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
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.
Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked militant group in Somalia, abruptly vacated key bases in Mogadishu the morning of August 6. It is unclear, however, what the motivations of the group were. What is clear is that it is too early to call the withdrawal a victory for the Transitional Federal Government.
The famine in Somalia has raised questions about trying to send humanitarian aid to an area dominated by al Shabaab, which has enforced its ban on international aid agencies with violence. Getting aid to needy Somalis may not even be possible without being drawn once again into conflict in the Horn of Africa.
The most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate appears to be partnering with Somalia-based militant Islamist group al Shabaab to attack the West.
If it was indeed al Shabaab that trained the Boko Haram militants who carried out the suicide bombing in Abuja, then Somalia has become a training center as well as a safe haven for radical Islamist groups. Moreover, this new role means that al Shabaab is something more than simply an insurgent group; it is also an enabler in al Qaeda’s “far” war against the West and its allies.