Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, more commonly known as Al-Shabaab (meaning youth), is a clan-based jihadist terrorist group in East Africa. Originating as the militant youth wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (ICU), which took over southern Somalia in June 2006, the group splintered off following the defeat of the Council in December 2006 to continue violent insurgency against the Somali Transitional Government and its allies in Ethiopia and Kenya.
It is the largest militant group, numbering around 7,000, fighting to overthrow the Somalian government and aims to control territory within Somalia in order to establish a society based upon rigid interpretations of Sharia Law. Al-Shabaab’s unity, however, has been affected by numerous internal conflicts due to the fractured nature of the organization, competing clan loyalties, and debates between nationalist goals and the goals of Gulf-based transnational terror.
Al-Shabaab’s goals include promoting local insurrection, establishment of a fundamentalist Muslim society, and eventual regional and global jihad under Wahhabism and Salafi Jihadism, extreme Sunni ideologies that count among its adherents other jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda. To highlight this relationship, Al-Shabaab was founded by Somali extremists educated in the Middle East with tutelage and support from Osama Bin Laden. In fact, many members of Al-Shabaab’s leadership got their start fighting along Bin Laden in Afghanistan during the 1990s.
Returning home to a Somalia which had no effective government, Al-Shabaab’s leaders such as Ahmed Abdi Godane, who held the top post of the terrorist organization until his death by U.S. drone strike in September 2014, sought to establish a local political and religious system in accordance with their Salafist beliefs.
The ICU briefly gained control of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in December 2006 until they were driven out by a coalition of Somalian and Ethiopian troops. Following that defeat Al-Shabaab initiated guerilla assaults, suicide