Al-Shabaab (The Youth) is a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with al-Qa`ida. Many of its senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with al-Qaida in Afghanistan.
Al-Shabaab has used intimidation and violence to undermine the Somali government and threatened civil society activists working to bring about peace through political dialogue and reconciliation. The group scattered leaflets on the streets of Mogadishu warning participants in last year’s reconciliation conference that they intended to bomb the conference venue. Al-Shabaab promised to shoot anyone planning to attend the conference and to blow up delegates’ cars and hotels. Although al-Shabaab did not carry out these particular threats, the group has claimed responsibility for shooting Deputy District Administrators, as well as several bombings and shootings in Mogadishu targeting Ethiopian troops and Somali government officials. Al-Shabaab’s leader, Aden Hashi Ayrow, has ordered his fighters to attack African Union (AU) troops based in Mogadishu. Ayrow has also called for foreign fighters to join al-Shabaab in their fight in Somalia. Given the threat that al-Shabaab poses, the designation will raise awareness of al-Shabaab’s activities and help undercut the group’s ability to threaten targets in and destabilize the Horn of Africa region.