Al-Shabab has formally joined the fold of the global al-Qaida terrorist network. This comes after a series of defeats for the militant group in the face of a concerted military offensive by multi-national forces in Somalia. Some analysts say this new development will strengthen the two groups’ terror operations in the region.
In a 15-minute video reported by an internet monitoring service, the Site Intelligence Group, al-Qaida’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that al-Shabab has joined al-Qaida’s jihadist movement against what he called the “Zionist-Crusader campaign.”
A Somali analyst with Southlink Consultants in Nairobi, Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdi Samed, says this formal announcement will not only strengthen al-Shabab but also al-Qaida.
“Since both sides now are losing ground, they are going to reinforce each other. That’s why right now they say ‘let’s join together since we have common interest, common goals and push our agenda and course jointly.”
In a statement to the Somali National News Agency on Friday, the minister of information and telecommunications, Abdulkadir Hussein Mohamed said, quote, “This is no news to us. We knew all along that they were one and the same. And that al-Shabab leaders were fully paid up agents and representatives of al-Qaida, a foreign terrorist organization engaged in the most un-Islamic activities of murdering innocent Muslim Somali civilians.” End of quote.
The minister said the government is pleased that, in his words, the time for al-Shabab to masquerade as an indigenous Somali-Islamic organization is gone forever. He also called for the international community to join the fight against al-Qaida in Somalia unreservedly.
The militant group has been battling Somalia’s U.N.-backed transitional government for the last five years. In 2009, al-Shabab leaders released a video called “At Your Service Osama.” That same year, former al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden also released a video in which he made encouraging comments about the Somali insurgency.
A Kenyan political writer, Barrack Muluka told VOA nothing changes on the ground and called on international intervention in the fight against terror in the region.
“The global community has got to recognize that this is not a local event happening, where Kenya has got to be concerned about protecting its territory against al-Shabab and al-Qaida, but indeed here is international terrorism at work. It should also be one that attracts international intervention.”
Abdi Samed of Southlink consultants said al-Shabab will report to al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and by doing so, it will ease the tension and political wrangling in the group.
“It’s boosting the morale of al-Shabab and also convincing those who have different opinions altogether saying that right now Godane is no longer of al-Shabab. The real leader of al-Shabab is Ayman Zawahiri. That ((in)) itself they can convince those who are saying that no we are not satisfied with the leadership of Godane.”
Godane is Ahmed Abdi Godane, an al-Shabab commander who is considered the top leader of the group.
Al-Shabab is a mix of recruit, clan militias, and paid fighters. The group has also
had hundreds of foreign fighters among its ranks. The foreign fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen brought cash, tactics and knowledge of how to put explosives together.
Western intelligence officials over the years have maintained that al-Qaida fighters have found sanctuary with al-Shabab. In January this year, a U.S. drone strike killed a British passport holder Bilal al-Berjawi. Al-Berjawi was a close associate of the late al-Qaida East Africa leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was believed to have played a key role in the deadly 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam.
Mohammed himself was killed by Somali military government forces last June in Mogadishu.
The killing of these two top al-Qaida associates in the region has divided al-Shabab leadership with leaders accusing each other of spying for the western intelligence agencies. Observers say one of the key roles al-Qaida will play is to defuse tension between moderate fighters and those who pursue a global jihadist agenda which threatens to divide the group.