July 14, 2010

Quick Take: Al Shabaab's First International Strike

The al Qaeda-linked Somali terror group al Shabaab has claimed credit for Sunday’s bombings in Uganda that killed at least 76, including one American.  Al Shabaab had long identified Uganda as a target, but Sunday’s attack marks the group’s first successful terror operation beyond Somalia’s borders.  The attack demonstrates al Shabaab’s capability to follow up on its threats to strike internationally and contributes to its goal of receiving recognition from al Qaeda.

The Critical Threats Project has produced in-depth analysis on the Uganda bombings and their significance for the West.  The analysis makes the following key points:

The Somali terror group al Shabaab has taken credit for Sunday’s bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.  Al Shabaab has become more internationalized since early 2007 and has threatened to attack international targets, but Sunday’s event marks the group’s first successful attack beyond Somalia’s borders.

  • Al Shabaab seeks al Qaeda’s recognition and, likely, an al Qaeda franchise designation. Currently, only three such franchises exist.  The group’s first international attack was likely at least partially driven by that aim.

  • Al Shabaab seeks to weaken the forces that hinder its expansion in and control of Somalia, the most notable of which is the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).  Uganda and Burundi are the only two countries that contribute troops to the AMISOM force, making their interests key targets for al Shabaab.

  • Al Shabaab has proven on multiple occasions its ability to execute on its threats.  This capacity was demonstrated again with the Uganda bombings, as al Shabaab had threatened to strike Ugandan targets on numerous occasions.

  • Al Shabaab’s ambitions are not limited to the continent of Africa.  The group has threatened the West, including the U.S., and it has numerous international militants, including Americans and Europeans.  The Uganda attack should serve as a wakeup call for the entire international community.

Please find the full text of this article here.

The Critical Threats Project has tracked al Shabaab closely over the past year.  In February, CTP released a report detailing the internationalization of the group.  CTP has also produced maps showing areas of Somalia controlled by al Shabaab.  For CTP’s full coverage on Somalia, please click here.