Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Al-Shabab Tightens Grip in Somalia

Via GlobalSecurity.org -

Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militants are tightening their grip on areas of the country they already control, imposing new rules and punishing people they say are violating their radical brand of Islamic law. Some observers believe until a more powerful group emerges to bring law and order to the country, ordinary Somalis are not likely to challenge al-Shabab's violence-driven agenda.

In recent months, al-Shabab militants have carried out violent acts they describe as "just punishments" for Somalis who violated Sharia - Islamic law.

Alleged spies and Christians have been publicly executed. Thieves have had their legs and hands amputated. And women accused of adultery have been flogged and stoned. Al-Shabab militants have also reportedly forced citizens, including children, to watch the gruesome punishments being meted out.

Somalia observer Paula Roque at South Africa's Institute for Security Studies says there is little doubt that in some places, al-Shabab has restored law and order that Somalis have been have been missing since the fall of the last functioning government in Somalia in 1991.

But Roque says al-Shabab is trying to bring order through violence and the threat of violence, which is not what Somalis want.

"There are elements that are extremists, who want to install a caliphate in Somalia," she said. "So, to that extent, they have an objective and they have a way of achieving it, which is through the use of violence and exterminating those that stand in the way of their objective. Certainly, the public executions are intimidation tactics. This is a movement that is led by military men, not theologians, clerics," she said.

The militant group is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and Australia for having ties to al-Qaida.

Al-Shabab's links with al-Qaida began in the early part of this decade, with the group's founder, Aden Hashi Ayro, who was trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan. His death in a U.S. missile strike in May 2008 failed to stop al-Shabab from stepping up recruiting efforts and vastly expanding its territory in Somalia. The group achieved this largely by portraying itself as a nationalist-Islamist group fighting to preserve Somalia's sovereignty against threats by Ethiopia and the West.

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