Meeting Somalia ‘s Islamist insurgents
Somalia is a scene of humanitarian crisis. Islamic insurgent groups are fighting with Ethiopian forces and the forces of the transitional government of Somalia as the result of which millions of Somalis have been affected. One of the insurgent groups in the country is known as Al-Shabab. The group is fighting to come to power and introduce Sharia law throughout the country. This article by BBC gives you an understanding about the group’s goals and intentions.
April 28, 2008 Somalia (BBC News)-In recent weeks, Somali insurgents have stepped up attacks on the Ethiopian army and the Somali transitional government it is backing.
For BBC World Service’s Assignment programme, Rob Walker went in search of the Islamist movement playing an increasingly deadly role in the conflict.
But it has become clear there are deep divisions within the insurgency over which direction it should take, with many of the recent attacks attributed to one group – a radical Islamist organisation called al-Shabab, meaning “The Youth.”
Like many insurgents, he headed to Mogadishu to fight the Ethiopians as soon as they entered the capital in December 2006, ousting the Union of Islamic Courts which had taken control of much of southern Somalia .
He adds he has two aims – to become a martyr and to ensure that the country is governed by Sharia law.
“As al-Shabab, we don’t care about people who don’t want Sharia law,” he says.
“Our goal is to have Sharia as the permanent law of our country, and to get the infidels out of our country, whether they are Ethiopians or Americans.”
His message to those Somalis who do not pray five times a day is clear.
“First of all, we will call them to return to Islam and pray – because what differentiates a Muslim and a non-Muslim is praying five times,” he says.
“If they refuse we will call them again and again to pray. If they entirely refuse, we will jail them and we will keep them without food until they return to praying.”
He denies that al-Shabab has any links with al-Qaeda, although he says that “they are Muslims so they are our brothers”.
“Our common objective is to have Sharia law as the law of our country. Al-Qaeda wants that and we want that,” he adds.
And I have been speaking to people in Somalia and outside who have had relatives killed by al-Shabab.
Some were killed because they were accused of collaborating with the transitional government, or Ethiopians, sometimes in the most minor ways – one man said his brother was killed for selling phone cards to Ethiopian troops.
None of the relatives I spoke to were prepared to do an interview, all saying they feared reprisals against them or their family.
In 10 years of visiting Somalia , what is really striking is not just the growth in extremism in the country but the fear among ordinary Somalis to talk about it.