Al-Shabaab or the “Youth” terrorist organization
June 9, 2013
The organization Al-Shabaab, or "The Youth," is an al-Qaeda-linked group and U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization fighting for the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia.i The group, also known as Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, and its Islamist affiliates once held sway over Mogadishu and major portions of the Somali countryside, but a sustained African Union military campaign in recent years has forced the group's retreat from most major towns, including its former stronghold in the southern port of city of Kismayo. In early 2013, many experts believe al-Shabaab, facing both internal and external pressures, is greatly weakened. Still, others warn the group remains a threat in a politically volatile, war-torn state.ii
The origin of Alshabaa began when the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was began to formed in Kenya, major changes were taking place in Mogadishu that altered the landscape of Somalia.iii The capital had been the scene of some of the heaviest fighting throughout the civil war due to the numerous warlords competing for control of various neighborhoods. As a result, lawlessness was rampant for more than a decade, as robbery, rape, kidnapping, and murder became daily occurrences.iv Beginning in the late 1990s, however, neighborhood shari'a courts began to spring up in a series of local attempts to impose a degree of law and order. Although most Somalis are not especially religious and adhere to the relatively moderate Sufi branch of Islam,' the courts were largely welcomed as a way to fill the void left by the disappearance of the official police and judiciary system. vThe courts became power centers in and of themselves, recruiting their own militias to carry out their frequently harsh judgments. Each court was heavily influenced by the ideology of its leader, some of whom were moderate like Sheikh Sharif Ahmed while others were hardliners, such as Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.vi In mid-2004, 11 of the courts merged to form the Islamic Courts Union, led by Sheikh Ahmed. Their combined strength allowed these courts to mount a serious challenge to the warlords who had held sway in Mogadishu for the past decade. By June 2006 the ICU had crushed those warlords in a series of swift military victories, seized power in Mogadishu, and begun expanding into the countryside. Yet this success brought with it a mixed bag of results for Somalis. In the areas under its control, the ICU was able to impose a degree of order unheard-of in the past several decades. The near-constant warfare stopped, crime plummeted, and businesses reopened, gaining the ICU a great deal of support among Mogadishu residents.vii However, more fundamentalist elements of the ICU also used this opportunity to impose their vision of strict Islamic law on the areas under their control. One particularly fundamentalist faction within the ICU was al Shabaab, or "The Youth: Formed in the first few years of the new millennium, the group began as the militant remnant of a previous Somali Islamist organization, al Itihaad al Islamiya (AIAI). AIAI had arisen in the 1980s as a group of Middle Eastern-educated Somali Wahhabis who sought to replace the government of Mohammed Siad Barre with an Islamic state, yet by 2000 only the youngest, most militant members remained. viiiThese members, including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, re-formed into al Shabaab and were incorporated into the ICU as the courts' radical youth militia. As Aweys' importance grew within the ICU, he passed leadership of al Shabaab on to one of his followers, Aden Hashi Ayro." Ayro would lead al Shabaab and its roughly 400 fighters as part of the campaign against Mogadishu's warlords in early 2006, helping the ICU gain control of the capital.ix Al-Shabaab has a salafi-jihadist ideology based on militant Islamism, a radical right wing...
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