SOMALIA: ISIS Recruitment Drive Could Prove ‘Massive Threat to the US Presence’ in the Region

From the depths of ISIS’ self-proclaimed territory in Somalia, members of the terror group released a propaganda video, “Men Who Have Been True”, celebrating dead fighters and detailing the branch’s endeavors to provide food and medical aid to the community.

The video was splattered all over from messaging apps such as Telegram to almost 30 websites including Microsoft One Drive, YouTube, and Google Drive before being taken down by at least some major sites. According to the Counter Extremist Project (CEP), it marks a “clear effort to urge potential foreign fighters to look outside Iraq and Syria.”And the recruitment drive to the Horn of Africa may be working.

Just last week, the Department of Justice announced that three naturalized U.S citizens originally from Kenya but living in Michigan had been arrested – one for embarking on his journey to join ISIS in Somalia and another two for acting as co-conspirators for the trip.

The complaint asserts that all three defendants pledged allegiance to ISIS through videos they recorded themselves, and at least two are alleged to have discussed with each other their desire to join ISIS, to kill non-believers, and even to potentially use a car for a martyrdom operation to run down non-believers in the United States if they could not travel overseas to fight for ISIS.

But beyond just a homegrown threat, ISIS in Somalia is said to be burgeoning and over the course of 2018 “significantly expanded its operations” since claiming responsibility for its first attack in April 2016, at the height of the ISIS global reign.

Until now, most of the focus in the country has been on countering al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group.

“ISIS is more appealing ideologically and attracts more defections than al-Shabab. This is why they are getting traction,” explained retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rudolph Atallah, now chief executive officer of White Mountain Research, and former Africa Counterterrorism in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “ISIS appeals to young men who don’t feel like they fit into normal society, and there is latitude given by Baghdadi for what they can and cannot do.”

According to data compiled by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)’s Long War Journal, the jihadist group has claimed 106 attacks in Somalia since April 2016. In 2018 alone, ISS claimed 66 operations.

“While this tally is less consequential than other areas in which the Islamic State operates, this number is more than the total number of claimed operations in Somalia in 2016 and 2017 combined,” the analysis revealed.

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