New book on Shabaab details its evolution, prospects
2 months ago, 12 Oct 09:37
A new book by two veteran journalists offers insights on the birth of al-Shabaab and infighting among factions of Somalia's Islamist insurgency.
"Inside Al-Shabaab" also assesses the group's prospects in the years ahead, with Voice of America (VoA) reporters Harum Maruf and Dan Joseph concluding that Shabaab will likely retain its ability to destabilise Somalia.
Mr Maruf, a senior VoA editor who has covered Somalia for 25 years, and Mr Joseph, VoA's Africa desk chief since 2005, base their findings primarily on interviews with more than a dozen Shabaab defectors, including the group's former deputy leader.
The 323-page book published in the US by Indiana University Press also relies on interviews with Somali government officials and expert analysts, along with State Department cables posted online by WikiLeaks.
Much of the content relates to events that will be familiar to longtime observers of Al-Shabaab.
Accounts of the catastrophic attacks on Kenya's Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and the KDF's base at El Adde in southern Somalia present little new information.
"Inside Al-Shabaab" likewise ignores a momentous 2014 finding by United Nations experts that KDF units collaborated with Shabaab in circumventing the international embargo on charcoal exports from Somalia.
The authors fail to provide a complete picture when they assert that as a result of Kenyan forces' capture of the port of Kismayo in 2012 "Shabaab lost its number-one source of funding."
But the book does illuminate al-Shabaab's origins by tracing the influence of Ibrahim Jama Me'aad, a key behind-the-scenes founding figure.
A native Somali from a religious family, Me'aad traveled in 1988 to Afghanistan where he became an associate of Osama bin Laden who was then helping lead mujaheddin resistance to the Soviet invasion.
Me'aad became so devoted to al-Qaeda's cause in Afghanistan that after returning to Somalia he became known as Ibrahim al-Afghani.
As a propagandist for jihad, al-Afghani was instrumental in the formation of a militant Islamist organisation in Somalia that, due to its large contingent of teenage and young-adult members, came to be referred to as "al-Shabaab" (Arabic for "the youth").
With Somalia wracked by civil war in the 1990s following the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre, Shabaab formed an alliance with another new Islamist movement that was focused on bringing justice and order to communities convulsed by lawlessness.
Militants of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) joined Shabaab fighters in successfully battling a grouping of warlords funded by the CIA.
By 2006, the ICU had become strong enough to function as a de facto governing force in Mogadishu.
Shabaab, however, had come to view the Courts Union as insufficiently devoted to fundamentalist tenets, the authors relate. But many residents of the Somali capital did welcome the ICU as a guarantor of peace and stability, the book adds.
Islamist control of the capital proved short-lived. Feeling threatened by the Islamists' advances into western Somalia, Ethiopia invaded the country despite initial misgivings on the part of the United States, the Ethiopian regime's most important ally.
The invaders seized Mogadishu in December 2006 and helped secure Somalia's fledgling Transitional Federal Government.
The ICU's ...
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