Saturday, February 11, 2012

Shabaab formally joins al Qaeda

Shabaab and al Qaeda have announced their formal merger, according to a video disseminated online today and translated by the SITE Intelligence group. In the video, Mukhtar Abu al Zubayr (a.k.a. Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed or Godane), the emir and cofounder of Shabaab, pledges his organization's allegiance to al Qaeda, and Ayman al Zawahiri, the emir of al Qaeda, accepts.

"O our beloved Emir, on behalf of my brothers in al Shabaab al Mujahideen Movement, commanders and soldiers, I say: We give allegiance to you to follow the Book of Allah and the Sunnah [traditions] of His Messenger, to listen and obey in good and bad, to have altruism and not dispute with people in their fields except when we see clear unbelief that is proven in the revelation from Allah as much as we can," Zubayr says in his address to Zawahiri, according to SITE's translation.

"Lead us on the path of martyrdom and jihad, on the steps drawn by our martyred Imam Usama [bin Laden]," Zubayr adds.

In his portion of the video, Zawahiri claims that the "jihadi movement is growing...despite the fiercest Crusader campaign in history launched by the West against Muslims." Zawahiri continues:
"Today, I have pleasing 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 Qaedat al Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio[nist]-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers who let the invading Crusader forces enter their countries."
The announcement is hardly surprising. Al Qaeda and Shabaab have long been closely linked. And Shabaab's leaders have repeatedly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda.

During an interview in December 2011, Zubayr highlighted the role al Qaeda has played in Somalia since the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. In 2010, according to an account published by Reuters, Zubayr signed a statement saying that Shabaab had "agreed to join the international jihad of al Qaeda."

Al Qaeda has praised Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, for years prior to accepting Shabaab into the fold. And for years al Qaeda has helped produce propaganda for the Islamic Courts and Shabaab, and has addressed the group in its own propaganda tapes. Osama bin Laden endorsed the Islamic Courts during a speech back in 2006.

"We will continue, God willing, to fight you and your allies everywhere, in Iraq and Afghanistan and
in Somalia and Sudan until we waste all your money and kill your men and you will return to your country in defeat as we defeated you before in Somalia," bin Laden said. Al Qaeda leaders Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al Libi have also directly addressed Shabaab and voiced their support for the terror group's activities.

During the summer of 2008, Shabaab sought to formally join al Qaeda. By the end of that year, al Qaeda had indicated that it had all but formally accepted Shabaab as its official affiliate in East Africa.

In September of 2008, Shabaab formally reached out to al Qaeda's senior leadership in an effort to better integrate with the network and its strategic nodes across Africa and the Middle East. The effort came in the form of a 24-minute video that featured Saleh ali Saleh Nabhan, a dual-hatted al Qaeda and Shabaab leader.

In the tape, Nabhan declared an oath of bayat (loyalty) on behalf of Shabaab to bin Laden and al Qaeda and encouraged fighters to train in Shabaab-run camps and participate in the fight against the transitional federal government, Ethiopian forces, and African Union peacekeepers. A public response to Shabaab's declaration came two months later, on Nov. 19, 2008, when al Qaeda operations chief Ayman al-Zawahiri acknowledged the group in a propaganda video by calling them "my brothers, the lions of Islam in Somalia."

"[R]ejoice in victory and conquest," Zawahiri said, in an official transcript acquired by The Long War Journal, "and hold tightly to the truth for which you have given your lives, and don't put down your weapons before the Mujahid state of Islam and Tawheed [oneness with god] has been set up in Somalia."
Despite the close ties between the two terror groups, al Qaeda's senior leadership "instructed Shabaab to maintain a low profile on al Qaeda links," a senior US intelligence official who closely follows al Qaeda and Shabaab in East Africa told The Long War Journal in August 2010. The official, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, said the information was passed between the top leadership of both groups.
"Al Qaeda has accepted Shabaab into the fold, and any additional statements would only serve to draw international scrutiny," the intelligence official said.

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