BY ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS
A week after British intelligence officials confirmed the growing international jihadist threat emanating from Somalia, the media wing of the al-Shabaab militia have released a video re affirming their support for bin Laden and the al-Qaeda cause.
On Eid (20/9/09), after a week of furious activity surrounding the al-Shabaab, a video (available below and on Youtube in 5 parts) bearing the insignia of the Young Mujahidin Movement (al Shabaab) has been put into circulation. Early last week, US special forces killed al-Qaeda commander Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan as he travelled in an al-Shabaab convoy near the town of Barewe. Days later the al-Shabaab, using vehicles carrying UN logos, carried out a suicide attack on an African Union base in Mogadishu, killing 21.
It is no coincidence that the al-Shabaab video contains English subtitles: it is aimed at a wide audience, and their propaganda has already succeeded in radicalising a number of British and American citizens, who have travelled to the region to fight both the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union peacekeepers. The most well documented case is that of Abu Mansour al Amriki (AKA Omar Hammami), a young American who is now an al-Shabaab commander. There has also been one confirmed case of a British Somali, still unnamed, who travelled from London to Somali and carried out a suicide bombing on Ethiopian troops. The UK case is the only one reported so far, but it is by no means an isolated incident, with the government claiming that at least 100 Britons have travelled to fight since 2004.
The biggest domestic fear is that, like Afghanistan and Chechnya, this trend will invert itself and UK citizens will fight and train in Somalia only to return in order to carry out mass casualty attacks. This is most certainly not beyond the realms of possibility: those who answer the international call of the al-Shabaab do not do so out of a desire to see a free and peaceful Somalia, but rather have identified Somalia as a good opportunity to establish a Taliban style Islamic State sympathetic to the global aims of al-Qaeda.
This recent video confirms yet again that the al-Shabaab are not a reactive force, fighting to free Somalia from the yoke of foreign occupation and oppression. The video contains an audio of Sheikh Abu Zubeir, the Amir of the al-Shabaab, who asks for bin Laden’s guidance in the jihad against the infidels and explains that ‘the challenges of fighting the occupiers, have overlapped with the requirements of establishing an Islamic state.’ This, again, serves to illustrate the true goals the al-Shabaab – although they may be unhappy about the presence of African Union troops in Somalia, this is not their primary reason for fighting. When Ethiopian troops pulled out of Somalia last year, it was in the hope that this would calm the fighting, instead this emboldened the al-Shabaab to the point where they now pose a real threat to the current government.
As well as scenes of jihadist training and fighting accompanied by the usual melodic gibberings, the main theme is the takfir (jihadist notion of a Muslim who has gone against the teachings of Islam – usually a leader who has not implemented the full sharia law) of Sheikh Shareef Sheikh Ahmed, the Somali President. In the eyes of the jihadists, he is no longer a Muslim as he has engaged with the United States and has not implemented sharia law to its fullest extent. Thus there is also included an interview with a leading Taliban figure, Sheikh Ustadh Yasir (who is now imprisoned in Afghanistan), where he extols the virtues of al wala’ wa’l bara’ (a Salafi doctrine which teaches Muslims that they must never befriend non-Muslims); saying that in order to avoid the accusation of takfir Muslims must ‘announce that it is the Jews and Christians who are our enemies’. He also very tellingly claims that the crime of ‘allying with the Americans today is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of belief!’ – it is crucial that we listen to this: they want us dead because we are not them.
Don’t take this from me. There are plenty of Somali Muslims who know precisely what the al-Shabaab are about. In an interview with Channel 4 in February 2009, after the revelations of the unnamed British Somali suicide bomber, a London based Somali religious leader named Sheikh Ahmed Aabi explained precisely why he saw the al-Shabaab as a threat:
They [Al-Shabaab] want to capture the country [Somalia]. If they capture the country…then [they want] Kenya, then Ethiopia, then UK, then America. That’s the way they think, not only Somalia, all over the world, they say all the people in the world must be Muslim, they must follow the Sharia law
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