By Afro-Middle East Centre
The hostage drama at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi over the past week has raised a number of questions about the Somali organisation al-Shabab. After the group lost Mogadishu, it was perceived as being ‘significantly degraded’ by a various roleplayers. The planning, coordination and brazen nature of the Westgate operation, however, have brought these assessments into question. The hostage operation likely involved between ten and fifteen Shabab members, and was thwarted after four days by Kenyan forces, together with US and Israeli ‘advisers’ and Israeli commandos. Almost seventy people died in the operation, and around 200 were injured.
By AlJazeera Centre for Studies
At the end of the phase known as the "Afghan Jihad", most Arabs and Muslims who participated in the Afghan war returned to their homelands. Some formed the nucleus for the dissemination, in their countries, of the ideas that they carried or developed during the "jihad" period. The al-Qaeda organisation, based on the principle of global jihad, is the most prominent embodiment of these "new" ideas; new when compared to the ways that other Islamic organisations have evolved.
Differences exist in the manner in which the various al-Qaeda "branches" emerged; they vary not only in the means and methods of work but even, in some cases, in their objectives. These differences depend on circumstances prevailing in the countries where each al-Qaeda member organises. Nevertheless, there has been a common understanding that the original birth home – Afghanistan – provides the fundamental guidance to the organisation.
This paper examines al-Qaeda in three critical locations, which recently rose to prominence, in the Islamic world. It discusses the movement and some of its members; the methodology and activities of the organisation; its local and periodic objectives; its ideologies and influence; and will chart future trends for the organisation. The three locations studied here are:Pakistan and Afghanistan, Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula, and Somalia.