Al Shabab or Al Shabaab [key], [Arab.,=the youth], Islamic fundamentalist militia based in Somalia. One of several hardline Somali Islamist militias, Al Shabab has operated primarily in southern and central Somalia but it also has recruited and carried out terrorist attacks outside the country's borders. The group emerged as a significant military force following the defeat in 2007 by Ethiopian and Somali forces of the Union of Islamic Courts, which had gained control of Mogadishu and much of southern Somalia in 2006 after defeating several clan militias. Following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia in 2009, it and other Islamist militias reestablished control over much of S and cental Somalia, including much of Mogadishu, and imposed a rigid form of Islamic law on the territory it controlled. Since 2011, however, African Union and Somali forces have largely ousted Al Shabab from major urban areas in Somalia. Al Shabab has, however, carried out numerous bombings, assassinations, and other terror attacks in areas in Somalia not under its control, and has undertaken terror attacks and assassinations in nations that have contributed forces to the African Union mission in Somalia, including the 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, which killed more than 70 people and the 2013 and 2014 attacks in Kenya in which some 60 people died in Nairobi and some 150 died in Garissa, respectively. Officially affiliated with Al Qaeda since 2012, Al Shabab has become increasingly decentralized and subject to clan politics and internal conflict among its leaders. At the same time, however, it has extended its presence from Somalia down the coast of Africa into Kenya and to a lesser degree in Tanzania and N Mozambique.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: African History