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5 things to know about Somali militants al-Shabab

NAIROBI, Kenya — Here are five things to know about al-Shabab, the Somali Islamic extremist group that has claimed responsibility for the attack on Kenya's premier shopping mall that killed dozens of civilians.

1 What is al-Shabab? Al-Shabab is an extremist Islamic terrorist force that grew out of the anarchy that crippled Somalia after warlords ousted a longtime dictator in 1991. Its name means "the Youth" in Arabic, and it was created by a youth group in 2006 to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in the East African nation. Al-Shabab is estimated to have several thousand fighters. Some are young, raw recruits from Somali communities in the United States and Europe.

2 WHERE IS AL-SHABAB? Al-Shabab won control of almost all of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in 2006, and held large swathes of central and southern Somalia until a United Nations-backed force from the African Union, including soldiers from neighboring Kenya and Uganda, pushed the militants out of the city in 2011 and out of the vital port of Kismayo in 2012. The rebels still control many rural areas in Somalia where it imposes strict sharia law.

3 Why is it attacking Kenya? Al-Shabab has warned for two years that it will attack Kenya in retaliation for the country's leading role in sending troops to Somalia in 2011.

4 Al-Qaida links? Al-Shabab and al-Qaida in February 2012 announced their alliance.

5 Where does al-Shabab's money come from? Before African troops moved in, al-Shabab was making a steady income from duties and fees levied at ports and airports as well as extorting taxes on domestic produce and demanding "jihadi" contributions. A U.N. report estimated al-Shabab's income in 2011 at between $70 million and $100 million. It has lost most of that revenue since it was forced out of Mogadishu and Kismayo. Al-Shabab's only ally in Africa is Eritrea — which backs it to counter its enemy Ethiopia, which also has troops in Somalia. Eritrea denies charges that it helps arm al-Shabab.

Associated Press

Al-Shabab fighters conduct a military exercise in the northern Mogadishu neighborhood of Suqaholaha in Somalia.

Associated Press (2010)

Al-Shabab fighters conduct a military exercise in the northern Mogadishu neighborhood of Suqaholaha in Somalia.

5 things to know about Somali militants al-Shabab 09/22/13 [Last modified: Sunday, September 22, 2013 11:14pm]
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