unified Somali coalition. The jihadi foreigners from al-Qaeda concluded during this earlyengagement in Somalia that they encountered more adversity than success.Al-Qaeda’s entry into the region was not, however, a total loss. It did manage to recruit anumber of young Somalis to the jihadi cause. The longer that the central government wasunable to establish authority throughout Somalia and the warlords fought among eachother for power, the greater was the opportunity for the Islamic groups to increase their following, in part by imposing stability on the ground. In addition, three non-Somali al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi,Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, took refuge in Somalia with the assistance of theextremist AIAI. Two of these operatives were subsequently killed; the third, FazulAbdullah Mohamed of the Comoro Islands, is now al-Qaeda’s leading operative in EastAfrica and a regular visitor to Somalia.The internationally-sanctioned Transitional Federal Government has been unable to prevent violence in Somalia, especially in Mogadishu. By early 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) had gained considerable support in Mogadishu and much of south/central Somalia. This alarmed the TFG, the government in neighboring Ethiopia,and the United States, which ill-advisedly financed a group of warlords in Mogadishu tooppose the Islamic Courts. Ethiopia and Somalia have a long history of hostile relations,compounded by the fact that most of southeastern Ethiopia is inhabited by Somalis whoare seeking greater autonomy. By mid-2006, the UIC, which consisted of both moderatesand extremists, soundly defeated the U.S.-sponsored warlords. By the end of the year, theUIC had taken control of most of south and central Somalia and threatened militaryaction against Ethiopia, which took preemptive steps. At the request of the TFG, Ethiopiasent a large military force into Somalia and forced the UIC out of Mogadishu early in2007.The Islamist leaders and their militia went into hiding, migrated to southern Somalia or took refuge in Eritrea, which supported and funded the extremist Islamic organizations inSomalia as a way to put pressure on Ethiopia, with which it fought a war during 1998-2000 and had a continuing, serious border dispute. At this point, the UIC fractured intomoderate and extremist wings. The moderates led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmedeventually joined the TFG, and Ahmed became its president early in 2009. Theextremists divided into two main factions: al-Shabaab, which means the youth, andHizbul Islam, which means the Islamic Party. The intervention of Ethiopian forces inSomalia served as a rallying cry for both of these Islamist groups, allowing them toattract additional Somali followers to force out the foreign Ethiopian troops. The growinginfluence of the more extreme al-Shabaab also attracted the renewed interest of al-Qaeda,which following its earlier mixed experience in Somalia was not entirely convinced thatSomalia offered good prospects for al-Qaeda’s program.
The Origins and Development of Al-Shabaab
Al-Shabaab formally established itself in 2003 at an AIAI alumni conference in LosAnod, Somaliland; several al-Shabaab leaders come from Somaliland. About a dozen