Members of Al Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group traditionally allied with Al Qaeda, have released a video on social media in which they are seen pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Reports indicate Al Shabaab leadership is looking to find and kills its pro-ISIS members.
In the video, masked members of the jihadi group explain their decision to join the Islamic State and recite the “bay’ah,” the oath of fealty the Islamic State uses to gain control over other groups, while holding hands. The group encourages all “Mujahideen in Somalia” to join the Islamic State and, The Foreign Desk notes, praises an Al Shabaab-linked radical Islamist preacher named Abdiqadir Mumin, who pledged allegiance to ISIS in October. It is notable that the video appears to share the high production values of previous ISIS releases, as well as the jihadi music typical of Sunni jihadist propaganda efforts.
Mumin is described by multiple media sources as having control over an entire faction of Al Shabaab, not merely being a commentator on jihad but a commander of a band of jihadists under Al Shabaab. U.S. officials indicated that the announcement of his defection to ISIS would follow with a video of Mumin himself issuing the pledge, though that video has yet to surface on social media. Instead, Al Shabaab released the above video featuring a larger group of fighters defecting.
The result of Mumin’s move, CNN reported at the time, was to place a large number of Al Shabaab jihadists in danger from being killed by the group’s leadership. “For weeks, Al-Shabaab’s secret police, known as the Amniyat, have been arresting and jailing members within the insurgent group who they believed would switch their allegiance from al Qaeda to ISIS,” a source told CNN.
The report in part blames Al Shabaab’s leader, Ahmad Umar, for restricting jihadi loyalties within the group more than many would prefer. “This … iron fist policy … has caused discontent in the ranks of the Mujahideen,” the source claimed.
The move by this larger group of jihadists to ISIS follows several attempts by the Islamic State to woo the terrorist group. Most recently, the leadership of Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist organization now re-branded as the Islamic State West Africa Province, published a message to members of Al Shabaab urging that they switch their allegiance from Al Qaeda to ISIS. The message argued that a united global jihadist movement under the control of al Baghdadi “is of greater benefit to the struggle on the path of Islam” than having groups like Al Shabaab operating independently or under Al Qaeda. The Islamic State reportedly reached out directly to the group in March, but failed to attract their loyalty.
Prior to the release of this video, Al Shabaab members released another video in which members made clear their support for Al Qaeda. The video, titled “From the Frontlines 3: The Tourism of My Ummah is Jihad,” shows Al Shabaab members fishing, swimming, and butchering a giraffe. It is intended to entice foreign Muslims to travel to Somalia and join their ranks. Audio sermons by at least two Al Qaeda spiritual leaders appear in the video, including a message from Abdullah Azzam, described as “the spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden.”
Al Shabaab has been active since 2006, though it has received significantly more media attention that usual this year following a massacre at Kenya’s Garissa University, where the terrorists shot and killed any student that identified themselves as Christian. Following the attack, the group began an attempt to conquer villages on the Kenyan-Somali border, demanding “taxes” from the local population and imposing Sharia law.