With 68 killed and 170 injured and a few more still holed up, the message that the Islamic militant group had to send was heard loud and clear. Living up to the meaning of its name 'Al-Shabab', which in Urdu means 'The Youth', the group used the advanced social-media platform Twitter to claim for the killings.
Amid this, there is one thing that keeps bothering the readers and those who had lost their loved ones in the firing 'who ar these men?' and 'what is Al-Shabab?'.
Who they are?
Given the similarity in their SOP of attacking, one can easily draw references to the Somali off-shoot of al-Qaeda. News reports by top television channels claim that it is, in fact, a new group that joined hands with the international terror organization (Al-Qaeda) in February 2012.
Involved in waging war against the Kenyan government, the group is known to have clashs with various other governments like the Somalian government and a multinational force called AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia), which has been working toward peacekeeping operations with the backing of the United Nations.
Once a small outfit, it has grown to the level of great concern for the security forces in African countries. According to a 2011 United Nations report, they have grown into a powerhouse of economy, resorting to extortion, illegal taxation and other fees, earning millions of dollars. The US National Counter Terrorism center further explains that the group is not monolithic in its agenda or goals and it has members hailing from all clans and communities, which makes it susceptible to clan politics, shifting alliances and internal divisions.
It grown into an economic powerhouse through extortion, money laundering
Its aims and agendas
The recent Kenyan attacks as per the group's Twitter claims was due to the Kenyan government's failure to remove its forces from Somalia.
"The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders," it said. It further added, "For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it's time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land #Westgate."
The group is alleged to be fighting to establish a strict Islamic state in Somalia, claiming to be waging jihad against the "enemies of Islam". Despite several failed attempts to wage a war in Somalia and Uganda, the group changed its strategy from using force-on-force fighting to terrorism that has helped in preserving the core of its fighting force and resources.