Analysis

Terrorism: What Al-Qaeda's Merger With Al-Shabaab Means for the West
Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union mission in Somalia are silhouetted at sundown atop a partially destroyed building in Mogadishu, where African Union forces have pushed Al-Shabaab militants to the outskirts of the city. (AFP/Getty Images)
February 21, 2012
| Security
| Africa, Middle East and North Africa
Summary
On February 9, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced that al-Shabaab was officially joining al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab was al-Qaeda’s leading terrorist franchise in Africa. Based in Somalia, it has committed numerous terrorist attacks over the past several years and was developing new branches in Kenya. In an exclusive interview with LIGNET’s London office, al-Shabaab expert Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens explained why the two have joined forces and why it could mean a new wave of terrorist threats in the West.Al-Shabaab has been fighting the Somali government in an effort to establish an Islamic state, and has been seen as an al-Qaeda affiliate for years. The merger of the two groups is causing serious concern in Washington and London due to al-Shabaab's ability to attract and recruit Western youth. More than 40 U.S. citizens of Somali descent have traveled to Africa to join the group, and several have also been recruited from the U.K. This has been a concern to the Somali government as well, whose information ministry put out a statement February 13 saying the merger “will further increase insecurity” in the country and that Somalia now risks becoming “an al-Qaeda base in east Africa.”
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