July 15, 2011
Al Shabaab is an al Qaeda-affiliated organization that has risen rapidly to prominence in the midst of Somalia’s decades-long anarchy. The group has experienced two dramatic transformations in its short history. Originally the small, youth militia arm of a relatively moderate Islamist organization that rose to power in Somalia in early 2006, al Shabaab was radicalized and brought to prominence as a popular Islamist guerilla movement by Ethiopia’s invasion in December of that year. However, since early 2008 al Shabaab has undergone yet another transformation, this time from a largely nationalist organization focused on driving out Ethiopia through conventional military means to a hybrid movement that has increasingly embraced transnational terrorism and attempted to portray itself as part of the al Qaeda-led global war against the West.