Online Islamists Attempt to Recruit Fighters for the Somali Jihad

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 4 Issue: 5

Since the fall of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU) in late December 2006, the online jihadi community has been abuzz with web postings and material promoting the struggle in the Horn of Africa. Although it cannot be stated at this point that this heightened activity has directly compelled a significant contingent of individuals to migrate to Somalia for jihad, it certainly has raised the prestige of the conflict. As the insurgency in Somalia continues to grow and take form, monitoring these postings and publications is critical to understanding what may potentially motivate an individual to make the journey to Somalia in order to participate in jihad.

The online footprint of Somali insurgents originally manifested itself in two postings in late December 2006 at http://www.aswj.net. In the first of these, the author discusses at length the duty incumbent upon each reader to support the Somali jihad. According to this author, “Today the zeal of Islam is being reverberated all over the world and our courageous brothers and sisters in Somalia have asked the Muslims all over the world to support them, and Allah (SWT) has made it an obligation upon us to support them.” To further his argument, the author goes to some length to detail the centrality of Somalia in the history of Islam in Africa. He contends that, as a Muslim land, every individual must defend Somalia from the Ethiopian aggressors by supporting the Islamist insurgency. This posting was accompanied by a note from another forum contributor who encouraged readers to attend a demonstration outside Regent’s Park Mosque in central London in order to show support for their Somali co-religionists.

Since late December there has been a rapid growth of material on the Somali insurgency, both on websites based outside the country and those originating within Somalia itself. One such example is seen on http://www.qaadisiya.com, which provides readers a wealth of information on the insurgency and related topics. Other websites that have posted material related to the Somali insurgency include alkarnee.wordpress.com and amisomal.modawanati.com. Notably, Qaadisiya.com includes an advertisement for a north London-based telecommunications company, Phone Atlantic (http://www.phoneatlantic.co.uk). Interestingly, the address provided for the company locates it in the heart of one of London’s most active Islamist communities. This discovery, coupled with the inclusion of a substantial number of English language pages on the site, clearly indicates that the intended readership is the London diaspora community, where there is a significant ethnic Somali population.

These postings are notable not only because they espouse jihadi ideology and enjoy wide readership, but also because they are intended for English language readers. Their clear intent is to encourage Western Muslims to participate in the Somali jihad and to push readers across the threshold from spectatorship and rhetoric into militancy. It is worth noting that these individuals will not likely pursue jihad within the West, where the theological notion of the “covenant of security” held by many restricts fighting to “zones of jihad” (Terrorism Monitor, January 26, 2006). Instead, forum contributors are promoting the notion of defending Islam abroad, where the religion is “under siege” by what they perceive as “un-Islamic” countries like Ethiopia.

The cumulative effect of this online material has been to promote the prestige of the Somali jihad. Whether that translates into an influx of foreign fighters into the Somali theater remains to be seen. Radicalized individuals living in the West are confronted with many options for fighting abroad, so any move to urge them toward the Somali theater would be of obvious importance to the nascent insurgency there.