In the ever changing dynamic of contemporary Somalia, the recently established Mujahideen Youth Movement (MYM) has emerged as the most potent militant group. Although there is little substantive information available about the group, its founding or its core leadership, much can be ascertained about its behavior and operational trajectory. Bearing a name resembling its supposed predecessor organization, the Shabaab (Youth) militia, MYM emerged in early April with an announcement that its members had attempted to assassinate two prominent Somali officials (Voice of America, June 4). After the April 9 statement, MYM conducted additional operations similar to those seen in the current Iraq theater of conflict.
The April 9 statement came within days of a video issued by a noted al-Qaeda personality, Abu Yahia al-Libi. In his message entitled “To the Army of Difficulty,” al-Libi promulgates what he sees as the necessary path for Somali mujahideen to pursue if they are to establish a viable zone of jihad. Specifically, al-Libi states, “Launch against them attack after attack, lay ambushes for them, shake the land beneath them with…mines, demolish their bases and fortifications with martyrdom operations and car bombs.” There is evidence that MYM has succeeded in executing operations in fulfillment of al-Libi’s prescriptions. Operations include an April suicide bombing in Afgoi and a car bombing outside the Ambassador Hotel in Mogadishu (Shabelle Media Network, April 24). The group issued a message to several online forums in May claiming that MYM members attacked an Oraal troop transport vehicle as it traveled between Mogadishu and Baidoa, killing 30 to 40 men. More recently, on June 3 MYM members detonated a sizeable vehicle-borne IED outside the home of Somali Prime Minister Ali Muhammad Gedi (Shabelle Media Network, June 5). Although he escaped uninjured, Gedi’s home suffered significant damage and five soldiers and two civilians were killed in the blast.
Concurrently, there has been an increased amount of reporting about foreign fighters finding their way into Somalia (Voice of America, June 4). Perhaps in response to this, on June 2 the U.S. military struck positions in northern Somalia (South African Broadcasting Corporation, June 3). U.S. military spokespersons have yet to identify the targets of the attack; however, a statement released by MYM via the Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF)—an information medium strongly identified with the core elements of the Global Salafi-Jihad—claimed that none of the group’s members had been killed or injured in the strikes. Although it is nearly impossible to determine whether there is a direct link between al-Libi’s statement and the emergence of MYM, the near concurrence of these events at least suggests a causal relationship. It would, therefore, appear that the al-Libi tape may have had an impact on the development of MYM and may prove to be yet another milestone in the evolution of the Islamist insurgency in Somalia.
With the recent uptick of reports regarding foreign fighter involvement in Somalia and the apparent identification of MYM as a focal point for incoming mujahideen, MYM appears to be the most likely group to evolve into the center of gravity in the Sunni jihadi insurgency in Somalia.