July 20, 2011, by Melanie Nathan,
Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen (HSM) (Arabic: , حركة الشباب المجاهدين,) which now controls Southern Somalia has just re-opened the area to accept outside aid for the region, where a UN newly declared famine has just been announced. Millions of Somalis are starving, some dying and in need of urgent care and supplies.
Otherwise known as Mujahideen Youth Movement or “Movement of Striving Youth”), more commonly known as al-Shabaab (Arabic: الشباب, “The Youth” or “The Lads”) it is a terrorist group fighting to overthrow the government of Somalia.
Their members are recognizable because almost all of their insurgents wear bright red keffiyehs and dark green uniforms. Since the summer of 2010, the group is said to control most of the southern and central parts of Somalia, including “a large swath” of the capital, Mogadishu, where it is said to have imposed its own strict form of Sharia law.. Estimates of al-Shabaab’s numbers, as of December 2008, vary from 3,000 to 7,000.
The big question is what do we the USA do in a situation like this. If we enter the region to help the Somalis, which on a humanitarian level we are compelled to do, we are in effect working together with a terrorist group with direct association to Al Qaeda. If the U.S.A. denies aid, we may be setting ourselves up for a backlash, playing into the hands of extremists who would then have more goodwill in the region and fuel for festering the already tainted USA reputation. How do we reconcile this catch-22? In essence are we willing to watch millions die, because they have fallen into the hands of a group of terrorists?
The group is an off-shoot of the Islamic Courts Union, which splintered into several smaller groups after its removal from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006. The group describes itself as waging jihad against “enemies of Islam” and is engaged in combat against the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).
It reportedly “declared war on the UN and on Western non-governmental organizations” that distribute food aid in Somalia, killing 42 relief workers in 2008 and 2009 It has been designated a terrorist organization by several western governments and security services, and described as having “ties to Al Qaeda,”which their leaders denied until early 2010.
Because of its opinions and methods, Al-Shabaab, has been compared with the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. One of its main local opponents is the moderate sufi group Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a.
Of even greater concern is the danger to Western Aid groups. Are we willing to place workers in the purview and close proximity of those who would kill a Westerner regardless of humanitarian consequences? The repercussions could well spark a war on an iInternational scale?
What a dilemma! I am still thinking about it – what are your thoughts America, South Africa, Europe, United Kingdom Australia, Japan, Asia?