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.


Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals

A Successful Strike Against al Shabaab?

Al Shabaab in East Africa

Al Qaeda's Africa Surge Threatens the U.S., originally published in the Wall Street Journal

We are Losing Fight Against al Shabaab, originally published in CNN Global Public Square

Challenges to America's Counterterrorism Strategy in Somalia

Al Shabaab After Kismayo

Al Shabaab in Decline?

Al Shabaab Leadership Profiles


Al Shabaab and the Challenges of Providing Humanitarian Assistance in Somalia

Al Shabaab's Rise in the al Qaeda Network

Al Shabaab's History with Humanitarian Assistance

Terror Partnership: AQAP and Shabaab

Global Ambitions: An Analysis of al Shabaab's Evolving Rhetoric

Looking Ahead in Mogadishu: Tough Decisions

The Partitioning of Somalia: Islamists Strengthened Against Western-backed Government

Al Shabaab's First "News" Video: An Effort to Recruit Westerners and Expel Peacekeepers

Al Shabaab's First International Strike: Analysis of the July 11 Uganda Bombings

The Terror Threat from Somalia: The Internationalization of al Shabaab

Operation Briefer: The Upcoming Battle for Mogadishu

Turning Threats into Action: The Significance of al Shabaab's December 3 Mogadishu Suicide Bombing


Kenya's Operation Linda Nchi (timeline and map)

Somalia's Second Islamist Threat: A Backgrounder on Hizb al Islam

Briefing Package: The Terror Threat from Somalia


Somalia Conflict Maps: Islamist and Political

Mogadishu Map: Areas of Control

Mogadishu Map: al Shabaab's Ramadan Offensive


Quick Takes

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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External Publications

From Somalia to Nigeria: Jihad, The Weekly Standard, June 18, 2011

The Somali Pirate Threat Isn't Going Away, Huffington Post, February 22, 2011

Terrorists Wage War on Mogadishu, The Corner: National Review Online, August 25, 2010

Al Shabaab Effectively Recruits Americans, The Weekly Standard, August 10, 2010

A Democratic Beacon of Hope in a Dangerous Part of the World, The Daily Caller, July 27, 2010

African Union Force Hamstrung in its Fighting for Somalia, Washington Post, July 24, 2010

Cutting Humanitarian Aid in Somalia, The Weekly Standard, February 23, 2010


Ethiopian AMISOM Withdrawals

By Colin Lahiff, November 4, 2016

Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, al Shabaab, is occupying areas vacated by withdrawing Ethiopian forces and regaining its strength in south-central Somalia.

A Successful Strike Against al Shabaab?

By Katherine Zimmerman, September 2, 2014

The Pentagon confirmed U.S. military airstrikes targeted al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane on Monday night. The counterterrorism operation occurred in Sablale district near al Shabaab’s stronghold in Barawe, according to reports.

Al Shabaab in East Africa

By James Miller, July 24, 2014

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.

Al Qaeda's African Surge Threatens the U.S.

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.

We are Losing Fight Against al Shabaab

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. 

Challenges to America's Counterterrorism Strategy in Somalia

By Breuk Bass, Katherine Zimmerman, June 10, 2013

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.

Al Shabaab After Kismayo

By Katherine Zimmerman, October 3, 2012

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.

Al Shabaab in Decline?

By Katherine Zimmerman, May 8, 2012

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.

Al Shabaab Leadership Profiles

By , November 14, 2011

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.

Operation Linda Nchi

By The Editors , October 24, 2011

Kenya launched an offensive operation against al Shabaab in Somalia codenamed “Operation Linda Nchi” (Operation Protect the Nation) on October 16, 2011.