Somalia’s government said al-Qaeda’s announcement that the al-Shabaab militia had officially joined the organization will destabilize the war-torn nation even further while increasing security risks in the region.
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announced on Feb. 9 that al-Shabaab, which has waged an insurgency against Somalia’s United Nations-backed government since 2007, joined its ranks “to support the jihad unity against the Zionist crusader campaign,” according to a video posted on the website of al-Arabiya, the Dubai-based broadcaster.
“Their union will increase insecurity in Somalia, East Africa and the rest of the world,” the government said in an e-mailed statement today from Mogadishu, the capital. Somalia also risks becoming an al-Qaeda base in East Africa, it said.
Somalia has been wracked by a civil war since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator, in 1991. Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern and central Somalia, has been fighting President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s administration in Mogadishu in a bid to establish an Islamic state.
The government urged the international community to end an arms embargo against the country and help reinforce the Somali National Army to help defend the country against al-Qaeda. Sheikh Sharif’s security forces are supported by more than 10,000 African Union peacekeepers.
It urged supporters of al-Shabaab to “lay down their arms and follow the peaceful way within 15 days,” without saying what action would be taken beyond that deadline.