Shabaab al-Mujahideen (aka al-Shabaab, aka Mujahideen Youth Movement) is the Salafist-Jihadist off-shoot of the Mogadishu-based Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Al-Shabaab’s leaders maintain connections with al-Qaeda, and receives financial, logistical, and rhetorical support. The group is fighting the internationally recognized TFG for control of Somalia’s southern cities, and ultimately seeks to control the entire Horn of Africa. Al-Shabaab employs IEDs in support of its broader strategy of ousting the TFG and the contingent of African Union peacekeepers (mostly from Uganda and Burundi) protecting the TFG, called the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). As a result, their IEDs target TFG and AMISOM personnel and operations. Al-Shabaab will continue to focus its IED efforts against TFG and AMISOM operations, primarily in Mogadishu, as part of an al-Qaeda-inspired strategy of attrition and exhaustion.
Understanding master narratives can be the difference between analytic anticipation and unwanted surprise, as well as the difference between communications successes and messaging gaffes. Master narratives are the historically grounded stories that reflect a community’s identity and experiences, or explain its hopes, aspirations, and concerns. These narratives help groups understand who they are and where they come from, and how to make sense of unfolding developments around them. As they do in all countries, effective communicators in Somalia invoke master narratives in order to move audiences in a preferred direction. Somali influencers rely on their native familiarity with these master narratives to use them effectively. This task is considerably more challenging for US communicators and analysts because they must place themselves in the mindset of foreign audiences who believe stories that — from an American vantage point — may appear surprising, conspiratorial, or even outlandish.