Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally

Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally

Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally

Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally

Synopsis

One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, and prayer. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally recounts the rise, fall, and resurgence of this overlooked terrorist organization and provides an intimate understanding of its connections with Al-Qaeda. Drawing from interviews with former Al-Shabaab militants, including high-ranking officials, military commanders, police, and foot soldiers, authors Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph reveal the motivations of those who commit their lives to the group and its violent jihadist agenda. A wealth of sources including US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, letters taken from the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, case files from the prosecution of American Al-Shabaab members, emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and Al-Shabaab's own statements and recruiting videos inform Maruf and Joseph's investigation of the United States' campaign against Al-Shabaab and how the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave the group the popular support it needed to radicalize ordinary citizens and become a powerful movement.

Excerpt

Christopher Anzalone

Before the rise of the Islamic State and its pretensions as the new “caliphate,” Al-Shabaab ran a multitiered governing administration over vast swaths of central and southern Somalia, threatening the very existence of Somalia’s internationally recognized government. the militant organization recruited hundreds of foreign fighters from North America, Europe, the Middle East, and sub-Saharan Africa and established itself as a key regional ally and, later, affiliate of Al-Qaeda. Through its civil and political administrations, Al-Shabaab collected taxes and extorted “protection” money from locals, made alliances with businessmen engaged in the illegal charcoal trade, ran Sharia courts, and imposed a harsh form of law and order through its Hisbah police force. the United States, European Union, and Somalia’s African neighbors had good reason to be alarmed.

Indeed, Al-Shabaab was a pioneer in jihadi-insurgent governance, building itself from the ashes of the Islamic Courts Union following the December 2006 Ethiopian invasion and ensuring its primacy over Somalia’s insurgency through the ruthless use of coercion and outright violence. From its setup of a robust machinery for territorial control to its use of public events like communal prayers and outdoor executions, Al-Shabaab blazed a path for Sunni militants that would later be built on and scaled up massively by the Islamic State. the Somali jihadi group was also a trailblazer in the use of media, establishing a strong presence on Twitter and other social media . . .

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