A member of Harakat al-Shabab's frontline fighting force, the Jaysh al-'Usrah (Army of Difficulty), distributed gifts and humanitarian aid to Somali children at the insurgent refugee camp Al-Yasir in Lower Shabelle.
I have a new article that was just published today at openDemocracy, "Al-Shabab: Between the Battlefield and the Famine," which looks at the current state of the Somali Islamist insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Warrior-Youth, "Al-Shabaab"). The movement is currently facing military setbacks due to a series of offensives by the 9,000-man African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military force in Mogadishu, the weak Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), and allied Sufi Islamist militias that call themselves "Ahlu-Sunnah Wal Jamaacah" (People of the Prophetic Tradition). Somalia is also suffering from severe famine, the worst to hit the Horn of Africa in a generation, which has been a public relations disaster for Harakat al-Shabab since it rules most of the southern and central parts of the country, the regions hardest hit by the famine. Insurgent taxation is blamed for worsening the effects of the famine for tens of thousands of Somalis.
The abstract reads:
"Despite its military setbacks and pressures from the famine, Al-Shabab remains a formidable and adaptive force and insurgents continue to control most of central and southern Somalia."
Read the rest at openDemocracy.