Shabaab reaches out to al Qaeda senior leaders, announces death al Sudani
Shabaab, the Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, has reached out to al Qaeda senior leadership in an effort to better integrate with the network and its strategic nodes across Africa and the Middle East. The effort came in the form of a 24-minute video that features Kenyan al Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, aka Abu Yusuf, who is wanted by the U.S. Government for his involvement in the 1998 African embassy attacks and 2002 Mombasa attacks.
The video was posted on militant forums Saturday by the Global Islamic Media Front, a shadowy and virtual media distribution unit with known cells in Europe and North America. The video, titled "March Forth," is the 8th video product produced by Shabaab since January and the first to feature Nabhan, whose face is obscured by a mask.
Nabhan begins his speech, which was recorded in July, by saluting and pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden. "My greetings to the courageous commander and my honorable leader: Sheikh Osama bin Laden (may Allah protect him and his followers)," he said. "I hope from Allah the highest... that this salutation reaches you while you are in ease and good health. Allah knows how much we long for your meeting and the delight of your gentle voice... My sheikh! The heart offers you thousand greetings combined with my love and humility. My salutation is nostalgia and my love is permanent, filled with the truth of the emotions of the poets."
He also singles out Jihadis fighting in key nodes in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. "Likewise," he stated, "I greet the lions of the forest in Iraq and Afghanistan, the lions of war in Palestine and Chechnya, and the army of Tawheed in the Maghreb and elsewhere. My salutations to you and to every free man who for the sake of the religion offers the worldly life and the swords of the swordsmen have been drawn like an emerging lightning follows by thunder. And to every fighter who carries the sword in the face of the cross, to my companions of the path, to the intimates of my road, to the targeted Islamic nation, my love for you is not hidden. How could it be while every eye expresses with the love of Allah the exalted I love you. Love which illuminates the sides of my heart."
Nabhan supervises a Shabaab fighter at a range at an undisclosed location in Somalia. Image by Nick Grace. Click to view.
The video includes short clips of Nabhan meeting with Shabaab spokesman Mukhtar Robow, aka Abu Mansur, and training Jihadis at a terror training camp. He declares that the camps are open for anyone and calls for Muslim youth in Africa to come to Somalia. "Oh Muslim youth everywhere, don't forget the calls of your brothers in Somalia," he said. "What are you waiting for if you do not wage Jihad now? When will you wage Jihad? Oh Muslim youth! Free your brothers from the nightmare of oppression and the hammer of punishment. Seek death so that you will be offered life, come forward to Jihad so that you will be granted dignity in this life and in the next... I say, people of Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda and Chad! Will you not take your share of the Jihad? Will you nut rush to the help of your brothers in the army of difficulty? We are waiting for reinforcement from Sudan and Yemen, of wisdom and faith. Rise up from your seats in the house of your mothers and join in the caravan of the protectors of Tawheed in the forests of glory and dignity and be among those who raise the black banner in Somalia, the first time after the invasion of the Abyssinian rabble."
While taunting the United States, Nabhan declares the death of co-conspirator Abu Talha al Sudani, a Sudanese operative who is also wanted by the U.S. for planning the 1998 and 2002 attacks. "(M)ore than a year ago, our leader was martyred, the leader of the mujahideen in Somalia, Abu Talha al Sudani, while he was leading one of the battalions of the mujahideen. And this is the first time that we make it public. May Allah have mercy upon you..."
Al-Sudani and Nabhan were indicted by the U.S. Government along with Comoron Fazul Abdullah Mohammed for planning the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which killed 223 people. They are also suspected of involvement in the 2002 attack on the Paradise Hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, which killed 14 people, and an attempted rocket attack on an El Al jet during takeoff. Fazul is believed to serve as the intelligence chief for Shabaab and is known to have his own vision of al Qaeda expansion in the Indian Ocean.
A look at some of the leaders of the Islamic Courts, Shabaab, and al Qaeda in East Africa. Click to view.
The video is currently the featured statement on the four critical al Qaeda Web forums, al Ekhlaas, al Boraq, al Hesbah and al Firdaws, and mirrors the messaging by Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) in 2006 to request integration into al Qaeda. Shabaab formally broke off from the Islamic Courts Union earlier this year after strategic and operational disagreements with courts elders about negotiations with the internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government and the role of foreign fighters. A communiqué issued in January by American Jihadi and frontline commander Abu Mansour al Amriki revealed that Abu Talha al Sudani clashed with courts leaders and physically intervened when foreign fighters were turned away at Mogadishu's airport.
Somalia is a critical theater for al Qaeda and is a frequent topic of messaging by Ayman al Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al Libi. Its 3,000 kilometers of unpatrolled coastline is a virtual gateway between East Africa and the Middle East and its natural resources include quantities of uranium. Al Qaeda's previous efforts to consolidate control over Somalia have failed but the successes of Shabaab in southern Somalia have grabbed the attention of al Qaeda's rank and file, which is increasingly turning away from Iraq and looking towards Africa and Central Asia.
For more information on the current state of Somalia and the rise of Shabaab, see Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab in control of southern Somalia.