Terrorists in Somalia have produced a series of full-length documentaries featuring a masked narrator with a British accent as part of a publicity drive designed to attract Western recruits
The videos feature suicide bombers, the corpses of African peace keepers and describe military operations by the militant group al-Shabaab, which is closely linked to al-Qaeda. The footage is the latest addition to a well-oiled media machine which has attracted nearly 16,000 followers to its English-language Twitter account since it was set up last December. It is unclear whether the reporter is the same man behind the Twitter account and a press office that has churned out online press releases giving updates on battles and “martyred” fighters in recent months.
MI5 is concerned that the conflict has drawn in dozens of young Britons and last September Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, warned that it was “only a matter of time before we see terrorism on our streets inspired by those who are today fighting alongside al-Shabaab.” Earlier this year three men from East London were jailed for channeling thousands of pounds to three associates who are still with militants in the East African conflict zone.
Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, is also thought to be with al-Shabaab in Somalia. In the first 32-minute video released by al-Shabaab’s media arm, al-Kataib, last November, called “The Burundian Bloodbath” the reporter, dressed in army fatigues, visits the scene of a battle in which he claims 101 soldiers died. Carrying a microphone, he compares the battle at Dayniile with the “glorious battles that took place in the early days of Islam between truth and falsehood” and interviews al-Shabaab fighters who took part. Another 23-minute video called “Battlefront el-Wak - repelling the Kenyan proxies” was released in February. The film shows a battle on September 16 last year between al-Shabaab and the Kenyan backed Azania Militia in the border town of el-Wak before the full-scale invasion by Kenyan troops in October. The video is dedicated to the “martyr” Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the leaders of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP) who was killed in a drone attack in Yemen last September. In the latest 43-minute video, “In the Shade of the Shariah”, first released in May, the same reporter visits Baidoa, a city taken by al-Shabaab militants from Ethiopian soldiers in 2009 before its recapture in February. The video features a clip of a suicide bomber called Abu Ayoub from “Europe” who speaks in English. The reporter praises him as one of “dozens of young men who had left behind the comfort of their homes and families in Europe and the United States in order to take part in the jihad against the Ethiopian invaders.” The International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London is to publish a report this week on al-Shabaab’s Western media strategy which highlights al-Kataib’s use of slick and professional production values to appeal to young men in the West and provide an alternative to mainstream media. The report says the videos “aim to present the group’s version of events, motivate recruits and establish an alternative narrative - where the mainstream media might report losses, al-Shabaab records victories.”
The authors say that a “combination of fortuity and ingenuity has allowed al-Shabaab to cultivate a highly potent message which has succeeded in helping to seduce scores of Western Muslims into supporting its cause.” Two shorter videos have featured young British men – a suicide video from 2007 featuring Ahmed Hussein Ahmed, and a video called ‘Inspire the Believers’ in 2010 which featured Abu Dujana calling for more recruits. A number of Americans have also traveled to Somalia to join al-Shabaab and one of their most powerful media assets has been a rapping propagandist called Omar Shafik Hammami, known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, who has appeared in a series of videos including a lengthy sermon last year called “Lessons learned.” via