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 Al-Shabaab

This Statement of Reasons is based on publicly available information about al-Shabaab. To the Australian Government’s knowledge, this information is accurate, reliable and has been corroborated by classified information where available.

Name of the organisation

Al-Shabaab

Known aliases

  • 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
  • Hisb'ul Shabaab
  • Hizbul Shabaab
  • Mujaahidiin Youth Movement
  • Mujahideen Youth Movement
  • Mujahidin al Shabaab Movement
  • Mujahidin Youth Movement
  • Shabaab
  • The Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations
  • The Unity of Islamic Youth
  • The Youth
  • Ugus
  • Young Mujahideen Movement
  • Young Mujahideen Movement in Somalia, and
  • Youth Wing.

Legislative basis for listing a terrorist organisation

Division 102 of the Criminal Code provides that for an organisation to be listed as a terrorist organisation, the Minister for Home Affairs must be satisfied on reasonable grounds that the organisation:

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

For the purposes of listing a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code, the doing of a terrorist act includes the doing of a specific terrorist act, the doing of more than one terrorist act and the doing of a terrorist act, even if a terrorist act does not occur.

Background to this listing

The Australian Government first listed al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code on 22 August 2009. It was re-listed on 18 August 2012, 11 August 2015 and 4 August 2018.

Details of the organisation

Overview and objectives

Al‑Shabaab is a religiously motivated violent extremist organisation based in Somalia. The group is an officially recognised affiliate of al-Qa’ida, adhering to al-Qa’ida’s global anti-Western jihadist narrative and promotion of sectarian violence against those who do not agree with its extreme religious interpretation. Al‑Shabaab's primary local objective is the establishment of an Islamist state in the Horn of Africa based on Sharia law and the elimination of secular and foreign influence, including through violent means.

Currently, al‑Shabaab controls territory in southern Somalia. However, this is fluid and frequently changes depending on United Nations African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) counter-terrorism activity and troop movements.

History

In 2006, al‑Shabaab emerged as the most prominent militia group within the militant wing of the Council of Islamic Courts. The Council of Islamic Courts was a group of Sharia courts in Somalia who united to form a rival administration, but was ousted in December 2006 by the Somali Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces.

Following this, al‑Shabaab established itself as an oppositionist government and insurgency fighting for the overthrow of the Somali Transitional Federal Government and for Sharia law to be installed in Somalia.

Between January 2009 and 2011, al‑Shabaab controlled the majority of Somalia. In 2011, al‑Shabaab was forced from Mogadishu and much of southern and central Somalia through renewed military intervention by both Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.

Leadership

Al‑Shabaab has a centralised command structure and is currently led by Sheikh Ahmed Umar (also known as Ahmed Diriye), who took over as leader following the September 2014 death of long-time emir, Ahmad Abdi Aw Muhammad Godane.

Membership and recruitment

Al‑Shabaab members range from those focused on the domestic insurgency in Somalia to elements that support al-Qa’ida’s global jihadist ideology. The number of al‑Shabaab members vary from 5,000 to 14,000.

Most members are ethnic Somalis from Somalia and Kenya. However, a small number of members are from other countries, including Western nations.

Al‑Shabaab recruits widely within Somali society, predominantly spreading its message through Radio al‑Andalus. Al‑Shabaab also recruits internationally from within the Somali diaspora using propaganda campaigns, which are often in video format. Al‑Shabaab has posted increasingly sophisticated videos online, including videos with English subtitles—most via its al-Kata’ib media platform.

Financing

Al‑Shabaab derives some of its financing from taxing communities in areas it controls, and private fundraising activities outside of Somalia. Al‑Shabaab also demands protection money from Somali-based businesses, and conducts its own business activities.

Links to other terrorist organisations

Al‑Shabaab is an officially recognised affiliate of al-Qa’ida, which is a listed terrorist organisation under Australia’s Criminal Code.

On 9 February 2012, a publicly released video by al‑Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair pledged al‑Shabaab’s allegiance to al‑Qa’ida. In the video, al-Qa’ida leader, Ayman al‑Zawahiri, also announced al‑Shabaab had joined al-Qa’ida. On 6 September 2014, al‑Shabaab officially reiterated its allegiance to al‑Qa’ida and al‑Zawahiri.

While al‑Shabaab largely operates independently, al-Qa’ida senior leadership has previously supported some al‑Shabaab activities.

Directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts

In the past 12 months, al‑Shabaab has conducted attacks and engaged in attack planning against Western, Jewish, Somali, Kenyan, and Ethiopian interests. To our knowledge, al‑Shabaab is assessed as responsible or can be reasonably assessed as responsible for conducting at least 1,630 attacks in the last 12 months and at least 3,630 attacks in the last three years. Significant examples include:

  • On 10 April 2021, an al‑Shabaab member conducted a suicide bombing outside a hotel in Baidoa, Somalia killing at least three people.
  • On 4 April 2021, an al‑Shabaab member conducted a suicide bombing at a tea shop in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing five people.
  • On 3 April 2021, al‑Shabaab conducted mortar attacks on Bariire and Awdhigle military bases in Southern Somalia, killing at least nine soldiers.
  • On 6 March 2021, al‑Shabaab conducted a suicide vehicle bombing at a restaurant near Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 10 people.
  • On 17 August 2020, an al‑Shabaab member detonated a suicide vest on a military base in Gofgadud Burey District, Somalia, killing at least seven soldiers and officials.
  • On 16 August 2020, al‑Shabaab conducted a suicide vehicle bombing at the Elite Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 16 people.
  • On 8 August 2020, al‑Shabaab conducted a vehicle bomb attack on a military base in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing nine people.
  • On 5 January 2020, al‑Shabaab attacked the joint United States (US)-Kenyan airbase in Lamu, Kenya, destroying six aircraft and killing one US military service member and two US contractors.
  • On 28 December 2019, al‑Shabaab attacked a Turkish convoy with a vehicle bomb in Mogadishu, Somalia killing 87 people, including at least two Turkish contractors.
  • On 30 September 2019, al‑Shabaab attacked the joint US-Somali Base at Baledogle in southern Somalia with a vehicle bomb and firearms, killing at least 12 Somali soldiers.
  • On 14 July 2019, al‑Shabaab attacked a meeting of government election officials at the Asasey Hotel in Kismayo, Somalia, killing 26 people, including two Americans and one British journalist.
  • On 23 March 2019, al‑Shabaab conducted a suicide vehicle bombing and raid on a government building in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing five people including Somalia’s deputy labour minister, Saqar Ibrahim Abdala.
  • On 5 February 2019, al‑Shabaab conducted a vehicle bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing at least 11 people.
  • On 4 February 2019, al‑Shabaab conducted an assassination of a senior manager of P&O Ports in Puntland, Somalia as well as a vehicle bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia that killed 11 people.
  • On 15 January 2019, al‑Shabaab attacked the DusitD2 Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, with a suicide bomb and firearms, killing 21 people, including an American and a British-South African dual national.
  • On 22 December 2018, al‑Shabaab detonated a vehicle bomb at a checkpoint near the Somalian presidential palace in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing 16 people, including three staff from the London‑based Universal TV station.
  • On 22 November 2018, al‑Shabaab kidnapped an Italian non-governmental organisation aid worker in Kilifi, Kenya, and held her captive for 18 months. She was released in May 2020 after a ransom of 1.5 million Euros was reportedly paid.

On the basis of these examples, al‑Shabaab is responsible for directly or indirectly engaging in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts.

Advocating the doing of terrorist acts

Al‑Shabaab publicly advocates terrorist attacks against Western interests, including:

  • In a 30 March 2021 video released on the al‑Shabaab al-Kataib official website, al‑Shabaab’s leader called for attacks against US and French interests in Djibouti. The video also reiterated that al‑Shabaab members had the responsibility to attack all foreigners in Djibouti and Somalia.
  • In a 28 January 2021 video celebrating the anniversary of the 5 January 2020 attack on the joint US‑Kenya airbase in Lamu, Kenya, al‑Shabaab reiterated the duty of its members to attack US and foreign forces in Africa, and elsewhere if necessary, to protect Islam and ensure that Jerusalem is not controlled by Jewish people.
  • In January 2020, al‑Shabaab released a statement calling on its jihadists to make US interests in Kenya their primary targets as well as tourists. The statement also said Kenya ‘should never be safe again’.

On the basis of these examples, al‑Shabaab advocates the doing of terrorist acts.

Other considerations

Links to Australia and threats to Australian interests

Al-Shabaab has no known intent to conduct an attack in Australia. Al-Shabaab has not made statements specifically threatening Australians or Australian interests. However, it is possible Australians or Australian interests could be harmed in future attacks carried out by al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab has issued statements threatening Westerners and Western interests and has attacked locations known to be popular with Westerners, including shopping malls and cafes. Al-Shabaab spreads propaganda to inspire followers worldwide to conduct terrorist attacks, using its websites and social media accounts.

Historical examples of al-Shabaab’s connections to Australia and Australians include:

  • In September 2013, Australian-British dual national Ross Langdon was killed during an al‑Shabaab attack on a shopping complex in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Some individuals convicted of terrorist offences in Australian have had links to al‑Shabaab. On 5 June 2017, al-Shabaab-trained Australian citizen, Yacqub Khayre, shot and killed Kai Hao, a receptionist at the Buckingham International Serviced Apartments in Brighton, Victoria. He also took an escort hostage and called Channel Seven reportedly stating 'this is for ISIL’ and ‘this is for al-Qa’ida'. Kharye later fired on Victoria Police Special Operations Group officers—injuring three—before police responded by fatally shooting him.
  • In late 2011, al-Shabaab-linked Australian citizens Wissam Fattal, Saney Edow Aweys and Nayef El Sayed were found guilty in the Victorian Supreme Court of conspiring to do acts in preparation for a terrorist act contrary to Section 11.5 and 101.6(1) of the Criminal Code. They were linked to Australian al-Shabaab member, Hussein Hashi Farah, who was arrested in Kenya in 2010 for his involvement in coordinating plans to attack the Holsworthy Army Base near Sydney.

Listed by the United Nations or like-minded countries

Al‑Shabaab is listed in the United Nations 1267 Committee’s consolidated list and is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the governments of Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Engagement in peace or mediation processes

Since it was last listed, al‑Shabaab is not known to have participated in peace or mediation processes despite Federal Government of Somalia and AMISOM appeals to the group to disarm and join the Somali peace process.

Conclusion

On the basis of the information above, the Australian Government assesses that al‑Shabaab is directly or indirectly engaged in, preparing, planning, assisting in or fostering the doing of terrorist acts, and advocates the doing of terrorist acts.​