Al Shabaab, the Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for attacking Nairobi’s Westgate mall on Saturday, has indicated via its Twitter account that three Americans took part in the assault that has killed over 60 people and injured over 150 others thus far.
Al Shabaab provided the names of the Americans on its Twitter account; Ahmed Mohamed Isse of St. Paul, Minnesota, Abdifatah Osman Keenadiid of Minneapolis, and Gen Mustafe Noorudiin of Kansas City, Missouri.
Since 2007, dozens of Americans have travelled to Somalia to fight with Al Shabaab. Many of these Americans have received weapons training alongside recruits from other countries, and have used the training to fight against the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and the international forces that have backed it. At least three of these American recruits have engaged in suicide bombings in Somalia.
One such recruit from Minneapolis, 22-year-old Abidsalan Hussein Ali, was one of two suicide bombers who attacked African Union troops in October 2011. The first American Al Shabaab suicide bomber, Shirwa Ahmed, carried out a suicide bombing at the Ethiopian Consulate and the presidential palace in Hargeisa in October 2009. The second, Farah Mohamad Beledi, carried out a suicide bombing in May 2011, targeting a military base outside Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Most of the American men that have trained with Al Shabaab are believed to have been radicalized in the U.S., and have been recruited by Al Shabaab both on the Internet and in person. Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama, is perhaps the most well-known American recruiter for Al Shabaab. The group disseminated online propaganda videos featuring Hammami to recruit young American men to join its insurgency.
Hammami was reportedly executed in Somalia last week by his former associates. Hammami apparently split with Al Shabaab over his belief that it was interested only in local politics and the fight in Somalia, rather than the cause of a global ”jiahd of the entire Ummah [Muslim nation].”
Although most of Al Shabaab's violent acts have occurred within Somalia's borders, it has expressed a willingness to attack outside targets. In July 2010 it committed twin bombings against targets in Uganda that killed more than 70 people, including an American aid worker. Danish intelligence officials have alleged that an attempt to kill a Danish cartoonist who printed controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005 by a Somali national six months before the Uganda is linked to Al Shabaab as well.
The group has also declared an “open battle” against Israel, which it deems the “oppressing Zionist entity,” and Jewish interests in Africa. Israelis owned stores in the Westgate mall and the attack underscores Al Shabaab’s battle with Jews and Israel.
See ADL’s Report: Al Shabaab's American Recruits