15 Jun 2022

Inside Al Shabaab: The extremist group trying to seize Somalia

Africa Correspondent

For more than fifteen years the extremist group Al Shabaab has been fighting a bloody insurgency in Somalia.

Now, as President Biden redeploys American troops to the country, are the group winning the fight? Formed in 2002, by 2008 they controlled much of southern Somalia. They soon pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and began conducting attacks at home and abroad.

In September 2013 they killed nearly 70 people in the Westgate shopping mall attack in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.  Then again in Kenya in April 2015 Al Shabaab militants killed 148 people at Garissa University College.

Back home in the Somali capital Mogadishu they carried out their most deadly attack in October 2017, killing more than five hundred people in a massive truck bombing.

In the years that have followed, the group’s attacks have become routine. They often kill dozens of civilians a month, as they battle the African Union troops there to try and keep them at bay.

Now emboldened by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan following the US withdrawal, the group are cementing control of their territory, with the aim to take the whole country and implement strict Sharia law.

At the moment, Al Shabaab control vast swathes of central and southern Somalia but their reach spreads far further, with Somali government control diminishing.

Our correspondent Jamal Osman obtained rare access to film in Al Shabaab territory and travelled to their de facto capital Jilib.