Who are Somalia’s al Shabaab rebels?

Author: Reuters

– Prosecutors told Melbourne Magistrate’s Court they had evidence some of the
men had taken part in training in Somalia and at least one had engaged in
frontline fighting there.

Here are some details about the al Shabaab group:

* Waging war in Somalia:

– Al Shabaab, which means “Youth” in Arabic, is an al Qaeda-inspired
militant group that has taken control of large swathes of south and central
Somalia. The Horn of Africa nation has been mired in anarchy since warlords
toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

– The interim government’s attempts to restore central rule have largely been
paralysed by infighting and the Islamist-led insurgency. Fighting has killed
more than 18,000 people since the start of 2007 and has uprooted at least 1
million civilians. The chaos has also helped fuel kidnappings and piracy
offshore.

– Al Shabaab’s hardline militia was initially part of the Somalia Islamic
Courts Council (SICC) movement which pushed US -backed warlords out of
Mogadishu in June 2006 and then ruled for six months before Somali-Ethiopian
forces ousted them.

* Strict practices:

– Last month, al Shabaab took possession of two French hostages after winning
a tussle with another insurgent group, Hizbul Islam, which had been holding
one of them. The pair were kidnapped from the capital’s Sahafi Hotel on July
14.

– In June, al Shabaab officials in one of the group’s Mogadishu strongholds
ordered four teenagers to each have a hand and a leg cut off as punishments
for robbery.

– Al Shabaab’s hardline interpretation of Islamic law has shocked many
Somalis, who are traditionally more moderate Muslims. Some residents,
however, give the insurgents credit for restoring order to the regions under
their control.

* Foreign fighters:

– The Somali government says hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the
insurgency from countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf region
and Western nations like the United States and Britain. Some of the foreign
jihadists have taken up leadership positions in militant groups including al
Shabaab.

– One American national of Somali origin was killed while fighting for al
Shabaab in Mogadishu last month.

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