The organisation controls the south of Somalia and it had control of much of the capital Mogadishu, but it withdrew from there recently.
Al-Shabaab is known to recruit members and fighters around the world, and it has hundreds of foreign jihadists among its ranks.
The Nordic Countries have always been a target of recruitment activities, says MP Pekka Haavisto (Green). He has worked in the Horn of Africa with the UN and as an expert for the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
He notes that in one case, a Somali who had been recruited from Denmark carried out a suicide attack in Mogadishu. “He felt that he had been living an unworthy life in Denmark, and was looking for a fast track to paradise”, Haavisto recalls.
“In Norway, a taxi driver might say that he is a supporter of al-Shabaab.”
Haavisto adds that none of the Somalis that he has met in Finland have voiced support the organisation.
Al-Shabaab has vowed loyalty to the al-Qaeda terror network. The organisation is seen as an umbrella group for several smaller groups. It has set up an administration in the city of Kismayo.
It gets money from Saudi Islamist networks, and probably from Yemen and Pakistan as well.
The group conducted its first attack outside Somalia in July last year, when a bomb exploded in the Ugandan capital Uganda, killing 76 people. Uganda has soldiers in Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping operation.
A year ago an explosion in the centre of the Somali capital Mogadishu killed 30 people, including several Members of Parliament.
Its targets have included deliveries of aid to areas suffering from drought.
Al-Shabaab has also clashed with other rebel groups in Somalia.
The Hizbul Islam group does not approve of al-Shabaab’s links with al-Qaeda.
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