Country Reports on Terrorism 2016 - Foreign Terrorist Organizations: Al-Shabaab (AS)

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

Description: Al-Shabaab was 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 during 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 transitional governments of Somalia. In 2016, the group continued to fight to discredit and destabilize the Federal Government of Somalia.

Al-Shabaab is an official al-Qa'ida (AQ) affiliate and has ties to other AQ affiliates, including al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qa'ida in the Islamic Maghreb. The group's leader is Ahmed Diriye aka Ahmed Umar aka Abu Ubaidah.

Al-Shabaab is composed of a mixture of Somali recruits and foreign terrorist fighters. Since 2011, al-Shabaab has seen its military capacity reduced due to the efforts of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali forces, and clashes – some violent – within the group itself. Despite al-Shabaab's loss of urban centers since 2012, the group was able to maintain its hold on large sections of rural areas in south-central Somalia in 2016 and conducted multiple attacks in Somalia and Kenya.

Activities: Al-Shabaab has used intimidation and violence to exploit divisions in Somalia and undermine the country's Federal Government, 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. Al-Shabaab fighters and others claiming allegiance to the group have assassinated numerous civil society figures, government officials, journalists, international aid workers, and members of non-governmental organizations.

Al-Shabaab was responsible for the July 11, 2010, suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda – its first attack outside of Somalia. The attack, which took place during the World Cup, killed nearly 76 people, including one U.S. citizen. In September 2013, al-Shabaab again expanded its area of operations when it staged a significant attack against the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The siege resulted in the deaths of at least 65 civilians, including foreign nationals from 13 countries and six soldiers and police officers; hundreds of others were injured. In April 2015, al-Shabaab carried out a raid with small arms and grenades on Kenya's Garissa University College that left nearly 150 people dead.

In February 2016, al-Shabaab attempted to down Daallo Airlines Flight 321 with 74 passengers on board. Only the suicide bomber was killed and the plane made an emergency landing in Mogadishu shortly after take-off due to an explosion that created a large hole in the fuselage near the wing. Al-Shabaab killed 10 people in May when members of the group set off a car bomb outside a hotel in Mogadishu. In August, al-Shabaab claimed a double suicide bombing in Galkayo, Somalia, that killed at least 20 people. Al-Shabaab carried out a series of raids in northeast Kenya in October, including one attack that killed at least 12 people at a guesthouse in Mandera, and in November, the group claimed responsibility for a car bombing targeting an army convoy near Parliament in Mogadishu that killed at least two soldiers and injured another five.

Strength: Al-Shabaab is estimated to have several thousand members.

Location/Area of Operation: Al-Shabaab has lost full control of significant areas of territory. In September 2012, the group lost control of Kismayo, a vital port it used to obtain supplies and funding through taxes. In October 2014, al-Shabaab lost another strategic port in Baraawe to AMISOM and Somali troops. In 2015, an AMISOM offensive forced the group out of two of its strongholds of Dinsoor and Bardaheere and killed up to 100 personnel. Despite these losses, throughout 2016, al-Shabaab continued to control large swaths of rural areas in the middle and lower Juba regions, as well as the Bakol, Bay, and Shabelle regions. The group also maintained its presence in northern Somalia along the Golis Mountains and within Puntland's larger urban areas, and launched several attacks against targets in the border regions of Kenya.

Funding and External Aid: While al-Shabaab has seen its income diminish due to the loss of the strategic port cities of Baraawe, Kismayo, and Merka, it has received enough income to launch multiple attacks per week in Mogadishu, launch complex attacks against AMISOM bases, and expand operations against civilian aviation targets. Al-Shabaab obtained funds through illegal charcoal production and exports, and taxation of local populations and businesses.

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


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