Al Jazeera gets exclusive access to the country’s al-Shabab fighters.
|Abu Mansoor said al-Shabaab will fight “oppression” elsewhere once Ethiopian forces are defeated [AFP]|
An armed group battling Ethiopian forces in Somalia has told Al Jazeera it will take its fight beyond the country once it defeats its rivals.
“We are fighting to lift the burden of oppression and colonialism from our country … We are defending ourselves against enemies who attacked us,” Abu Mansoor, the leader of al-Shabab, said.
“Once we are successful with that we will fight on and finish oppression elsewhere on earth,” he said.
Al-Shabab, meaning youth, split last year from the Islamic Courts Union which controlled much of Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, until it was pushed out by government and Ethiopian troops in 2006.
In Marka, just 90km from the capital Mogadishu, Ibrahim Almaqdis, one of the fighters, told Al Jazeera: “We wish to tell Bush and our opponents our real intentions.
“We will establish Islamic rule from Alaska and Chile to South Africa, Japan, Russia, the Solomon Islands and all the way to Iceland, be warned, we are coming.”
Abu Mansoor said that al-Shabab’s ranks had been bolstered by foreign fighters and urged others to join, saying that a core principle of the group was that all Muslims are citizens of Somalia.
“Many have already died fighting our cause and many others are here with us,” he said.
“We shall welcome any Muslim from any part of the world who wants to join us. We will allow him to wed our daughters and share our farms.”
The group was created in 2001 by four Somali men who had trained in Afghanistan and is listed as a “terrorist organisation” by the US.
The Islamic Courts Union brought relative peace to the Horn of Africa nation during its six months in control, enforcing strict laws and renewing hopes that the Somalia would become stable enough to allow aid agencies the freedom to operate.
However, their defeat by the Ethiopian and government forces has brought renewed violence as various anti-government forces have mounted near-daily attacks.
In Marka, Al Jazeera found people welcoming al-Shabab and dressing their children like the fighters who have been the only people to bring some semblance of peace to Somalia in recent years.
More than one million people have been displaced by the fighting in Somalia, one third of the population rely on emergency food aid and the chaos has helped fuel kidnappings and piracy off the coast.