[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/01/06/art.terrorist.group.alshabaab0.jpg caption="A photograph of Al-Shabaab circulating online."]
Octavia Nasr | BIO
CNN Senior Editor, Mideast Affairs
They call themselves Al-Shabaab which means 'the Youth' in Arabic.
On several occasions, they pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his terror network al Qaeda. They use the internet to propagate al Qaeda's ideology.
In July 2009, an Al-Shabaab propaganda video featured a man speaking English with a clearly identifiable U.S. accent.
He was introduced as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki (the American) claiming that he left the U.S. for Somalia to pursue al Qaeda’s brand of Jihad.
In the video, a bearded al-Amriki says with a smile, "The only reason we’re staying here, away from our families, away from the cities, away from, you know, ice, candy bars, all these other things, is because we’re waiting to meet with the enemy.”
Al-Shabaab's enemy is anyone representing the west: from its leaders to its collaborators and supporters.
In a broken and lawless African country like Somalia, where one million people face death by starvation, the scene is a breeding ground for gangs, pirates and Islamic militants to recruit, train and terrorize freely.
My team and I continuously monitor them online to get a glimpse of what they’re up to. They regularly post propaganda videos andonline statements on radical Islamist websites.
Al-Shabaab has publically announced on various occasions its cooperation with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a terror group that encompasses several others with the same al Qaeda ideology.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is based in the border region between Yemen and Saudi Arabia, but has claimed responsibility for attacks both near and far from its base. The latest claim of responsibility it issued was for the Christmas Day failed bombing attempt on a US airliner. Before that, the group claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against a Saudi Royal in August 2009.
Last week, Somalia's Al-Shabaab released pictures of what it described as a “graduation ceremony” of its fresh recruits, “trained and ready” to head to Yemen to “assist in Jihad their brethren of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
Cooperation among terror groups in Africa and the Middle East has been a known fact among counter-terrorism experts within the intelligence community. But the new activities, militant on-the-ground strategies as well as online propaganda, show that the groups are actively recruiting and determined to continue their fight. And for many, it’s a sign that al Qaeda is looking to build and strengthen new fronts for its brand of Jihad.
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