Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Al Qaeda's Merger

Via Foreign Policy -

Hundreds of Somalis gathered on the outskirts of Mogadishu on Feb. 13 to celebrate the union of al Qaeda with its Somali cousin, the insurgent-terrorist group al-Shabab. But the mainstream media hasn't quite figured out what to make of the news, first announced last week, that the two groups had officially merged.

They might have done better with a simple headline: "Dozens of Americans Join al Qaeda."

The disturbing truth is that al-Shabab has had more success recruiting Americans than any of al Qaeda's other franchises. The newest official addition to the terrorist network's family includes around 40 Americans, in addition to dozens more involved in support activities on U.S. soil, as well as those with more casual connections to the United States. That support network dwarfs the American presence in "al Qaeda Central," which was largely terminated after the 9/11 attacks.

Al-Shabab's numbers and its extensive support network mean al Qaeda is now better positioned to carry out strikes on the U.S. homeland than at any point in the last 10 years. The majority of al-Shabab's American recruits are ethnic Somalis -- first- and second-generation immigrants with still-fresh ties to their ancestral home -- but the group also enjoys significant support from radicalized Muslim converts from diverse backgrounds, who are attracted by its efforts to carve out a domain ruled by a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.

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