Somalia has gained attention in recent years due to increased piratical activity near its coastlines; however, a potentially more dangerous threat lurks in the country's southern regions. Should Somalia slide from a failed state to absolute dissolution, the militant Islamist group al Shabaab could provide a haven for international terrorists determined to launch attacks aimed at Somalia's neighbors and even the West. This section profiles that group and provides other key analysis of the security challenges in the Horn of Africa.
Al Shabaab's Suicide Bombing in Mogadishu, October 4, 2011
Al Shabaab's Withdrawal from Mogadishu, August 7, 2011
Looming Crisis Scenarios in Somalia, November 2, 2010
UN Representative Acknowledges Scale of Somalia’s Crisis, September 29, 2010
Map of al Shabaab’s Mogadishu Offensive, September 23, 2010
Al Shabaab’s American Recruits and First “News” Video, August 5, 2010
Al Shabaab’s First International Strike, July 14, 2010
The Partitioning of Somalia Strengthens Islamists, June 1, 2010
The Battle for Mogadishu, April 2, 2010
The Terror Threat from Somalia, February 12, 2010
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IN THIS SECTION
Multiple crises throughout the world—in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine, and now Israel—have pulled attention from growing violence in East Africa. Al Qaeda’s group in Somalia, al Shabaab, now has an operational reach that covers all of the Horn of Africa.
On Tuesday, after a four-day siege by terrorists who murdered at least 67 people, the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, still appeared not to have been secured by government forces.
The Obama administration counts Somalia as a success story, but the rising death toll from al Shabaab’s bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall is a tragic reminder that U.S. strategy against al Qaeda, claims of success notwithstanding, is not working.
The outside-of-government push for a semi-autonomous region in the south, and the federal government’s inability to manage the crisis, exemplifies the challenge ahead not only for Somalia, but also for American counter-terrorism strategy in the Horn of Africa.
The fall of Kismayo could herald the collapse of the group’s quasi-state, but it may also serve to strengthen more radical factions within the terrorist group that prefer to focus on regional and global jihad.
The anniversary of bin Laden’s death last week focused attention briefly on the continued threat posed by al Qaeda Central. But what about al Qaeda's franchises elsewhere, like al Shabaab in Somalia? The viability of the threat these groups pose to the U.S. deserves more careful consideration than it has received.
The leadership and structure of al Shabaab are important to understanding how the group operates. The Critical Threats Project has produced a series of profiles of al Shabaab leaders.
Kenya launched an offensive operation against al Shabaab in Somalia codenamed “Operation Linda Nchi” (Operation Protect the Nation) on October 16, 2011.
The greatest obstacle to the provision of humanitarian aid in Somalia is denial of access by al Shabaab. Opting for an aid operation in southern Somalia, the heartland of al Shabaab territory, would be met with significant armed resistance. To be successful, such a mission would require support from ground forces.
Al Shabaab is an increasingly key player in the al Qaeda network: the group has established relationships with elements of the broader al Qaeda network, is cooperating with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and may be providing training for other militant Islamist groups in Africa.