All were suspected of being “collaborators” with the internationally recognised, but largely powerless, transition government in Mogadishu that is protected by a small African peacekeeping force. It is led by Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, who once headed the Islamic Courts Union. This had imposed a tenuous calm in the city, but was swept from power by Ethiopian forces in 2006 because its erstwhile allies in the Shabab, or “Youth”, had ties with al-Qaeda. If anything, the intervention strengthened the Shabab and hardened their link with global jihadism—not least because of an influx of foreign fighters who see Somalia as the next battleground for holy war.
The Shabab now control most of south and central Somalia, and much of Mogadishu. Western security sources worry they could stage attacks outside the country, of the kind that destroyed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
There is a streak of pragmatism among the Shabab that is distinct from al-Qaeda. The Shabab guarantee the safety of the food convoys of the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP). That said, there is an air of fear in Shabab-ruled areas such as Buale. Checkpoints are everywhere. Elders seem to be losing authority; they stick to resolving disputes over land and marriage. Residents are for the most part reluctant to talk. One tells the story of a 15-year-old boy who returned home to the Juba river after fighting with a ferocious Shabab unit in Mogadishu. When his mother pleaded with him not to return to the fighting, he threatened to kill her on the spot. ..more..http://www.economist.com/world/mideast-africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=13964251&source=hptextfeature