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 Al-Shabaab

 (Also known as: Al‑Shabaab Al‑Islaam; Al‑Shabaab al‑Islamiya;
Al‑Shabaab Al‑Jihaad; Al‑Shabab; Ash‑shabaab; Harakat al‑Shabaab al‑Mujahideen;
Harakat Shabab Al Mujahidin; Harakatul Shabaab al‑Mujaahidiin; Hizbul Shabaab;
Hisb'ul Shabaab; Mujahideen Youth Movement; Mujahidin Al‑Shabaab Movement;
Mujaahidiin Youth Movement; Mujahidin Youth Movement; Shabaab;
The Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations;
The Unity of Islamic Youth; Ugus; The Youth; Young Mujahideen Movement;
Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, Youth Wing)

This statement is based on publicly available details about al‑Shabaab. To the Australian Government’s knowledge, these details are accurate and reliable and have been corroborated by classified information.

Basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Criminal Code) provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Attorney‑General must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

  •  is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, or assisting in or fostering the doing of a terrorist act; or
  •  advocates the doing of a terrorist act.

Details of the organisation

Background

Al‑Shabaab, or ‘the youth’, is the name generally applied to the Somali militant group which was formerly the most prominent of the militia groups comprising the militant wing of the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). The Somali Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces ousted the CIC in December 2006.

Al‑Shabaab established itself as the leading insurgent group operating in Somalia and, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces in January 2009, al‑Shabaab controlled the majority of the country. The intervention of Kenyan and Ethiopian forces from 2011 drove al‑Shabaab from Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia.  Following its displacement and a pledge of allegiance to al‑Qa’ida in February 2012, al‑Shabaab shifted from conventional military tactics and governance to using guerrilla operations against domestic and foreign security forces and the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). Al‑Shabaab has also exhibited the intent and capability to undertake mass casualty terrorist attacks on targets outside Somalia.

Objectives

Al‑Shabaab's primary objective is the establishment of an Islamic state in Somalia based on Islamic law and the elimination of foreign ‘infidel’ influence. This ‘Islamic Emirate of Somalia’ would include Somalia, Somaliland, Puntland, north‑eastern Kenya, and the Ogaden region of Ethiopia and Djibouti. In pursuit of this objective, al‑Shabaab has waged a violent insurgency and conducted terrorist attacks against the FGS and foreign forces contributing to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Al‑Shabaab has also undertaken mass casualty attacks on targets outside Somalia with a focus on Kenyan interests in retaliation for its intervention since 2011. Al‑Shabaab has publicly stated that they are ‘at war with Kenya’.

Additionally, al‑Shabaab promotes al‑Qa’ida’s global jihadist ideology, and public announcements from the group have shown increasing support for transnational ambitions.

Leadership and membership

Al‑Shabaab has a central command and control structure, which has thus far allowed the group to effectively utilise its attack capabilities, however, factional disputes and infighting between al‑Shabaab’s senior commanders over strategy and ideology have been widely reported.  The group is currently led by Sheikh Ahmed Umar (also known as Ahmed Diriye), who took over as the leader of the group following the September 2014 death of long‑time emir Ahmad Abdi Aw Muhammad Godane.

Al‑Shabaab encompasses a number of elements, ranging from those focused solely on the domestic insurgency in Somalia to elements that support al‑Qa’ida’s global jihadist ideology. Estimates of al‑Shabaab fighters vary from 3 000 to as high as 9 000, with most members being ethnic Somalis. Al‑Shabaab has long recruited members from Kenya; however, a small number of al‑Shabaab fighters are from other countries including Australia, the United States and Canada.

Al‑Shabaab's propaganda continues to develop, with the group's media campaign increasing in sophistication. Al‑Shabaab maintains various Twitter accounts and has posted increasingly sophisticated videos online. Domestically, al‑Shabaab continues to spread its message through Radio al‑Analus in Somalia.

Terrorist activity of the organisation

Directly or indirectly engaged in the doing of terrorist acts; and directly or indirectly preparing and/or planning terrorist acts

Al‑Shabaab has prepared, planned and conducted attacks frequently since the beginning of 2007 against Somali Government interests in Somalia and against targets in Kenya and Ethiopia. It has consistently targeted AMISOM forces using mortar attacks, rocket‑propelled grenades and firearms. Following al‑Shabaab’s pledge of allegiance to al‑Qa’ida, elements of al‑Shabaab have also adopted tactics used by Islamist extremists in Afghanistan and Iraq including vehicle‑borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), roadside bombs, suicide attacks, kidnappings, and beheadings. Al‑Qai’da’s influence has also contributed to al‑Shabaab targeting Western interests in neighbouring countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

Significant attacks for which responsibility has been claimed by or reliably attributed to al‑Shabaab since it was last proscribed include:

  • On 20 April 2015, seven people, including four UNICEF employees were killed after an al‑Shabaab bomb attack on their car in Garowe, Puntland in Somalia’s north. 
    Al‑Shabaab warned of further attacks on United Nations personnel operating in Somalia.
  • On 2 April 2015, at least 147 people were killed in an al‑Shabaab attack on Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya.  Muslims and non‑Muslims reportedly were separated during the attack.  The attack and subsequent siege lasted for 15 hours. Al‑Shabaab claimed responsibility, warning of more attacks unless Kenya withdrew its troops from Somalia.
  • On 26 December 2014, three African Union soldiers were killed in an al‑Shabaab attack on the AMISOM base at Mogadishu International Airport.
  • On 2 December 2014, at least 36 civilians were killed in a small arms attack by al‑Shabaab militants on a stone quarry in Mandera County, Kenya. Muslims and non‑Muslims were reportedly separated during the attack.
  • On 22 November 2014, al‑Shabaab militants killed 28 non‑Muslim travellers after hijacking a bus in Mandera County, Kenya.  The militants released Muslim passengers unharmed.
  • On 24 May 2014, an al‑Shabaab suicide bombing at the La Chaumiere restaurant in Djibouti City, Djibouti killed 3 and injured 15.  While the restaurant was well known to be frequented by Westerners, none were killed in this attack.
  • On 16 June 2014, at least 48 people were killed when al‑Shabaab militants attacked the Kenyan town of Mpeketoni.  The gunmen attacked a police station and crowds watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup at several local hotels.
  • On 21 September 2013, 63 people were killed and over 175 injured in an al‑Shabaab attack on the Westgate Mall shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The attackers used guns and grenades in an attack that lasted over 36 hours. Al‑Shabaab claimed responsibility via Twitter indicating the attack was in retaliation for the continued presence of Kenyan forces in Somalia. One Australian, Ross Langdon, was killed in the attack.
  • On 14 April 2013, 30 people were killed and over 30 injured during an al‑Shabaab attack on Mogadishu’s Supreme Court complex. Al‑Shabaab attackers used guns and exploded a VBIED near first responders and onlookers. Later that day, al‑Shabaab attacked a Turkish Non Government Organisation vehicle with a VBIED in Mogadishu, killing two Turkish aid workers and other civilians.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Al‑Shabaab members have publicly advocated terrorist attacks in order to further the group's objectives:

  • On 4 April 2015, an al‑Shabaab spokesperson issued a statement warning the Kenyan government and public to prepare for more bloodshed in retaliation to the oppression of Muslims and the occupation of Muslim lands. “No amount of precaution or safety measures will be able to guarantee your safety, thwart another attack or prevent another bloodbath from occurring in your cities.”
  • On 21 February 2015, al‑Shabaab released an English‑language video on Twitter calling for Muslims to attack Westfield shopping malls in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. “If just a handful of mujahideen fighters could bring Kenya to a standstill for nearly a week, then imagine what a dedicated mujahideen in the West could do to the American or Jewish‑owned shopping centers across the world”.
  • On 20 January 2015, al‑Shabaab released a statement on jihadi forums praising the 7 January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, and called for Muslims in Europe to launch similar attacks.

Conclusion

On the basis of the above information, ASIO assesses al‑Shabaab continues to directly and/or indirectly engage in, preparing, planning, assisting in, fostering or advocating the doing of terrorist acts.

In the course of pursuing its objectives, al‑Shabaab is known to have committed or threatened actions that:

  • cause serious damage to property or the death of persons, or  endanger a person’s life or create a serious risk to a person’s safety;
  • are intended to have those effects;
  • are done with the intention of advancing al‑Shabaab's political, religious or ideological causes;
  • are done with the intention of coercing, or influencing by intimidation, the government of one or more foreign countries; and
  • are done with the intention of creating a serious risk to the safety of sections of the public globally.

Other relevant information

Links with other groups

Al‑Shabaab primarily is linked to al‑Qa’ida—a proscribed terrorist group—through leadership contacts and training. While al‑Shabaab likely still largely operates independently, al‑Qa’ida senior leadership previously has endorsed some al‑Shabaab activities. On 9 February 2012, a public statement by al‑Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu al‑Zubair included a pledge of allegiance to al‑Qa’ida and in a reciprocal message al‑Qa’ida leader Ayman al‑Zawahiri announced that al‑Shabaab had joined al‑Qa’ida. On 6 September 2014, al‑Shabaab officially reiterated its pledge of allegiance to al‑Zawahiri and Al‑Qa’ida.

Links to Australia

In late 2011, al‑Shabaab‑linked Australian citizens Saney Edow Aweys and Nayef El Sayed were both found guilty by a Supreme Court jury of conspiring to do acts in preparation for a terrorist act contrary to Section 11.5 and 101.6(1) of the Criminal Code.

Level of participation in peace negotiations/political dialogue

Al‑Shabaab does not participate in the Somali political system, despite AMISOM appeals to the group to disarm and join the Somali peace process.

Other designations

Al‑Shabaab was listed as a proscribed terrorist organisation by the governments of the United States in March 2008, New Zealand in February 2010, Canada in November 2010, United Kingdom in May 2010 and by the European Union in April 2010.

Support for the United Nations listing

The Minister for Foreign Affairs listed al‑Shabaab on the Consolidated List from 21 August 2009 under the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 (UN Charter Act), pursuant to Australia's obligations under UNSC resolution 1373 (2001) and UNSC resolution 751 (Somalia and Eritrea).