Friday, December 31, 2010

Nigeria Christmas bombings

On Christmas a number of Christian facilities were attacked in Nigeria. A prime suspect for the bombings was swiftly named: Boko Haram, a salafî jihâdî group (no idea why they are often called "sect" by the media while groups with roughly the same ideology are "terrorist groups" to them) that it had cracked down on in 2009 killing the then time leader Muhammad Yûsuf. Following the crack down Boko Haram was announced dead by the Nigerian government/police.

They were obviously wrong. It seems that the former second in command Abû Bakr Shekaû has taken over. A written speech purportedly by him was released in October. The statement was a message on the Muslim holiday of 'Aîd al Fitr. Surprisingly the speech was released by AQMI (AQ Islamic Maghrib - means North Africa) media front al Andalus.

A photo showing Abû Bakr released with his 'Aîd al Fitr speech - released October 2010

The last months have seen a steady comeback of the group that seems to be intent on revenge against the police. The group also uses religious unrest that occurs between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria by targeting Christians thereby creating an image of them being the defenders of Nigeria's Muslims.

Such anti-Christian attacks took place last week, the attacks triggered clashes between followers of the two religions that led to higher casualties than the original bombings.

The media reported a claim of responsibility by the group yet it has still not appeared on the usual forums. The website that carried the groups claim and is said to belong to the group is offline by now, the statement is still available in English thanks to Google though.

In the Name of Allah Most Beneficent Most Merciful



In the name of Allah the mighty Who has power over everything, Who made fighting the disbelievers an obligation until justice is established on earth.

May peace and blessings continue to be upon the last messenger who wage jihad, the best of it.
O Nations of the World, be informed that verily the attacks in Suldaniyya (Jos) and Borno on the eve of Christmas was carried out by us, JAMA’ATU AHLUS-SUNNAH LIDDA’AWATI WAL JIHAD, under the leadership of Abu Muhammad, Abubakar bin Muhammad Shekau (May Allah preserve him), to start avenging the atrocities committed against Muslims in those areas, and the country in general. Therefore we will continue with our attacks on disbelievers and their allies and all those who help them, until Allah’s deen triumph by His Grace and Will.
O Muslims! Do not forget that Allah has enjoined us to make provisions for fighting the disbelievers, and for that we are reminding you that the disbelievers of the world are fighting Islam and Muslims. So you must stand and strive to protect your religion and life.
With Peace
Who is waging Jihad in the country called Nigeria.

The video is accompanied by a video statement. To my knowledge this is the first video released by the group. The name the group is using "Jam'âh Ahl al-Sunnah lil-D'wah wal Jihâd (Sunni Group for Preaching and Jihâd) has been used by the group before, for example in Abû Bakr's speech.

Screenshot of  the Christmas bombings claim video that was released last week

Right now there are reports of a new bombing in Nigeria, this time targeting a New Year's Eve celebration in the capital. If Boko Haram is behind this it is a worrying sign and maybe the uptick for a troublesome year in Nigeria.

For further reading on Nigeria see Alex Thurston's Sahel Blog.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Year of Unity

Well, now it has happened. The two jihâdî groups fighting against the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union troops in Somalia - namely Harakah al-Shabâb al Mujâhidîn (Youth Mujâhidîn Movement also known as Shabab, Hisbul Shabab) and al Hizb al Islâmî (Islamic Party also known as Hisbul Islam) have merged. Both groups are remnants of the Islamic Courts Union.

The ICU was a group of Islamists who tried to bring Islamic rule to the post 1991 civil war Somalia. They began to expand their territory in early 2006 and at their end they ruled much of the south of the country until Ethiopia felt threatened and invaded in late 2006. WikiLeaks tells us that the Ethiopian intervention was heavily lobbied for by the then time US government. The current President Sharîf Shaykh Ahmad had also been a member of the ICU but came to an agreement with the old TFG after Ethopia left in 2008 securing the job as President for himself. His former companions didn't accept that peace deal though and consider him a traitor.

In the years following the Ethiopian intervention the ICU split into numerous parts, in the course of the following conflict as already mentioned one party (Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia - Djibouti faction, Sharîf Ahmed) joined the government while two parties emerged as the opposition, the first of them beeing al Hizb al Islâmî, a merger of various ICU remnants, namely Mu'askar Râs Kâmbônî, 'Anôle and Jabhah al Islâm and the Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia - Asmara faction. The group was led by Hassan Tâhir Aways (Hasan Dahir Aweys - head of the ARS - Asmara faction), said to be the godfather of Islamism in Somalia. Aways is listed as an AQ associate by the UN.

The other slightly more radical one is Harakah al-Shabâb al Mujâhidîn. The group consisted of the original Shabâb that were a hardcore militia of the ICU and a number of local groups that operated under the ICU. Their commander is commonly known as Mukhtâr 'Abdul-Rahmân Abû Zubayr (also known as Abdul-Rahman Ahmad Godane). One of the founders of al-Shabâb, 'Adan Hâshî 'Ayrô, was killed in an American airstrike in 2008. He is commonly referred to as the first Amîr of the group but I have never seen al-Shabâb confirming this. Shabâb is linked to AQ and two AQ members/affiliates were killed fighting in Somalia. In late 2006 Abû Talhah al-Sûdânî was killed in the Ethiopian intervention and in late 2009 Abû Yûsuf Sâlih al-Nahbân was killed in another US operation.

The two opposition groups were natural allies against the TFG and the African UN forces from Uganda and Burundi, they cooperated, formed regional administrations together and conducted unity talks. Still there happened quite some armed conflicts between the two groups. The conflicts were not really about ideology as far as we know but conflicts between individuals and their clans about power and money.

There have been reported clashes between 'Anôle and Râs Kâmbônî as well as between Râs Kâmbônî and al-Shabâb. The late 2009/early 2010 clashes between Râs Kâmbônî and al-Shabâb led to a split in Râs Kâmbônî. The faction of Ahmed Madôbe went to all out war with al-Shabâb and lost, while the faction loyal to the second godfather of Somali Islamism Hassan 'Abdullah Hersî al-Turkî (Hassan Turki - and he is also on that UN list) joined al-Shabâb in February 2010.

In December 2010 there were clashes between al-Shabâb and al Hizb as well as rumours of a split within al-Shabâb between the southern leaders and the overall Amîr Mukhtâr Abû Zubayr who reportedly hails from the north. Such rumours were not exactly new.

In early 2009 as official spokesman Mukhtâr Abû Mansûr Robôw (Abu Mansur) was replaced with 'Alî Mahmûd Râge ('Alî Rege, 'Alî Tere, 'Alî Dere) a split was assumed but numerous appearings of the former and current spokesman ended the story.  In early 2010 rumours of a split within al-Shabâb between a majority faction naming themselves Millah Ibrâhîm and a minority faction under Abû Zubayr emerged. There was a notion that the majority group was less radical at the same time the foreign fighters were said to be with the majority. These rumours fizzled out too.

Between September and December 2010 in league with high losses in the capital and the clashes with al Hizb there seems to have been a deal of criticism inside the group. Again a split between southern commanders like Abû Mansûr and Amîr Abû Zubayr was all over the media. Plenty of reasons were given.

- The other commanders were not happy with their tribesmen dying under the command of a tribal outsider
- The other leaders didn't want to join international jihâd like Abû Zubayr
- The other leaders were unhappy about the clashes with their respected elder Hassan Aways

Reason 1 is a possibility I doubt it though as unlike to al Hizb we have not seen tribal troubles within al-Shabâb before. Concerning reason 2 - meaning their AQ contacts - I don't think that the al-Shabâb leaders disagree. We have not seen any signs for anyone of them disagreeing about this, to the contrary every single one of the public leaders praises AQ.  Reason 3 would make sense to me. Anyway, as of now there is no proof that there was, is or will be a split within al-Shabâb.

To the contrary on December 19th it emerged that Hassan Aways was ready to stop the fighting between the two groups and join his opponents from al-Shabâb. The following days several al Hizb commanders confirmed the news yet there was still nothing official. Some commanders could not be reached by the press and Aways was silent too. It seemed as if there were back room talks between the two groups.

On December 23rd a press conference was held in Mogadishu and an official statement concerning the merger of the two groups was published. Following is the official statement in English language (the statement was released in Somali at the press conference and in English and Arabic on the internet two days later):

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Statement from

Harakat Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen & Hizbul Islami

1432 H

__"The year of Unity"__

All praise is due to Allah who said: “Verily Allah loves those who fight in His cause in ranks as if they were a solid structures”, and prayers and peace be upon the leader of the Faithful who said: “And I declare obligatory upon you five things; Allah has commanded me to do so. They are: listening and obeying, Jihad, Hijra and community”

It is no secret that the Muslim people of Somalia had for a long time suffered oppression and tyranny at the hands of warlords and the evil forces of atheism, and what they have inherited from the blind tribalism, disintegration and the successive wars. Thus the only viable solution was to return to the religion of Allah and to stick to it in order to escape these tragedies and confront the Christian Crusade with everything in their possession, in terms of preparation and military hardware, while remaining steadfast in the face of the obstacles and setbacks that accompany the Jihadi activities and reliant upon Allah, without worrying about the length of the road ahead or the difficulty of the journey.

And every now and then, the conflict was being renewed and transformed; and the enemy assumed a role for every stage, preparing their men and whatever they needed of moral and material support, but with the grace of Allah, all these efforts were in vain.

The role of the Mujahideen, however, was not limited to the duties of Jihad and the confrontation of the enemy alone, but they have dedicated all their efforts to the application of the Shariah of Allah in all the ten regions that Allah had permitted them to govern. And as a result, peace soon enveloped those regions to replace the anarchy that prevailed and the residents attained a sense of stability and safety that once seemed unattainable.

The unity of Muslims has been and still remains a very important issue; for when the Messenger Muhammad (May peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) came with the message of Tawheed, he found that the Arabs were scattered and divided among themselves, supporting one another on the basis of tribes and lineages, so he united them, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, fulfilling the call of the Qur’an: “Truly! This, your Ummah is one, and I am your Lord, therefore worship Me (Alone)”

Your brothers in Somalia have become aware of the issue of unity and its importance, especially during these desperate times in which the enemies of the Muslim Ummah have united in order to implement their policy of ‘divide and conquer’ to split up the hearts and weaken the unified body so that they may achieve their evil objectives, i.e. the occupation of Muslim lands, the enslavement of their people, plundering of their wealth and abolition of their identity and religion.

History has shown us that Muslims were not able to achieve glory and propagate their religion except through their unity and holding on to the rope of Allah; and that Muslims have never tasted humiliation of defeat except when they were divided. We now live at a time when the degree of fragmentation is at its highest level and as such our holy places in Palestine have been occupied and the sanctity of our blood has been violated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Chechnya, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, and elsewhere, that is in addition to the despicable plots by the enemy to disrupt many lands of the Muslims such as Sudan. This tragedy, however, will not end except with the unification of Muslims on the basis of Islam and the methodology of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’ and not on the basis of secular nationalism.

The significant transformation that has engulfed the Muslim world today has become widely apparent to all and the victories achieved by the steadfast Mujahideen in Afghanistan and their destruction of the evil forces, led by NATO and US, is no longer a secret. Similarly, following the footsteps of their brothers in Afghanistan are the heroes of Iraq, who have dealt the Americans a humiliating defeat, forcing them to withdraw their troops, leaving behind a trail of destruction as well as the fate of their puppets from the Rafidhah sect at the hands of the Mujahideen. And in Yemen, the nobles rose to their feet to restore the dignity of a bruised nation, and raised the banner of truth. Within a short period of time, they have managed to break down the tyranny of one of the most arrogant infidel nations by penetrating their bastions and depleting their resources, thereby remaining a powerful nightmare in the minds of the Crusader. Also, we do not forget the heroes of Algeria and their constant struggle against the heads of disbelief and apostasy; for they have shaken the ground beneath their feet, destroyed their fortresses, and foiled their plans and wicked plots against the Muslim Ummah.[

And here we are in Somalia; and after the arrival of the invaders into this land and their imposition of laws upon the people, soon the sons of Islam and the battalions of Tawheed emerged in Somalia, under various names. There have been persistent efforts to unite the ranks of these groups, and with the passage of time, the numbers of groups still firmly standing in front of the enemy were reduced to two. After consecutive meetings and fundamental discussions around the methodology (Manhaj) between the leaders of Harakat Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen and Hizbul Islami, the long awaited day had finally come: a day of unification and reconciliation, a day of collaboration and unity and holding on collectively to the rope of Allah.

And at this juncture, it pleases Harakat Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen in the Land of Two Migrations – a land which is still being irrigated with the blood of its Martyrs - to announce to the Muslim Ummah and its vanguards waging Jihad in all the field and fronts, that Allah has permitted their brothers from Harakat Al-Shabab Al Mujahideen and Hizbul Islami to unite their ranks upon the statement of Tawheed, and to operate under the name ‘Harakat Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen’ in an effort to enrage the enemies of Allah and to please the hearts of the Monotheists around the world.

And this unity comes as a clear testament to the brotherhood of faith that unites between the hearts, combines the efforts and unifies the ranks; because the fundamental aspect of this unity is based upon the pure creed of Tawheed, where the exemplar is the Messenger Muhammad (may peace and blessing of Allah be upon him), and the methodology is the pure Shariah of Islam.

We have also agreed upon the following:
  • Working towards the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate upon the path of the prophet.
  • Waging Jihad in the cause of Allah to accomplish Tawheed and eradicate Polytheism until Allah is worshiped alone without partners
  • Confrontation of the global Zionist-Christian Crusade and its suppression.
  • Application of the Shariah of Allah and the administration of justice and elimination of injustice.
  • The application of the ideology of Alliance and Enmity ( Al Wala Wal Bara)
  • Restoration of the Islamic sanctities and cleansing them from the Jews, Christians and apostates
  • Supporting the oppressed and freeing the Muslim prisoners
  • Unification of the Muslim Ummah upon the banner of Tawheed
  • Creation of a cohesive Muslim society that is guided by a correct ideology, Islamic morals and Shariah
The Mujahideen in Somalia are sending, through this action of unity and solidarity, a message to the Muslim Ummah that we are one nation whose banner is Islam, and that this is the only way to triumph over the enemies of Allah; and that this unity hasn’t been achieved except to exchange our wealth and souls cheaply for the sake of Allah and not to attain any status or benefit from anyone except Allah.

It is also worth mentioning here that this unity came after the brothers from Hizbul Islami, leaders and soldiers alike, conceded and joined their brothers in Harakat Al-Shabab Al Mujahideen in compliance with the order of Allah: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves”, and also for the initiative to do good and to complete what is left in the application of Islamic Shariah Law (i.e unity), and advance the Jihadi activity in the region and in order to preserve the Muslim blood and veer away from the likely occurrence of rifts among the Mujahideen.

This unity sets a precedent for the contemporary Islamic activity and is an example of Sayyid Hassan bin Ali, may Allah be pleased with them both, of whom the Messenger of Allah, may the blessing of Allah be upon him and his family said:

“This son of mine is a Sayid (i.e. a noble) and may Allah make him the cause of reconciliation between two big groups of Muslims through him” (Bukhari)

And this has been accomplished when he conceded to Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan, may Allah be pleased with them, in the ‘Year of Unity’ in 41 AH. Similarly, we have termed this year, 1432 AH, as the ‘Year of Unity’ and we ask Allah to make it indeed a year of unity for all the Mujahideen around the globe.

And on this occasion, we call upon our beloved Muslim Ummah:

Dear beloved Ummah: We give you the glad tidings that we have, by the grace of Allah, become a single row, unified in our ranks. Our speech is synchronized, our banner has become one and we are now united in our goals. We have combined our efforts and we will remain, by the will of Allah, a lump in the throats of Crusaders and shelter for all the vulnerable and the immigrants.

So here are your sons in Somalia – they have become united upon clear objectives and a pure banner. So take up your role and uphold the trust of this unity, for only an hour’s patience is all that is left to achieve victory; be firm and let not Islam be defeated from your flank.

We also extend an invitation to the people of knowledge and those who possess experiences in all fields to take part in the making of this victory and supporting the Muslim Ummah. And we call upon the Muslims with Gheerah for the sanctity of Islam and Muslims to march forth towards Jihad and the catch up to the convoy in order to achieve one of the two blessed goals.

To the Vanguards of the Mujahid Ummah:

To the Mujahideen everywhere... To the leaders in Afghanistan ...and the Islamic State of Iraq and to the heroes of Ansar Al-Islam in Iraq…to the commanders in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic our brothers in creed in Ash-Sham and the environs of the patient ones in the Caucasus and Chechnya…to the giants in the north of Nigeria...and to every Mujahid who took up arms in the face of the Crusaders and apostates:

Bear these glad tidings, for the enemy has now begun to retreat and panic. So preserve the fruits of your Jihadi struggle and unify your ranks; and remember that the Muslim Ummah is waiting for us to overcome the phases of disunity and divisions which do not unify the ranks towards the stage of unity and collaboration that is dominated by hearing and obedience, for it is by collaborating together as a group through which the practical application of loyalty among the Muslims is achieved. Allah says: “Those who believed, and adopted exile, and fought for the Faith, with their property and their persons, in the cause of Allah, as well as those who gave (them) asylum and aid,- these are (all) friends and protectors, one of another.”

And from here we call upon our brothers and the crowns upon our heads in Ansar Al-Islam in Iraq Caliphate to please the hearts of their brothers in creed by unifying their ranks with the Islamic State of Iraq; for the enemy has indeed failed to penetrate your ranks except through the manipulation of your divisions. Ibn Masood, may Allah be pleased with him, said: “Upon you is to preserve unity for it is the rope of Allah that he has ordered you to cling to, and that which you dislike in group and obedience, is better than that which you love in division”

To the Somali Muslim Nation:

Enough of fighting and disagreements! Enough of conferences, which indeed were conspiracies, from the atheist assembly of the United Nations and U.S. bases in Qatar and Djibouti! Enough of the psychological warfare and political deceptions exercised by the enemy against you for more than a century in order to brainwash you! Enough..! For how long will you be deceived by puppet regimes and their imported constitutions? And for how long will you amuse yourself with your local tribal administrations and evil societies? For how long will you pursue the mirage disseminated through the enemy’s media that makes you think that you are fortunate when indeed you have lost everything? It is this that has brought us to endure the bitter invasion of the spiteful crusaders.

But now the dawn of Islam has broken, and the schemes of the invaders have faded, and the darkness of Jahilliya (ignorance) has eroded, with the blessings of Allah who has granted our Ummah with people who are ready to sacrifice their blood in order to defend the religion of Allah and safeguard the sanctity of the Muslims. So preserve this opportunity and do not waste it and take this unity with vigor so as to strengthen the efforts of your Jihad with the permission of Allah.

Finally, to all those who stay behind from Jihad and use the lack of unity among the Mujahideen as an excuse, then here are the Mujahideen now – they have, by the grace of Allah, become united, so fear Allah and take up your role as there is nothing left for you to use as an excuse.
Allah says:

“O you who believe! What is the matter with you, that when you are asked to march forth in the Cause of Allah (i.e. Jihad) you cling heavily to the earth? Are you pleased with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter? But little is the enjoyment of the life of this world as compared to the Hereafter. {38} If you march not forth, He will punish you with a painful torment and will replace you by another people; and you cannot harm Him at all, and Allah is Able to do all things.{39}

To the Enemy at Home and Abroad:

You have often spent much wealth and amassed multitudes of soldiers and plotted day and night to overcome the Muslim Ummah and to cause dissent among us, now rejoice with ill “but the evil plot encompasses only him who makes it.” Here we have unified our ranks, prepared our might, unsheathed our swords, loaded our bullets, equipped ourselves and we have become, by the grace of Allah, stronger than we were yesterday.

We ask Allah, the Exalted, to make this unity a blessed victory in which the last of the crusaders and their apostate puppets are defeated; and to heal the hearts of the believers and to glorify them with His religion and soldiers. So receive the glad tidings, O’ nation of Muhammad, of victory and empowerment and rejoice, O’ nation of the cross, with defeat and displacement.

والله أكبر

{ وَلِلَّهِ الْعِزَّةُ وَلِرَسُولِهِ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَلَكِنَّ الْمُنَافِقِينَ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ }

Al Kataib Foundation
For Media Production

Harakat Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen

Muharram 1432 / December 2010

Do not forget us in your prayers.

The statements title is a reference to early Islamic history. The forth caliph 'Alî ibn Abû Tâlib was not accepted by all Muslims. This led to civil wars, the last being fought between 'Alî and his opponent M'uâwîyah ibn Abû Sufyân. After 'Alî was murdered by a member of the Khawârij (a sect opposing 'Alî and M'uâwîyah) his followers pledged allegiance to his son Hassan. In order to stop the possibility of a civil war Hassan abandoned his position as caliph to M'uâwîyah. This incident and what followed is known in history as the Year of Unity (note the symbolism: "Hassan" Aways, to my knowledge there is no M'uâwîyah in a high position in the al-Shabâb though).

While the statement seems to be pretty big the press conference was rather small. Just four commanders, as far as I could figure out two of each group attended. Al-Shabâb was represented by its official spokesman 'Alî Rege and another commander (it could be al-Shabâb's Mogadishu governor 'Alî Muhammad Hussayn also known as 'Alî Jabal but I am not sure about this) while al Hizb was represented by its spokesman 'Abdul Fatâh M'alin Muhammad'Alî and field commander Muhammad Mahmûd Dulyadayn.

Press conference in Mogadishu announcing the merger between al Hizb al Islâmî and Harakah al-Shabâb al Mujâhidîn, from right: Muhammad Mahmûd Dulyadayn, 'Alî Rege, 'Abdul Fatâh Muhammad 'Alî, unknown - source Radio Alfurqaan

Still Aways was missing from the picture. Without him being on board the whole merging business could have backfired on al-Shabâb. I think it is safe to say that the final conditions of the deal were still being hammered. Finally the day before yesterday (28th December) the big press conference took place in Afgoye. Afgoye is in contrast to Mogadishu an Aways stronghold.

Press conference in Afgoye - source SomliMemo

This time Aways attended as did many other high ups of both organisations. Among them the three commanders mentioned above 'Alî Rege, 'Abdul Fatâh M'alin Muhammad'Alî and Muhammad Mahmûd Dulyadayn as well as 'Abdul Qadîr M'umin, a religious scholar who is near to or even a member of al-Shabâb, Hussayn 'Alî Fîdôw, a al-Shabâb field commander active in Mogadishu, F'uâd Muhammad Khalaf (Shongôle) a al-Shabâb religious scholar based in Mogadishu and again not sure on this al-Shabâb's Mogadishu commander 'Alî Jabal. Some other names were mentioned in the audio released on Somali news websites yet they don't ring a bell like one 'Abdullah Shaykh Yûsuf or I just can't understand the names.

Al-Shabâb's media front al Katâ'ib was very fast in getting the message out. An official statement on the press conference that was labelled "The joy of the Muslims concerning the unification of the Mujâhidîn" accompanied by pictures of the event was posted to jihâdî internet forums the day before yesterday.

Hassan Aways leading a prayer in Afgoye

The pictures are obviously a show of unity. A large crowd of Islamists and I think it's safe to say tribal elders attended. Commanders of both factions gave speeches and later on prayed together. It is noteworthy that Hassan Aways lead the prayer, thereby showing that he is the most senior in the religious and maybe also the political domain.

An unidentified man touching Hassan Aways' beard on the press conference in Afgoye - source Somali Memo

On another picture symbolizing respect for Aways an unidentified man is seen touching his beard, at least in some Islamic societies a sign of respect. This picture is not included in the official al-Shabâb release though. Another noteworthy propaganda picture shows the handshake between 'Alî Rege and Aways showing their unity.

Al-Shabâb's spokesman 'Alî Dere shaking hands with Hassan Aways Amîr of the now defunct al Hizb in Afgoye

So what are the implications of this merger? Well, if we look at the situation in Somalia and read their statement their immediate goals are clear. They will continue fighting the TFG and the UN troops in Mogadishu in order to establish an "Islamic State" like the Tâlibân successfully did in Afghânistân and as AQI did in Irâq with a very mixed outcome.

Both of these tasks (fighting the TFG and establishing a state) have been made easier by this merger. In the past the TFG could profit by the infighting between the two groups, especially as in some time periods fighters from one faction were banned from using territory of the other to attack the TFG and vice versa and didn't coordinate their attacks sufficiently. A unified rebel military command and a unified rebel territory in Mogadishu will certainly create headaches for the TFG and the AMISOM troops from Uganda and Burundi.
As for establishing an Islamic State let's look to the Islamic State of Irâq and the blowback it received from parts of the salafî and salafî-jihâdi camp. Salafî jihâdî groups inside Irâq criticised the announcement of the ISI as they had not even been asked about it. Some religious scholars inside and outside Irâq agreed to them their main points being: AQI is just one big jihâdî group, the other groups didn't join therefore the ISI isn't legitimate. The Amîr of the ISI (the now deceased Abû 'Umar al Baghdâdî) is unknown; the ISI doesn't have full control over the areas it claims to rule.

Let's apply this to al-Shabâb:

1. There is no other jihâdî group in Somalia after the merger - check, problem solved
2. There is no leader yet
3. The areas al-Shabâb control are fully under their control yet they don't control all of Somalia

As for point 2: The leader of al-Shabâb Abû Zubayr has indeed not shown his face to the public as of now. If he would be made Amîr in Somalia the ISI problem would be repeated. I feel al-Shabâb is just to clever to repeat such a mistake. They look to me as a learning group that adjusts to problems. If they will make Abû Zubayr Amîr he has to show his face. I personally am not convinced that they even plan to do so. They have two elder Islamists who are linked to AQ with the, namely Hassan Turkî and now Hassan Aways. Turkî is maybe too old and ill yet he seems to be the one most respected by AQ and thereby by the international salafî jihâdî current. He or Aways could be chosen. Another candidate would be 'Alî Rege who was one of the founders of the ICU.

As for point 3: I think al-Shabâb has learned by the ISI's problems in this matter too. I feel they will not announce a state unless they take all of Mogadishu, better yet all of Somalia (quite possibly excluding breakaway regions Puntland and Somaliland for the time being) in order to be able to claim full control over their "Islamic State".


Concluding, this merger is pretty bad news for the TFG, AMISOM and the West as a whole. I personally think it would have been a better idea to try and live with the ICU in 2006 instead of sending in Ethiopian troops with the outcome of the more radical al-Shabâb controlling basically the same amount of territory now in 2010. And a last thought: We can expect a video on the merger sooner or later; al Katâ'ib's cameras were in Afgoye too.

Members of al-Shabâb's media front "Al Katâ'ib News Channel" filming the press conference in Afgoye

Further reading on the merger and the situation in Somalia here, here and here.