Today Shabaab held large rallies in several cities outside of Mogadishu to celebrate the Somali terror group’s merger with al Qaeda. Shabaab claims that thousands of people attended the rallies, and provided pictures to back that up [see images above and below, courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group]. Shabaab’s military forces also paraded through the cities and held formations.
A portion of the translation of Shabaab’s statement, also provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, appears below:
Tens of thousands of Muslims came out today in various areas of Islamic Lower Shabelle province to welcome the allegiance of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement to Qaedat al-Jihad Organization under the command of Sheikh Doctor Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah preserve him. In ‘Almadha Square in Lafole district of the province, a number of the movement’s commanders and tribal leaders spoke to the crowd gathered in the square. Among the speakers was the governor of Islamic Banaadir province, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Abdul Rahman, and the official spokesman of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement, Sheikh Ali Dheere. The demonstrators carried banners expressing their support and happiness for the allegiance, and cheered words that confirmed their pride and happiness for the joining with Qaedat al-Jihad.
The African Union has been keen on touting Shabaab’s defeat after the terror group largely withdrew from the capital late last summer. But Shabaab is still able to project its power into the capital with suicide bombings, IED attacks, assassinations, and occasional small-scale military attacks, while remaining in control of much of central and southern Somalia. As today’s celebrations show, the African Union, Kenya, and Ethiopia have a long way to go before Shabaab no longer holds sway in much of the war-torn country.