What many have suspected for a long time seems to be official. Harakat Al-Shabaab and al Qaeda, in a video this week, formally announced their merger. The merger raises concern in the horn of Africa and the United States. The announcement also lends some crediance to the suspicion that al-Qaeda, through its north African partners, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have similar linkage with Nigeria’s jihadist, terrorist group Boko Haram.
In a video message released Thursday, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubeir, the recognized leader of al-Shabaab confirmed his allegiance to al-Qaeda and its cells around the globe. In the same video, Ayman al Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s chief, gave his blessings and salams to al-Shabaab as he welcomed them into the international cause.
Kenyan and Ethiopian troops have been active in Somalia in an attempt to reign in al-Shabaab. Despite sporadic success they are far from bringing any peace. It is feared that the confirmed linkage between al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab will aid the Somali based group’s recruiting efforts from within Kenya and even further abroad. Some analyst believe that the only reason that al-Shabaab has not struck hard within Kenya thus far is that such a strike would cause the Kenyan government and the local populous to come down hard on some, very successful Somalian businessmen in Kenya. That reluctance may soon change with the broader organization taking a more active role.
The official merger is not only good news for al-Shabaab, but the larger organization will gain some confidence and personnel for their interest in striking within the United States. It have been known for some time now that between 200 and 300 Somali-Americans have traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab, some even detonating themselves in suicide bombings. Some analysts are of the opinion that al-Shabaab may attempt to confirm their loyalty to the larger group with more than words. An attack on U.S. soil would surely impress the global network.
Back in October, one of these Somali-American al-Shabaab members blew himself up in Mogadishu. He left behind a martyrdom video calling for his fellow converts to carry out suicide attacks on American soil.
General Carter Ham, the head of the United States Africa Command, said late last year.”If you ask me what keeps me awake at night, it is the thought of an American passport-holding person who transits through a training camp in Somalia and gets some skill and then finds their way back into the United States to attack Americans here in our homeland.”
Rumors have been floating around for months that al-Qaeda, through its affiliates, has been training Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists in bombing strategies and techniques. It would not surprise some analysts if a formal announcement of their linkage surface in the coming months.