Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: al-Shabaab

aka The Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahidin; al-Shabab; Shabaab; the Youth; Mujahidin al-Shabaab Movement; Mujahideen Youth Movement; Mujahidin Youth Movement

Description: Designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on March 18, 2008, al-Shabaab was the militant wing of the former Somali Islamic Courts Council that took over parts of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. Since the end of 2006, al-Shabaab and associated militias have undertaken a violent insurgency using guerrilla warfare and terrorist tactics against the series of transitional Somali governments. In 2013, the group continued to fight to discredit and destabilize the Federal Government of Somalia.

In February 2012, al-Qa'ida (AQ) announced that al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed had pledged obedience to Ayman al-Zawahiri and AQ. Al-Shabaab also has ties to al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

In some camps, AQ-affiliated foreign fighters often led the training and indoctrination of the al-Shabaab recruits, while rank and file militia fighters from multiple clan and sub-clan factions that are aligned with al-Shabaab are predominantly interested in indigenous issues. The group's foreign fighters were generally intent on conducting attacks outside Somalia, but since 2011 have seen their operational capacity reduced due to the military efforts of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali forces against al-Shabaab; and clashes, some violent, within the group. Although al-Shabaab's capability to wage conventional attacks was greatly diminished in 2012 with the loss of key territory – including the port city of Kismayo – the organization was able to maintain its hold on large sections of rural areas in south-central Somalia in 2013, and conduct new asymmetric attacks, including several large-scale attacks in Mogadishu.

Activities: Al-Shabaab has used intimidation and violence to exploit divisions in Somalia and undermine the Federal Government of Somalia, forcibly recruit new fighters, and kill activists working to bring about peace through political dialogue and reconciliation. The group has claimed responsibility for several high profile bombings and shootings throughout Somalia targeting AMISOM troops and Somali officials. It has been responsible for the assassination of numerous civil society figures, government officials, and journalists. Al-Shabaab fighters and those who have also claimed allegiance to the group have conducted violent attacks and have assassinated international aid workers and members of NGOs.

In its first attack outside of Somalia, al-Shabaab was responsible for the July 11, 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda during the World Cup, which killed nearly 76 people, including one American citizen. In 2013, al-Shabaab again expanded its activities outside of Somali and staged a significant attack in September against the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The siege resulted in the death of at least 65 civilians – including foreign nationals from 13 countries outside of Kenya – six soldiers and police officers, and hundreds of injured. Throughout the year, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for at least three additional attacks in Kenya that killed a total of 10 people.

Al-Shabaab's attacks within Somalia continued apace in 2013, and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians. Among al-Shabaab's most notable 2013 attacks in Somalia was a suicide attack in April against Mogadishu's Supreme Court complex, followed by a secondary attack on first responders, which killed approximately 30 people; a June attack against the UN Common Compound in Mogadishu, which killed 22 people, including three international staff; a July attack against the Turkish Embassy Housing complex in Mogadishu; a September attack in Kismayo targeting the convoy of Interim Juba Administration President Ahmed Madobe, which resulted in the death of at least 10 civilians; and a November attack on a police station in Beledweyne, which killed 21 Somali police and one Djiboutian AMISOM soldier.

There were frequent reports of al-Shabaab carrying out amputation of limbs for minor thievery offenses, stoning for suspected adultery, killing converts to religions other than Islam, and forced conscription of child soldiers. Al-Shabaab leaders frequently ordered beheaded corpses to be left in streets as a lesson to local communities. Al-Shabaab forces also reportedly engaged in widespread rape and violence against women.

Location/Area of Operation: Al-Shabaab lost full control of significant areas of territory in 2011 and 2012. In September 2012, al-Shabaab lost control of Kismayo, a vital port it used to obtain supplies and funding through taxes. Despite these losses, in 2013 al-Shabaab continued to control large sections of rural areas in the middle and lower Juba regions, as well as Bay, Shabelle, and Bakol regions, and augmented its presence in northern Somalia along the Golis Mountains and within Puntland's larger urban areas.

Strength: Al-Shabaab is estimated to have several thousand members, including a small cadre of foreign fighters, a force that is augmented by allied clan militias in some areas.

Funding and External Aid: In 2012, al-Shabaab saw its income diminish due to the loss of the strategic port cities of Kismayo and Merka; furthermore, it lost a general ability to freely levy taxes in certain urban areas in southern and central Somalia. Al-Shabaab continued to have sufficient financing available in 2013, however, including funds from illegal charcoal production and exports from smaller ports along the coast,including Baraawe; taxation of local populations and areas under al-Shabaab control; and foreign donations.

Because al-Shabaab is a multi-clan entity, it reportedly receives donations from individuals in the Somali diaspora; however, the donations are not always intended to support terrorism, but also to support family members.


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