The Secret History of al Qaeda

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Drawing from interviews with former Al-Shabaab militants, including high-ranking officials, military commanders, police, and foot soldiers, authors Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph reveal the motivations of those who commit their lives to the group and its violent jihadist agenda. A wealth of sources including US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, letters taken from the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, case files from the prosecution of American Al-Shabaab members, emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and Al-Shabaab's own statements and recruiting videos inform Maruf and Joseph's investigation of the United States' campaign against Al-Shabaab and how the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave the group the popular support it needed to radicalize ordinary citizens and become a powerful movement.

Harun Maruf is Senior Editor in Voice of Americas Somali Service who has been covering Somalia and its struggles with war, terrorism, piracy, and drought since the early s. With more than , followers, Maruf is the most followed Somali journalist on Twitter and a primary source of news to many people in the Horn of Africa.

Dan Joseph is an editor in Voice of America's central newsroom and has headed up its Africa desk since December Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph have drawn on their extensive experience reporting on Somalia and on interviews with key former figures in Al-Shabaab to produce one of the most important books ever written on jihadi militancy in Africa.

This book is essential reading for everybody interested in Somalia and the evolution of global jihad. This book reveals insights I've never seen during my 15 years in counterterrorism—an excellent work. For those wondering how Somalia has never been able to shake off the threat, the book has piercing details of what still goes wrong both among Somalis and in the international community.

This is hugely informative painstakingly-researched book. Due to the style of writing, it is even accessible for interested non-specialists. The book is recommended strongly for thinking about and beyond the Somali setting. Privacy Notice Accessibility Help. Skip to services menu. Search by title, author, keyword or ISBN.

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Sign Up. View Larger. Author Bio Harun Maruf is Senior Editor in Voice of Americas Somali Service who has been covering Somalia and its struggles with war, terrorism, piracy, and drought since the early s. Customer Reviews Comments There are currently no reviews Write a review on this title. A wealth of sources including U. Now, Harun Maruf is a reporter and writer at the Africa Division. One extremely significant thing about his influence in the Horn of Africa today is the size of his Twitter audience, which is one hundred and thirty thousand?

A hundred and…? A hundred and seventy thousand followers on Twitter [ HarunMaruf ].

So without further ado, I welcome Harun Maruf to the podium. Thank you, Robert. Thank you very much for inviting us. Dan is a brilliant colleague. VOA has given us the permission to write this book and they have supported us. I think I would like also to say before I start that we are here representing ourselves. I would like to talk about Al Shabaab, the origins of the group, and why the group is so deadly today, but before I start talking about Al Shabaab, I would like to mention the country we talk about is Somalia. Somalia has been without a country for thirty years, almost thirty years. When a country becomes lawless and stateless, the government collapses.

You can understand the number of organizations that have come to Somalia to support. They have been helping Somali people with food, with schools, with education, and a number of Muslim charities came to Somalia, including Saudi charities, including UAE charities, charities from all over Muslim countries have been to Somalia to support Somalis with education, scholarships, and they have been doing a great job, so when we talk about Al Shabaab, we always have to have in mind that there are a number of Muslim organizations that are working in Somalia and are doing a diligent job.

We also have to understand that because of the lawlessness in Somalia, many people have tried to reason why they are suffering for such a long time. Somalis have tried Socialism. They have tried being allied with the West.

The Secret History of al Qaeda by Abdel Bari Atwan

Nothing has worked. They have not been able to have a functioning government for almost thirty years, so a lot of people went to mosques, a lot of people have sought support from Muslim charities, and a lot of people have become very religious. They were trying to find an understanding for why they were suffering for such a long time, so what I call civil Islam, a number of organizations that practice civil Islam have done an amazing job in Somalia. If we understand the rise of Islamic Courts in Somalia, they have been able to stabilize parts of Mogadishu and parts of the country.

Our book starts with the stories of two men. The other one is a young Somali fighter. His name is Asad Yare. He lived in the United States until He met a Palestinian jihadist by the name of Abdullah Azzam, who convinced him, when he met him in Virginia, to go to Afghanistan and fight alongside the Mujahideen.

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Ibrahim Afghan traveled to Afghanistan. He helped the fight against the Soviet Union and in return, Al-Qaeda mentored him, they trained him, and they convinced him to go to Somalia and do the same thing, take the Al-Qaeda ideology and philosophy to Somalia. He came back to Somalia in and he set up the first jihadist training camp. You might ask yourself were there any jihadists at that time in Somalia? Somalis are a hundred percent Sunni Muslim.

For centuries the vast majority of people have followed the Sufi order but in the late s, a large number of scholars returned from Egypt, from Sudan, and from Saudi Arabia and they have challenged the role of the Sufis in the society because the Sufis were more or less- they were participating in the government. They were more or less interested in conducting education, preaching, spirituality.

What they were not able to do is explain the role of religion in politics.


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They were not able to explain the relationship between the public and the government, and the government and the citizens, so the scholars who returned from these countries, Egypt, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, they challenged the Sufi orders. Four years later in , another Salafist network emerged in Mogadishu. These two organizations have collaborated. They have exchanged books. They brought teachers from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and they have spread Salafism throughout the country.

They targeted university students, the military, civil servants, and they have succeeded. In , these two organizations merged under the an organization called — you may have heard of this organization — Al Ittihad al Islami. They were not only training jihadists but they also brought Al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan, including Saif al-Ad, you may have heard. The current deputy leader of Al-Qaeda was in Somalia in Hasan Said was in Somalia.

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Saghir was in Somalia. They mentored Somali jihadists. They trained them.

They brought in explosives experts. And another group, including Ibrahim Afghan who I told you earlier and other young, Somali jihadists who had been going to Afghanistan.

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Two of them were killed by the Somalis gunmen and one of them was killed by the United States. So, Ebrahim Afghan was helping young Somali jihadists travel from Somalia to Afghanistan so that they will meet Al-Qaeda, train, come back to Somalia, spread, train more jihadists. Among the countries and charities that heavily supported Somali students were charities based in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, so one of the largest destinations for Somali students was Pakistan, so Ebrahim Afghan would visit universities in Islamabad and Karachi and he would take them to Peshawar. During the holidays he would take them across the border into Afghanistan and they got training there, mentored, and they became battle-hardened jihadists and they came back to Somalia to lead the formation of Al Shabaab.

So the emergence of Al Shabaab in was not accidental. It was planned, helped, nudged, mentored by Al Qaeda to help the emergence of a jihadist group in Somalia. Of course, there were Somali scholars, Salafists, who always wanted that, but Al Qaeda has given this group organization, mentorship, finance, sophistication, techniques, and they became the deadliest group we call today Al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab is an extremist organization, an Al Qaeda ally. He represents the other faction, the other face of Al Shabaab.