Zawahiri praises Shabaab's takeover of southern Somalia
Al Qaeda's second in command released a videotape urging Somalis to oppose the government of former Islamic Courts leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, just one day after African Union soldiers were killed in a dual suicide attack in Mogadishu.
The deadly strikes on an African Union base killed 11 Burundi soldiers and seriously wounded 15 more. Shabaab spokesman Muktar Robow took credit for the bombings and named the two attackers, claiming that "they inflicted heavy damage on soldiers at a church."
Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked Islamist terror group, has vowed to attack African Union troops who are in the country attempting to restore order in the war-torn country.
"We will attack the bases of the occupying forces in K4 and the airport until the last foreign forces leave our country," Robow said at a news conference at the end of January as Ethiopian forces pulled out of Mogadishu.
The last major suicide attack took place outside an African Union base in Mogadishu on Jan. 24. A suicide bomber killed one police officer and 12 civilians after the bomb destroyed a bus. More than 20 civilians were wounded during subsequent clashes that took place between African Union troops and Shabaab fighters.
Al Qaeda has backed the Somali jihadists by providing personnel, funding, fighters, and propaganda. Somalia has been a major theme in al Qaeda's messages over the past year.
In the most recently released videotape, Ayman al Zawahiri spent a great deal of time on Somalia, according to a transcript obtained by The Long War Journal. Zawahiri started the tape praising Shabaab's capture of Baidoa, the former seat of government of the United Nations-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and the implications of Shabaab controlling the city.
Zawahiri called the capture of Baidoa and most of southern and central Somalia "a step on the path of the victory of Islam, the empowerment of Muslims, and the expulsion of the invaders of their land."
"It is the expansion of the influence of the Mujahideen in Somalia, the spreading of the authority of sharia [Islamic law], and the expulsion of the invaders -- the enemies of the Islam and their agents -- from broad regions of Somalia, foremost among which are the city of Baidoa," he continued. "This city used to host the headquarters of the American-affiliated transitional government."
Zawahiri also blasted President Sharif's decision to negotiate with the TFG and cooperate with foreign countries. Sharif's actions are "considered an act of collusion with the Crusader invaders in launching war on Jihad and creating a government which submits to American demands."
The"mujahideen" - Shabaab and other allied Islamist groups - will continue to fight Sharif's government. "They - with God's help - won't lay down their weapons until the State of Islam comes to light; and that they will engage in Jihad against the American-made government in the same way they engaged in Jihad against the Ethiopians and the warlords before them," Zawahiri said.
Sharif was the leader of the defunct Islamic Courts Union, the al Qaeda-backed group that took power in 2006 and was ousted by the Ethiopians in January 2007. Sharif led the Islamic Courts along with Hassan Dahir Aweys, a known al Qaeda leader. In late January 2009, Sharif reconciled with the TFG and was named president by the new Somali parliament, which met in Djibouti after Shabaab overran Baidoa.