like bombing donkeys, you mean!", referring to a recent announcement by Chirchir that any large group of loaded donkeys would be considered a target. "Your eccentric battle strategy has got animal rights groups quite concerned, Major."[167] Later, responding to Chirchir's claim that Kismayo had been captured by the KDF, HSMPress said the Kenyan "boys are a grotesque parody of an army! They can outpace ur world-class runners by far. Indeed, they 'Run like a Kenyan'".[168] The account shows a less belligerent side with others, telling a UN official who queried "it is good when extremists or perceived extremists come out and talk[..] can we have a coffee with them too?" that "a caramel macchiato would do!"[169]

While it is not known for certain if the HSMPress account is sanctioned by the Shabaab, both Western and African Union officials believe that it is. It has relayed information about battle outcomes that has sometimes been more accurate than its opponents, and posted pictures of authentic identity cards of missing AMISOM peacekeepers that were presumably killed in combat. The account itself is operated by a man with the nom de guerre Sheik Yoonis, who has in the past responded to press questions during telephone interviews in a "clipped British accent".[166]

Most of al-Shabaab's messages on Twitter are in English, with authorities suggesting that they are intended for an outside audience and potential recruits in the West. Officials in the United States, where Twitter is based, are exploring legal ways to terminate the account, although they acknowledge that doing so might raise free speech concerns.[170] Chirchir commented in a tweet of his own that such a move would be counterproductive, as "al-Shabaab needs to be engaged positively, and Twitter is the only avenue."[171]

In January 2013, Twitter suspended al-Shabaab's English-language account.[172][173] This was apparently in response to the account having issued death threats against Frenchman "Denis Allex" and subsequently posted photos of his corpse after the botched Bulo Marer hostage rescue attempt, as well as tweeting threats to kill Kenyan hostages.[173][174] Al-Shabaab later opened a new Twitter account on February 4, 2013.[174] Twitter closed the account again on September 6, 2013 for unspecified reasons. A few days earlier, on September 3, the insurgent group had used the service to claim responsibility for an unsuccessful ambush attempt against a convoy carrying Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The militants also tweeted after the attack that the group had no other active Twitter feeds in English, and cautioned users against "parody accounts". The insurgent group also messaged that "next time, you won't be as lucky," in apparent violation of Twitter's user policies against issuing threats of violence and using the service for illicit purposes or activities. However, al-Shabaab's Arabic-language account remained open.[173] The group later relaunched its English Twitter account on September 11, 2013.[175]

In September 2013, Twitter suspended at least six al-Shabaab accounts after the outfit ridiculed the Kenyan government's response to the Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, an attack al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for. The group later re-opened a Twitter account in December, with the explanation that "the aim is to vigorously challenge defamatory reports in the media by presenting an accurate portrayal of the current state of Jihad in Somalia and countering Western, state-sponsored propaganda machines that are paid to demonise the Mujahideen." A Somali government spokesman stated that the Somali authorities were opposed to al-Shabaab's presence on the social media website, as the group "should not be given the platform to mislead the youth".[176]


Following the 2011 Eastern Africa drought, al-Shabaab adapted its propaganda strategy to accommodate the changing circumstances. In some cases, group members employed humanitarian aid as a recruitment tool, using relief supplies as bribes and as an incentive to join the militants, whose numbers had decreased due to casualties and defections.[177] Group members dismissed the UN declaration of famine in various regions as grossly exaggerated and banned various organizations from providing aid to those regions.[178]

In response, the Prime Minister of Somalia Abdiweli Mohamed Ali in July 2011 appointed a national committee to tackle the severe drought affecting the southern part of the country,[179] and the following month announced the creation of a new 300-man security force. Assisted by African Union peacekeepers, the military unit had as its primary goal to protect convoys and aid from the al-Shabaab rebels, as well as to secure the IDP camps when the relief supplies are being distributed.[180]

Although fighting disrupted aid delivery in some areas, a scaling up of relief operations in mid-November prompted the UN to downgrade the humanitarian situation in several regions from famine to emergency levels. Humanitarian access to al-Shabaab-controlled areas had also improved, and rainfall had surpassed expectations, improving the prospects of a good harvest in early 2012.[181] In February 2012, the UN declares that Somalia has produced a bumper harvest, and that the famine is over.[182]

Operation Linda Nchi[edit]

Since the Operation Linda Nchi entry into southern Somalia, by Kenya Defence Forces (KDF),began in 2011 against al-Shabaab militants ,[183] al-Shabaab has been intensifying its propaganda effort. Group members have started to diversify their tactics, using various methods to demoralize the allied forces. According to the Associated Press, al-Shabaab has resorted to dressing up some of its own casualties in TFG and AU uniforms, although an African Union spokesman indicated that only two corpses of AU soldiers were unaccounted for. About half of the dead bodies were also visibly Somali, prompting eyewitnesses to suggest that they were fallen Somali government soldiers. The remainder were dressed in Burundi military uniforms and resembled non-Somali foreigners, with al-Shabaab militants displaying a Bible and some crucifixes reportedly taken from the deceased.[184] Additionally, al-Shabaab has been conducting militia parades as a show of force in cities such as Marka.[185]

As al-Shabaab is suffering heavy military losses, the effectiveness of their propaganda campaign to date is somewhat inconclusive. What is apparent, however, is that they are increasing their propaganda efforts without corresponding response from TFG, AMISOM and KDF forces. Al-Shabaab retreats from regions in southern Somalia and areas around Mogadishu are falsely heralded as tactical maneuvers by the militants who are facing defeat – while the allied forces remain largely muted on the success that they have made in the region.[186]

The propaganda techniques employed by al-Shabaab show the stark contrast between militant forces and the conventional armies of AMISOM. While Shabaab forces act with impunity in regards to their guerrilla tactics, the allied forces are obligated to comply with articles of the Geneva Convention that require them to warn civilians of air raids and troop movements – oftentimes informing the very militants they intend to strike and leaving them unable to act when they observe flagrant militant activities.[187] According to Al-Jazeera, al-Shabaab has also attempted to capitalize on the coordinated incursion by depicting itself as a resistance force fighting foreign occupiers and urged local residents to take up arms against the Kenyan soldiers.[188]

Plastic bag ban[edit]

In July 2018, al-Shabaab announced a complete ban on single-use plastic bags within its territory in a broadcast as they "pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike", whilst also forbidding the logging of several species of rare trees in the same announcement.[189] Some have argued that, whilst these environment-conscious advances are welcome, they are overshadowed by the group's terrorist activities, whilst others have mocked the United States and other countries for taking less action on climate change than a terrorist group.[190]

COVID-19 response[edit]

Al-Shabaab acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic and announced the formation of a coronavirus prevention and treatment committee.[191] In mid-June 2020, the group announced that it had set up a coronavirus treatment centre in Jilib, about 380 km (236 mi) south of the capital, Mogadishu.[192]

Relations with other militant groups[edit]


On February 9, 2012, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair "Godane" announced in a fifteen-minute video message that al-Shabaab would be joining the militant Islamist organization al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zubair stated, "On behalf of the soldiers and the commanders in al-Shabaab, we pledge allegiance to you. So lead us to the path of jihad and martyrdom that was drawn by our imam, the martyr Osama."[22] Al-Zawahiri approved and welcomed al-Shabaab as al-Qaeda's Somalia-based affiliate in a 15-minute video response, stating "Today, I have glad tidings for the Muslim Ummah that will please the believers and disturb the disbelievers, which is the joining of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement in Somalia to Qaeda al-Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers."[193] The merger follows reports about a rift in the leadership,[194] and it coincides with reports about large factions breaking away from al-Shabaab[195] and up to 500 al-Shabaab fighters fleeing or leaving southern Somalia for Yemen,[196] where a full Al Qaeda branch AQAP is stepping up operations, under perceived increased military pressure since a new president took office.[197] Somalia's Transitional Federal Government officially recognized the two Islamist groups as one group.[198]

A poll conducted between 8–16 April 2012 by the international market research company YouGov examined the views of MENA region residents with regard to the news of the merger. The combined group evoked fear in most respondents, with 42% believing that the merger announcement ought to be a source of alarm for the international community; 23% of polltakers felt very strongly about this. 45% of respondents believed that the fusion of the two groups would enhance Al-Qaeda's attempts at recruiting new operatives, with 12% indicating that the merger would strengthen the latter group's capabilities and another 11% believing that it would result in more terrorist attacks on the continent. A further 55% of pollsters did not know how the Somali leadership would respond to news of the merger, though 36% suggested that it would lead to more movements against al-Shabaab by the Somali military. 34% of respondents also indicated that announcement of the merger constituted a propaganda effort aimed at securing more coverage for the two Islamist groups, with 30% of polltakers believing that the decision to merge shows that both al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda are under duress.[199]

In response to Godane's announced name change and merger with al-Qaeda, all other Shabaab top leaders called a conference in Baidabo.[200] They refused to adopt the new name (al-Qaeda in East Africa) and they agreed on a new policy, focusing entirely on domestic issues and with no mention any more of international struggle. One significant policy proposal was to form a national, independent Shura of Islamic clerics, which means also independent of al-Qaeda. With it, they seem to try to remove some obstacles for reaching an entente with their Sufi opponents, and to avoid getting targeted by US drones.[201][202] Aweys later declared that: "Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda are merely a small part of the larger Islamic group and al-Qaeda's ideology should not be viewed as the sole, righteous path for Islam."[203]

This open revolt against al-Qaeda made it more likely that al-Shabaab would slowly become ready for some sort of negotiated entente.[204] On February 23, 2012, while Shabaab was pushed out of several strongholds, Radio Magadishu reported that 120 al-Qaeda leaders and followers fled from Kismayo to Yemen.[205] Aweys was appointed military commander of Kismayo and the south.[206]

By 2013, the internal rifts within al-Shabaab erupted into all-out warfare between Godane's faction and those of other leaders in the organization. In late June, four senior Shabaab commanders were executed under the orders of Godane. One of these commanders was Ibrahim al-Afghani, who had complained about the leadership style of Godane in a letter to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Sixteen others were arrested, and Aweys fled.[207] He was later taken into custody in Mogadishu by Somali government forces.[208] On 12 September, Omar Hammami, who had left the group due to significant disagreements with Godane, was killed by al-Shabaab forces. The Westgate shopping mall shooting in September was said by Simon Tisdall to be a reflection of the power struggle within the insurgent group, with Godane's hardline global jihadi faction seeking to exert its authority.[209]

AQIM and Boko Haram[edit]

According to US Army General Carter Ham, al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Nigeria-based Boko Haram (BH) were as of June 2012 attempting to synchronize and coordinate their activities in terms of sharing funds, training, and explosives.[210] Ham added that he believed that the collaboration presented a threat to both U.S. homeland security and the local authorities.[211] However, according to counter-terrorism specialist Rick Nelson with the Washington-based Center for Strategic International Studies, there was little evidence that the three groups were targeting U.S. areas, as each was primarily interested in establishing fundamentalist administrations in their respective regions.[210] In May 2014, Senior Al-Shabab member Fuad Shongole stated that al-Shabab fighters would carry out jihad, or holy war, in Kenya and Uganda "and afterward, with God's will, to America."[212]

Hizbul Islam[edit]

On September 24, 2012, Hizbul Islam spokesman Mohamed Moallim announced that his group was discontinuing its association with al-Shabaab, a group that he asserted his organization had only nominally united with. Moallim cited the significant political changes happening in Somalia as well as al-Shabaab's reported issuance of propaganda against Hizbul Islam as the primary reasons for his group's decision to leave the coalition. He added that his organization did not share al-Shabaab's political philosophy and that he felt the militant group had been considerably "weakened". Moallim also indicated that Hizbul Islam was open to talks with any political actors in the country working for a common good.[213][214]

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant[edit]

Starting in early 2015, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) released a series of videos online aimed at al-Shabaab, calling on the group to switch allegiances from al-Qaeda to ISIL's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.[215] By September 2015, Al-Shabab issued an internal memo aimed at pro-ISIL elements in its ranks, stating that the group's policy is to continue its allegiance to al-Qaida, and banned any discussion relating to ISIL. The group also detained some of its fighters who had voiced support for ISIL.[216]

In October 2015, senior al-Shabaab commander Abdul Qadir Mumin and approximately 20 of his followers in the Puntland region pledged allegiance to ISIL.[217] Further defections in al-Shabaab ranks occurred in the border region between Somalia and Northern Kenya.[218] In November 2015, a pro-ISIL commander called Hussein Abdi Gedi was ambushed and killed, and at least 9 al-Shabaab fighters were killed in fighting between the two factions. The head of al-Shabab in the Lower Shabelle region, Abu Abdalla, gave an interview in which he said that all pro-ISIL members should leave the group or be killed.[219]


In 2012, the United States government began a new policy of offering financial rewards in exchange for information as to the whereabouts of al-Shabaab members. On June 7, the US Department of State put forth an offer totaling $33 million for the capture of seven of al-Shabaab's senior commanders,[220] including a reported US$3–7 million (£2–4.5 million stg.) per leader.[33] Seven million dollars of the total funds were set aside for information regarding the insurgent group's Amir or Spiritual Leader, Ahmed Godane (Abu Zubayr), with another $5 million bounty on al-Shabaab's Deputy Leader, Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur).[220] Additionally, a $3 million bounty was reserved for the senior commander Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi.[150] It's reported that members of the International Bounty Hunter Union are actively hunting several members of the group including an American, Jehad Serwan Mostafa.

On June 8, Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) released an official statement expressing support for the initiative.[220]

In response, senior al-Shabaab commander Fu'ad Mohamed Khalaf (Sheikh Shongole) issued a mock offer of his own the same day, promising ten camels to anyone possessing information on US President Barack Obama. Shongole also mockingly offered a less valuable bounty of ten cocks and ten hens for information concerning American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[220]

During an official state visit to Mogadishu, top US envoy Johnnie Carson dismissed al-Shabaab's counter-offer as "absurd". He also indicated that the American government would impose sanctions on anyone attempting to thwart the ongoing political process, including invoking visa and travel bans and freezing assets.[33]

On March 21, 2013, the US Department of State announced another bounty of $5 million apiece for information on two American senior al-Shabaab commanders, Abu Mansour al-Amriki (Omar Shafik Hammami) and Jehad Serwan Mostafa.[221]

On March 15, 2014, the US Department of State also began offering bounties of up to $3 million apiece for information leading to the arrest or conviction of the al-Shabaab senior members Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, Yasin Kilwe, and Jafar. According to State Department officials, Abdikadir coordinates al-Shabaab's recruitment activities in Kenya, with Jafar acting as his deputy; Kilwe serves as al-Shabaab's Emir for the northeastern Puntland region. The bounties are part of the "Rewards for Justice" program, wherein money is issued for leads on terror suspects.[222]

On September 27, 2014, the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) offered a $2 million reward to any individual who provides information leading to the arrest of the new al-Shabaab leader, Ahmed Omar Abu Ubeyda. According to the NISA Commander Abdirahman Mohamed Turyare, a separate $1 million would be rewarded to any person who supplies information that could result in the killing of Ubeyda. Turyare also pledged that the informers' identities would be kept private. This is reportedly the first time that a Somalia security official is offering such large dead-or-alive bounties on an al-Shabaab leader.[223]

On April 3, 2015, the Kenyan government offered a reward of KSh.20 million/= ($215,000) for the arrest of Mohamed Mohamud, who serves as a commander of al-Shabaab operations in Kenya.[97]

On April 10, 2015, the Federal Government of Somalia offered a $250,000 reward for the capture of al-Shabaab commander Ahmed Diriye. It also placed bounties of between $100,000 to $150,000 for information on the whereabouts or leading to the arrest of several other of the militant group's leaders, including Mahad Warsame Galay (Mahad Karate), Ali Mohamed Raage (Ali Dhere), Abdullahi Abdi (Daud Suheyb), Mohamed Mohamud Noor "Sultan", Ali Mohamed Hussein (Ali Jeesto), Mohamed Mohamud (Gama-Dhere), Hassan Mohamed Afgoye, Mohamed Abdi Muse Mohamed, Yasin Osman Kilwa and Abdullahi Osman. Additionally, the federal government indicated that any leads forwarded to it vis-a-vis the wanted insurgent commanders would be kept strictly confidential.[224]

Support allegations[edit]


In December 2009, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea, accusing the Horn of Africa country of arming and providing financial aid to militia groups in southern Somalia's conflict zones, including al-Shabaab.[225] Planeloads 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.[226][227] In 2010, the UN International Monitoring Group (IMG) also published a report charging the Eritrean government with continuing to offer support to rebel groups in southern Somalia, despite the sanctions already placed on the nation. The Eritrean administration emphatically denied the accusations, describing them as "concocted, baseless and unfounded" and demanding concrete evidence to be made publicly available, with an independent platform through which it may in turn issue a response.[225] In November 2011 the UN Monitoring Group repeated claims that Eritrea would support al-Shabaab. The report says that Eritrea gives US$80,000 each month to al-Shabaab linked individuals in Nairobi.[228]

On July 5, 2012, the Obama administration announced sanctions on Eritrea's intelligence chief and on a high-ranking military officer related to allegations of their support of al-Shabaab. Col. Tewolde Habte Negash is accused of providing training and support while Col. Taeme Abraham Goitom is alleged to organize armed opposition to the Somali government. The sanctions freeze any of the individual's U.S. assets and prohibits Americans from conducting business with them.[229] On July 16, 2012, a United Nations Monitoring Group report stated that "it had found no evidence of direct Eritrean support for al-Shabaab in the past year."[230]

Federal Government of Somalia[edit]

Officials from Somalia's federal government have been implicated in the supply of arms to Al-Shabab. In a report written by the "UN's Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group", The UN report concluded that high level officials were actively involved in arms smuggling to terrorist militants in Somalia.[231] The Federal Government of Somalia has also been actively involved in recruiting key Al-Shabaab members into high level government positions.[232]

Partially lifting the arms embargo in Somalia has allowed for steady flow of light arms intended to help Somalias Federal Government combat Al Shabaab Militia. Unfortunately many of these arms have been distributed by Federal Government Employees into the hands of arms dealers which then are sold in the black market, much of which is purchased by Clan Warlords and Terrorist insurgents.[233] Furthermore, as mentioned in the UN report, High level Officials such as the Deputy Chief of Defence of the Federal Government are involved in these arms distribution "In July 2018, the Monitoring Group received, via local data collectors,testimonies from 10 arms dealers based in Mogadishu. All of them described a common practice among arms dealers of recruiting individuals to store weapons at safehouses, both within the city and on its outskirts. They acknowledged buying weapons from low-ranking members of the Somali security forces, as well as from senior commanders and Federal Government officials. While the Group was unable to independently verify this information, the accounts are consistent with information provided by other Group sources. Multiple sources, for example, reported the prevalence of unpaid members of the Somali security forces selling their weapons for subsistence. Others, including senior ranking officials within the security forces, specifically referred to the involvement of the former Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, Abdullahi Ali Anod, in the large-scale diversion of weapons imported by the Federal Government.".[233] Members of the Federal government have also been involved in distributing Somali National Army SNA military fatigues to Al-Shabaab militants, as the UN Monitoring report states "On 22 August 2018, during an Eid festival in Jilib and Sakow in Middle Juba region, Al-Shabaab fighters were photographed wearing Somali National Army uniforms. Media reports indicated that the uniforms had been distributed by the Federal Government to the 14 October Battalion"[233]

In the 2019 United Nations Security Council Report, the report indicated that arms allocated to the Federal Government of Somalia continue to end up in the hands of Al-Shabaab[234] The report details that these weapons are streamlined from the Federal Government, to Local black-market arms dealers, to the terrorist organization Al-Shabaab. This presents a major security threat not only to Somalia, but to its neighbouring countries who have been effected by Al-Shabaab. "The Panel has also continued to document Federal Government arms and ammunition in the illicit sphere – including 38 weapons found in the possession of black-market dealers in Mogadishu and Baidoa – and in the possession of Al-Shabaab.".[234] "Weapons bearing apparent Federal Government markings constituted 12 percent of the total number of weapons observed by the Panel’s local sources over the period of investigation. Testimonies received from three arms dealers in Mogadishu confirmed that weapons bearing Federal Government markings had been purchased mostly from low-ranking members of the Somali security forces, as well as from junior and senior officers and Federal Government officials. Those testimonies were consistent with the findings presented in the final report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea for 2018".[234]

Al-Shabaab has carried out many operations using Somalia Federal Government Employees. In 2019 the Mayor of Mogadishu was killed in an explosion that was later linked to two Regional employees of Somalia Federal Government. As stated in the United Nations Security Council report "In 2019, Al-Shabaab’s infiltration of Federal Government institutions reached as high as the Benadir Regional Administration when, on 24 July, an Al-Shabaab suicide bomber detonated herself at its headquarters in Mogadishu. The Mayor of Mogadishu, Abdirahman Omar Osman “Yarisow”, and at least nine others, were killed. It later emerged that the suicide bomber, as well as an accomplice, had both been employees of the Benadir Regional Administration under falsified identities".[234]

The Federal Government and Federal Member States have not made significant strides in improving the illegal importation of arms and explosives into Somalia. As per the UN security council "On 6 and 7 May 2021, the USS Monterey (CG 61) seized armament from a stateless dhow in the north of the Arabian Sea.123 The cache of weapons included dozens of anti-tank guided missiles, thousands of type 56 assault rifles and hundreds of machine guns, sniper rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Detailed information from the navies of Member States conducting inspections of vessels is crucial for the Panel and the Committee to better understand the flow of illicit weapons into Somalia (see recommendations)." There are many Politicians in Somalia who are benefactors of the current illegal arms flow into the Country. This further cripples any progress undertaken by the UN in Somalia and exacerbates nstability in the Country [235]

On August 2, 2022; Somalia's Federal government has appointed Mukhtar Robow as The Minister of Religious Affairs.[236] Mukhtar Robow is classified as an international Al-Qaeda terrorist and is sanctioned by the US Government [237]

Puntland State of Somalia[edit]

According to the UN Security Council, the former President of Puntland, Abdiweli Gaas has granted amnesty to Mohamed Ahmed "Qaahiye";[124] An international terrorist who hails from the Puntland Region of Somalia.[124] Qaahiye was known as a "veteran military operator" who carried out a string of operations in central and east Africa[124] "Al-Shabaab’s presence in Puntland, in north-east Somalia, has expanded, exacerbating the challenges faced by authorities in the region. Concurrently, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) faction, largely confined to Bari region in north-east Puntland, has grown in numbers and is attracting an increasingly broad range of recruits. The ISIL faction briefly took control of the town of Qandala, on the north coast of Puntland, and carried out its first suicide attack, in Bosaso. While its capacity has remained limited, an influx of foreign fighters fleeing military pressure in Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and elsewhere could present a significant threat to the region. The Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea remains concerned by the continuing flow of illicit weapons into Somalia, particularly by way of the north coast of Puntland."[238] Over the past two mandates, the UN Monitoring Group has pinpointed two passages of smuggling of arms into Puntland: larger shipments are transported by medium-size ocean-going dhows, emanating from the Makran coast of the Islamic Republic of Iran; while the smaller and more frequent shipments originate from Yemen and are typically delivered by skiffs capable of making the journey in a single day.[238]

The United Nations Security Council Report indicated that Puntland federal state of Somalia remains the main entry point of illicit arms into Somalia. As mentioned in the UN Security Council Report "Puntland remains the primary entry point for illicit arms into Somalia; the arms are typically shipped using small-scale speedboats from Yemen" [234] These arms are usually procured in Yemen then brought in through various ports in Puntland state such as Bosaso and Qandala. The two terrorist groups, ISIL and Al Shabaab have contested over control in taxation and extortion of Puntland businesses.[234] "On 17 May 2019, 180 tons of explosive material, including 165 tons of Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO), was delivered to Puntland, Somalia for commercial use. The explosives were intended to support the construction of Garacad port and associated road networks. However, the Panel determined that the shipment represented a potential threat to peace and security in Somalia.".[234] "The potential threat to peace, security and stability in Somalia through the unregulated import of explosive materials was exemplified by the May 2019 import into Bosaso, Puntland, of 180 tons of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil and other explosives intended for the construction of the port of Garacad. The high risk of the diversion of such materials in Somalia led the Committee to request in April 2019 that the Panel urgently recommend technical guidelines to ensure that such items are safely stored and accounted for in the future."[234]

Terror cells operate throughout Puntland, Somalia; many of which are well established among the Puntland business communities. Puntland remains a hotbed for arms trafficking and is a region where it's businessmen are on record wiring monies to known terrorists[239] "The Global Initiative analyzed nearly six years of transaction records from the city of Bossasso, matching them with mobile phone records provided by security sources and database searches. The report identified 176 transactions from the last six years that it said appeared to be linked to suspected weapons dealers in Somalia and Yemen. Nearly two-thirds were over the $10,000 threshold that should trigger an automatic report to regulatory authorities."[239] Money Transfer services that originate in Puntland are on record for transferring large sums of money between puntland arms smugglers and Al Qaeda terrorists in Yemen.[239]

Puntland not only fuels the arms trade among Somali warlords and Terrorism in the Peninsula, but it also plays a larger role as the epicenter of illicit arms trade in East Africa. This leads to instability along the borders of Somalias neighboring Countries such as Kenya and The Republic of Somaliland. As mentioned by The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, "The ubiquity of small arms and light weapons (SALW) in Yemen, as well as centuries-old cultural and commercial ties with Somalia, has made Yemen the primary source for illicit arms among Somali importers. Consignments of small arms and ammunition from Yemen cross the Gulf of Aden in a matter of hours to the northern coast of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region in northern Somalia. The port city of Bosaso, Puntland’s largest city and commercial capital, is the financial epicentre of the illicit trade. Arms from Yemen fuel the ongoing civil conflict in Somalia, and many are believed to be transported on throughout the broader East Africa region.[240]


Al-Shabaab has been funded by a number of sources, including other terrorist groups. It also raises its own money through racketeering; piracy; kidnapping for ransom, and extortion.[241]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2022 al-Shabaab invasion of Ethiopia[5]
  2. ^ Unrecognized state, internationally as part of Somalia.[13]
  3. ^ US: /ælʃəˈbɑːb/; Arabic: الشباب, lit.'The Youth'


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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]