al Shabaab



     Al Shabaab logo.jpg

    Status: Active
    AKA: Al Shabaab Mujahideen Movement, Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin, Hizbul Shabaab, HSM, Mujahidin al-Shabaab Movement, Mujahidin Youth Movement, Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations (PRM), Shabaab, The Party of Youth, The Youth, Young Islamic Movement
    Formed: 2006
    Areas of Operation: Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda
    Headquarters: Somalia
    Ideology: Religious (Islamist - Sunni)
    Leader: Ahmed Abdi Goodane (aka Sheikh Moktar Aburrahman Abu Zubeyr, Militant Leader), Xasan Xuseen (Spiritual Leader)
    Group Affiliates: Al Qaeda, Ogden National Liberation Front (ONLF), Islamic Courts Union, Ras Kamboni Brigade, Hizbul Islam, Boko Haram

    Organizational History

    Al Shabaab is the largest and most active militant group in Somalia. Founded in 2004 as the military youth wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), al Shabaab’s ongoing objective has been to overthrow the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) that is supported by the African Union and western nations, and to establish a Wahhabi driven Islamic state in Somalia. [1][2] As the ICU grew, al Shabaab became the official militant wing of the organization, claiming responsibility for numerous major attacks perpetrated by the group from 2006 through 2009. [3] Al Shabaab began an insurgent campaign against the existing TFG as well as Ethiopian and African Union peacekeepers following the strategic military defeat of an ICU uprising in late 2006-2007. [3] After the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia in 2009, al Shabaab was able to take control of Somalia, except for a few city blocks in the capital, Mogadishu that were controlled by the Somali TFG soldiers and African Union soldiers. [2] Historically, al Shabaab is known for targeting TFG and foreign military troops, as well as humanitarian aid groups. The U.S. government placed al Shabaab on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list on February 29, 2008. [4]

    Al Shabaab has managed to grow its membership significantly by absorbing smaller Somali militant groups. On February 1, 2010, a group of former members of the Ras Kamboni Movement, a Somali militant group, declared their allegiance to al Shabaab and al Qaeda. [5][6] Under the leadership of Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Hirsi al Turki, the newly formed Ras Kamboni Brigade declared “we have... agreed to unite al Shabaab and Kamboni mujahideen to liberate the Eastern and Horn of Africa community who are under the feet of minority Christians.” [6][7] The original Ras Kamboni Movement led by Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Islam, popularly known as Sheikh Ahmed Madobe does not share the Islamist ideology of the Ras Kamboni Brigade. The Ras Kamboni Movement has fought to liberate several cities and towns from the the control of al Shabaab and the Ras Kamboni Brigade with the support of the Somali National Army, TFG, and Kenya Defence Forces. [5]

    In December 2010, al Shabaab incorporated another Somali militant group, Hizbul Alislam, which was led by Hassan Dahir Aweys. [8] On November 20, 2011, the Ethiopian military, with the support of the pro-Somali TFG militia group Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah (ASWJ), created a fighting force that would serve as a third military front against al Shabaab. [9] Since that time al Shabaab has expanded its operations into Ethiopia in retaliation for its involvement in Somalia. [10] In late 2011, al Shabaab militants retreated from Mogadishu and the TFG took complete control of Mogadishu. On January 21, 2012, the United Nations returned to Mogadishu, after being expelled 17 years earlier. [11]

    In June 2013, infighting between al Shabaab members began resulting in the deaths of two senior commanders.  Gunmen killed Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead aka “al Afghani,” and Abul Hamid Hashi Olhayi; both murders were ordered by current leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in an effort to enforce obedience. Currently, al Shabaab is fractured into multiple rival sects based on clan and ideological differences. [12] A third senior al Shabaab leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, escaped infighting by boat, and subsequently surrendered to Somali government officials on June 29, 2013. [13]


    The exact structure of the al Shabaab command is unknown. The vast majority of decisions, both military and political, are made by a group of senior al Shabaab leaders. This group includes Ahmed Godane, Ibrahim Haji Jama al Afghani, Mukhtar “Abu Mansur” Robow, Fu’ad Muhammad Khalaf “Shongole,” spokesman “Ali Mahamoud Rage,” zakat and famine relief committee officials Suldaan Muhammad “Ali al Muhammad and Hussein,” “Ali Fiidow,” and preacher “Abd al Qadir Mu’min.” [14][15]

    Since al Shabaab took control of Somalia in 2007, it has established a government structure in areas under its control. Each Somali province under its control is headed by a governor or “wali.” [14] These provinces are then broken into local districts that have Sharia courts, offices of donations, as well as military and police forces. [14] Public works, including road and bridge building, schools, and hospitals are also run by al Shabaab at the district level. [14]


    Al Shabaab has a vast array of weapons that is has amassed over the last few years during fighting with the Somali TFG, African Union soldiers, and other militant groups. [16] Weapons are also sold to al Shabaab by arms traffickers that aquire weapons from transactions with African Union and Somali government soldiers. [17] Al Shabaab’s arsenal includes: armored vehicles, anti-aircraft guns, man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), shoulder fired missiles, heavy and light machine guns, rocket propelled grenades, AK-47 rifles, and pistols. [2] It is also reported that the Eritrean government has supplied weapons and explosives to al Shabaab in an effort to support operations against Ethiopia, a contributer to the African Union presence in Somalia. [18] Such claims have been adamantly denied by Eritrea. [16][18]


    Al Shabaab receives support from Somali civilians through zakats and taxes on Somali imports, exports, and local businesses that are in al Shabaab controlled areas of Somalia.  Additional funding is received from donations by supporting groups and individuals around the world. [1][2] Zakats are collected at mosques and have supplied the bulk of support for al Shabaab’s operations in recent years. Somali civilians also donate food, water, clothing, and even housing to support al Shabaab. [2][8] Even though the two groups do not have direct affiliations, it is believed by many that Somali pirates pay al Shabaab fees to remain active in certain areas of Somalia. [19][20][21][22]


    The majority of recruitment for al Shabaab comes from numerous local clans, all of which have been involved in on-going conflicts with one another over the past several decades.  The group has also been known to conscript child soldiers from villages or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps across the southern part of the country. According to military sources, an estimated 2,000 children were abducted by al Shabaab in 2010 for military training in different camps in southern Somalia. [23] Al Shabaab also has numerous international fighters in its ranks. The most popular international al Shabaab fighter, Abu Mansur al Amriki, or Omar Hammami, is an American of Syrian descent who moved to Somalia in 2006 to join the group. [24] Like Abu Mansur al Amriki, over 40 Somali-American and numerous Somali-Europeans have traveled to Somalia to fight for al Shabaab. [20][25] The first known naturalized American suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, blew himself up in Somaliland as part of an al Shabaab attack in October 2008; at least two more American suicide bombers have been responsible for attacks since that time. Al Shabaab’s ranks include fighters from: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kenya, the U.S., and a variety of other African nations. [2] It is currently estimated that al Shabaab has 1,000 to 4,000 fighters within its ranks, of which 200 to 400 are thought to be foreign nationals. [14][22]


    Al Shabaab’s first known attack was the kidnapping and subsequent murder of four Western aid workers suspected of giving assistance to counter-terrorism forces. [26] Since then, the group has expanded to more sophisticated forms of insurgent warfare; these attacks range from full military confrontations with TFG and African Union forces to suicide and vehicle borne improvised explosive device (IED). [3] Additionally, al Shabaab will conduct arson and bombing attacks on private businesses believed to support government forces or those that have failed to comply with the group’s version of Sharia law. [27][28] Al Shabaab also frequently assassinates Somali government officials and executes Somali civilians that have been accused of supporting the Somali government and African Union. [3] Al Shabaab has also been responsible for several attacks and abductions outside Somalia. The most violent of which is a triple suicide bombing that targeted civilians watching world cup soccer games at a sports stadium and a restaurant in Kampala, Uganda on July 11, 2010. [29] The attack killed more than 70 people and injured several dozen more.


    Al Shabaab leaders.jpg

    Al Shabaab leaders. [28]

     Omar Hammami.jpg

    Abu Mansour al-Amriki, a leader of al Shabaab, is an American citizen who grew up in Alabama. [30]

     Al Shabaab leader II.jpg

    Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage is the spokesman of al Shabaab. Rage often speaks to news agencies, claiming responsibility for major attacks, as well as local school and community groups in an effort to raise support and increase recruitment for the group. [31]

    Shirwa Ahmed.png

    The first known naturalized American suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed. [32]

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    Al Shabaab militants conducting a military exercise in northern Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, in January 2010. [33]

    Al Shabaab members II.jpg

    Al Shabaab militants in military uniforms, carrying AK-47s while surrounded by other Somalis. [34]


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    2. Global Security. Al-Shabaab (Al-Shabab). Retrieved from

    3. The National Counter Terrorism Center, Counterterrorism Calander 2010. Collected from

    4. Roggio, Bill (2010, February 1). More on the Announcement of the Merger of Shabaab and the Ras Kamboni Brigade. Retrieved from

    5. Gisesa, N (2012, June 12.) Smiling Warlord who Controls Ras Kamboni. Retrieved from

    6. Jewish Virtual Library (2011). Background Information on Terrorist Groups. Retrieved from

    7. (2012, February 4.) Terrorism Monitor. Retrieved from

    8. BBC News (2011, October 14). ‘Al-Qaeda’ Distributes Somali Aid near Mogadishu. Retrieved from

    9. Los Angeles Times (2012, January 24). U.N. Returns to Somali Capital Mogadishu after 17-Years Absence. Retrieved from

    10. Sudan Tribune. (2013, March 16.) Ethiopia Arrests Four al Qaeda Allied Suspects. Retrieved from sudantribune.com

    11. Anzalone, Christopher (2011, August 3). Who are Somalia’s ‘Al-Shabab?’. Retrieved from

    12. France 24. (2013, June 30). Al Shabaab Extremists Kill Two of Their Chiefs. Retrieved from France24.com

    13. Roggio, B. (2013, June 30) Shabaab Confirms 2 Top Leaders Were Killed in Infighting. Retrieved from longwarjournal.com

    14. Weinstein, Michael A. (2011, January 8). Somalia: Al-Shabaab’s Split and its Absorption of Hizbul Islam. Retrieved from

    15. Ahmed, Mohamed (2011, April 4). Al-Shabaab Seizes Arms, Arrests Elders. Retrieved from

    16. Pelton, Robert Young (2011, July 30). Does the US, UN, and AMISOM Supply Al-Shabaab?. Retrieved from

    17. Cohn, Julie (2010, June). Terrorism Heavens: Somalia. Retrieved from

    18. Al Jazeera. (2012, July 17) Eritrea ‘Reduces Support’ for al Shabaab. Retrieved from Aljazeera.com

    19. Murphy, Martin (2011, November 11). Pirate Money Flows to Al-Shabaab. Retrieved from

    20. Floyd, Kathryn H. (2010, July). Somalia’s Stability and Security Situation in Review. Retrieved from

    21. Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (2011 April, 23). Developments in Somalia. Retrieved from

    22. Global Jihad. Omar Hammami. Retrieved from

    23. One Hundred Twelfth Congress: U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security (2011, July 27). Al Shabaab: Recruitment and Radicalization within the Muslim American Community and the Threat to the Homeland. Retrieved from

    24. The Guardian (2006, June 10). Fall of Mogadishu Leaves US Policy in Ruins. Collected from

    25. Halper, Daniel (2011, July 27). Al Shabaab and Domestic Radicalization. Retrieved from

    26. Harnisch, Christopher (2010, February 12). The Terror Threat from Somalia: The Internationalization of Al Shabaab. Retrieved from

    27. BBC News (2010, July 12). ‘Somali Link’ as 74 World Cup Fans Dies in Uganda Blasts. Retrieved from

    28. Terror Free Somalia Foundation. (2011, March 3). Two US terror suspects charged with conspiring to join a terrorist organization Shabaab plead guilty. Retrieved from

    29. My Pet Jawa. (2009, September 4). Alabama man identified as al-Shabaab leader Abu Mansour al-Amriki. Retrieved from

    30. Straziuso, J. (2013, January 18.) Omar Hammami, American al Shabaab Member, Faces Death Threats. Retrieved from

    31. Terror Free Somalia Foundation. (2011, January 18). Al-Shabaab admits 85 militants killed in Mogadishu. Retrieved from

    32. (2009, February 24.) FBI Chief on Somali Suicide Bomber: “It Appears That This Individual was Radacalized in His Hometown in Minnesota.” Retrieved from

    33. Baldauf, S. (2010, February 10). Official says top al Qaeda leader in Somalia killed. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from

    34. "At Your Service, Osama" - the African Bin Laden Behind the Uganda Bombings. (2010, July 17). Bartamaha. Retrieved from