June 28th, 2010
02:59 PM ET

Radical Islamists in Somalia release video of street battles

A video posted on YouTube purportedly shows street fighting between Islamist fighters and Ugandan peacekeepers.

Islamist fighters battling Somalia’s fragile government have released new video of recent street battles against Ugandan peacekeepers in Mogadishu. It’s the latest propaganda video made by Al-Shabaab – an affiliate of al Qaeda – as it seeks to extend its appeal on the internet to young ethnic Somalis in Europe and North America.

Not that the Ugandans are described as “peacekeepers” in the perfectly accented English narration for the 10-minute video.

Titled “The African Crusaders,” the opening line sets the tone: “As dawn breaks in Mogadishu every morning, a new chapter also begins in the battle against the coalition of crusaders and their apostate allies.” They are, the narrator continues, “fighting America’s war in a foreign land.”

Sources in Mogadishu say the scenes were filmed at the beginning of June as Al-Shabaab fighters threatened to close in on the presidential palace, one of the few buildings still controlled by the government. The sources say Al-Shabaab was driven back – and one of its commanders was reported to have been seriously wounded – but the narration inevitably paints the conflict as a triumph for the insurgents against the African Union force.

Several thousand Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers are stationed in Mogadishu to protect the fragile transitional government. Without them, Somali government troops would probably be quickly overrun by Al-Shabaab and its allies, who control much of the city.

To a soundtrack of Islamic verses, the video shows the “mujahedeen” preparing for “victory or martyrdom.” The Al-Shabaab fighters, with little protection, run through Mogadishu’s ruined streets amid buildings shattered by mortar blasts or peppered with bullet holes. They fire from behind makeshift barricades, under Al-Shabaab’s black flag. At one point, an African Union troop carrier is shown burning fiercely after apparently being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. The Al-Shabaab fighters then surround it. At least one burned body is evident. An Al-Shabaab commander, Sheikh Hussein Fidow (who had been reported dead last year), addresses the camera as he stands in front of the burning troop carrier. “The armored vehicles sent by the crusaders to help the apostates are burning here,” he says – before a chorus of “Allahu Akbar.”

It is the latest in a steady stream of videos from Al-Shabaab’s media production arm, the Al-Kataib Foundation. Some seem aimed at recruiting young English-speaking Somalis living in North America. Last month, an American-born Al-Shabaab fighter recorded what can only be described as an “Islamist rap” that included the line “Gonna knock America down to her knees.” The video is still on YouTube, several thousand views later.

An unknown number of young men – counterterrorism officials say it may run into dozens – are thought to have left cities like Minneapolis and Toronto in recent years to wage jihad with Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Several are known to have been killed while fighting there. Still more have left European countries; just last week, a Swedish citizen was arrested on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack in Somalia.

The overall effect of the new video from Al-Shabaab is to reinforce the sense of anarchy in Mogadishu, with government troops unable to push the group out of the capital (with or without AU help) and Al-Shabaab, a shifting alliance of sub-groups, unable to take full control. The sad reality is that “The African Crusaders” could have been filmed at almost any time over the last couple of years, such is the remorseless cycle of street battles in Mogadishu.


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Filed under: Security Brief
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Steven Brian


    June 28, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Biots Riots

    The Religion of Peace indeed

    June 29, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  3. Barry77

    Islam is fighting against peace all over the world. Islam must be destroyed for the dignity of the human race.

    June 29, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. Only Way

    I hope these Islamic people will know the truth and come to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace. These people are deceived by the religion to kill others and do not understand that killers will go to hell. Satan comes to kill and those who follow satan in the nature of killing will be punished in the lake of fire as satan will be punished.

    June 29, 2010 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Drunk Monkey

    The peacekeepers need to escort everyone that would like to leave Somalia out to other surrounding countries. Then let the government forces and the al sha whatever fight it out. No holds barred. The winner gets total control and the looser leaves. Whoever wants to go back and live there when it is done can feel free to.

    July 13, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |