A militant Islamic group linked to suicide attacks and bombings in Somalia officially has joined Al Qaeda, according to a monitoring service translation of a video message from its leader.
U.S. officials have long thought that the group, Shabab, was strengthening its ties with Al Qaeda. In July, U.S. intelligence said that Al Qaeda forces in Yemen had provided weapons, fighters and explosives training to Shabab, which they cited as signs of a widening alliance of terrorist groups.
Shabab has tried to ensure that Somalia remains chaotic because that helps secure its role as a base for its global struggle against the West, The Times reported in October. It has wreaked havoc in Somalia by barring aid to famine-stricken people and stopping them from fleeing, human rights groups say.
The Times' Robyn Dixon shared a vivid account of Shabab recruitment from a boy named Abdi. His story could not be independently verified, but was consistent with other accounts of Shabab training:
They were taught how to blow things up, make explosive devices and lay booby traps on roads. The training terrified him.
Spies in the camp listened for the whispers of defection. There was a fence, and guards. The commanders were harsh ...
"If they caught you talking about running away, they would kill you," Abdi said. "They said: 'You have to die. You have to sacrifice your life because these guys killed your father and mother. They will kill your people, so before that happens you have to sacrifice yourself and kill them.' "
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Video: A Shabab leader reportedly gives “glad tidings” that the group had joined Al Qaeda. Credit: Aaron Y. Zelin