Al-Shebab - who are they?

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Al-Shebab - who are they?
Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shebab's spokesman
Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al-Shebab's spokesman
Reuters

Al-Shebab, or the Youth, is the more commonly known name for Harakat Al-Shebab al-Mujahideen, the Movement of Warrior Youth.

They are believed to be the largest group among several Islamist militias battling the transitional government in Somalia.

The group is said to control most of the southern and central parts of the country, including a large swath of the capital, Mogadishu, where it has imposed its own harsh form of Sharia law.

The group was formerly the military wing of the deposed Islamic Court Union (ICU) that controlled much of central and southern Somalia in late 2006.

The ICU splintered into several smaller groups after its removal from power by Ethiopian troops in support of the largely powerless UN-backed interim government.

Al-Shebab describes itself as waging jihad against the “enemies of Islam” and is engaged in combat against the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union Mission to Somalia (Amisom).

It has declared war on the UN and on Western NGOs that distribute food aid in Somalia.

Al-Shebab, which murdered 42 relief workers between 2008 and 2009, is reported to be tied to al-Qaeda, which its leaders denied until early 2010.

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