Included in this group are 14 Somali-Americans from Alabama, California and Illinois, arrested for providing material support to al-Shabab in August 2010; four Somali-Americans from San Diego, arrested on similar charges in November 2010; and Somali college student Mohamed Osman Mohamud, arrested for a failed attempt to blow up a van full of dummy explosives in Oregon in November 2010.
In fact, the seriousness of the al-Shabab threat is such that Attorney General Eric Holder was forced to acknowledge in 2010 that the routing of fighters and money to al-Shabab constituted a “deadly pipeline.”
Since then, the al-Shabab threat has been the subject of congressional hearings focusing on the growing radicalization of Muslims in America, including the indoctrination and recruitment of would-be-terrorists.
Led by Republican Congressman Peter King of New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, the hearings began as a response to the marked increase in plots and conspiracies by American Muslim extremists, as well as the number of Americans attempting to travel abroad to train and fight with terrorist groups.
To address that issue in general and al-Shabab in particular, Representative King recently stated, “We must face the reality that al-Shabab is a growing threat to our homeland,” adding that no other terrorist organization has come as close as al-Shabab “to drawing so many Muslim Americans and Westerners to jihad.” To confirm that point, King charged that his committee has found over 40 American Somalis having gone to join al-Shabab.
Even FBI director Robert Mueller has voiced serious concerns that Somali-American jihadists may return to the United States and carry out a scheme similar to the foiled plot in Australia in August 2009 in which Somali-Australians attempted to carry out a suicide attack on an Australian army base.
In fact, the Australian episode underscores the global recruitment efforts of al-Shabab. In testimony before King’s committee, Ahmed Hussen, head of the Canadian Somali Congress, stated that al-Shabab in recent years has recruited dozens of young Somali men and women from Ottawa and Toronto.
When asked why al-Shabab would need to recruit Somalis abroad, given they have no shortage of willing recruits in Somalia, Hassan said, “It’s because they have aspirations beyond East Africa.”
While al-Shabab’s original and immediate focus has been to rid Somalia of what it calls an infidel presence and create a Sharia-based Islamic state, its long-term ambition is to create a global caliphate. The ambition to pursue global jihad became official when the group pledged its allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2010.
To that end, al-Shabab has internationalized the scope of its jihadist mission by utilizing the Internet to reach out to Muslims worldwide, heavily increasing the enlistment of foreign fighters, and expanding its interactions with other Islamist terror groups, including Nigeria’s Boko Haram, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP). One of the fruits of that outreach occured in July 2010, when the group launched two suicide bombings in Uganda that killed 79 people.
Unfortunately, with its jihadist operation having increasingly taken root in the United States, al-Shabab’s next target may be much closer to home.
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