Crusader Corner: Al Shabaab 101


Islamist Groups Currently in Somalia:

  • Al Shabaab
  • Hizbul Islam
  • Islamic Courts Union

The recent U.S. airstrike targeting al Shabaab is the latest in a series of fights that seem to be growing in intensity. Below is a brief timeline of al Shabaab:


Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaida associated militant group that seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia. Al-Shabaab also seeks to promote Shari’a law internationally and has encouraged “lone-wolf” style attacks against the U.S. Initially, Al-Shabaab was the military force behind the Somali Islamic Courts. Al-Shabaab became an independent entity by late 2007. Al-Shabaab once controlled significant portions of Somalia, including strong influence in Mogadishu, but invasion by the Ethiopian army in 2006 and military action thereafter by the African Union has weakened it. Al-Shabaab characterized the Ethiopian invasion as an attack by a “crusader” army since Ethiopia is a mostly Christian nation.

In 2008, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow reportedly told a BBC journalist that Al-Shabaab was pleased to be on the list of foreign terrorist organizations.

In 2011, Kenyan forces attacked Al-Shabaab in Kismayo, Somalia after Shabaab members blocked humanitarian aid.

In February 2012, Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Al-Zubair publically announced Shabaab allegiance with Al-Qaeda and vowed to follow Al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

In September 2013, Al-Shabaab members attacked the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 67 people and wounding another 175.

In October 2013, U.S. Navy SEALs responded to this attack by targeting a senior Al-Shabaab leader in a failed pre-dawn raid.

In September 2014, a U.S. drone strike killed al Shabaab founder and leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.

Americans in al Shabaab:

In 2008, an Al- Shabaab leader stated that the global jihad and the jihad in Somalia were consistent and complementary goals, but they lacked sufficient foreign fighters. Al-Shabaab broadened its message of appeal beginning around 2010 when videos surfaced encouraging foreigners to travel to Somalia to fight a greater jihad against the West and establish an Islamic state. In a video released circa 2010, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan urged would-be jihadists to come help “free your brothers from darkness of oppression” and “gain honor in this life and the next.” Nabhan was killed by U.S. special operations forces in September 2009, prior to the release of the video.

Sources estimate that between two dozen and up to fifty Americans or permanent residents have traveled or attempted to travel to join Al-Shabaab since 2007. The first known American suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, joined Al-Shabaab and attacked the Ethiopian Consulate in 2009. At least two other Americans, Farah Beledi and Abdisalan Ali, followed in Ahmed’s footsteps.

A former American soldier, Craig Baxam, was arrested in Kenya as he attempted to join Al-Shabaab. When questioned, Baxam stated that it was a religious obligation to join Shabaab and fight.

Ruben Shumpert, a American convert to Islam, is believed to have been killed in Somalia in 2008 while fighting for Al-Shabaab.


Omar Hammami, a native of Alabama of Syrian descent, also traveled to Somalia to join Al-Shabaab and became a leader in the group. Omar Hamammi stated in his autobiography “I was mixed between the ‘hatred of terrorism’ instilled by the ‘Salafis’ and between my real hatred for America, the disbelievers, and their oppression of the Muslims.” Hammami was reportedly killed by al Shabaab in late 2013 after falling out of favor with its leadership.


Al-Shabaab’s target constituency for recruitment is the 150,000 to 200,000 ethnic Somalis who live in the United States. Al-Shabaab was able to appeal to these Somali Americans after the 2006 invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia. Because Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian nation, many Somalis were humiliated and angered by the invasion.

For its part, the United States continues to arrest and prosecute members of Al-Shabaab domestically and target them overseas militarily. In August 2010, the U.S. indicted fourteen individuals with providing material support to Al-Shabaab.

Most recently, in March 2016, the United States reportedly killed approximately 120 al Shabaab fighters at a training camp some 120 miles north of Mogadishu during a strike involving both drones and manned aircraft. News sources reported the use of Reaper and Predator drones to target al Shabaab members in military formation at the Raso training camp in central Somalia.

Read the Original Article at Medium