Al Shabab 101: What is the Somali terrorist group?

Al Shabab has long fomented violence and radical Islam in Somalia, helping keep its reputation as the poster child for "failed states." The involvement of the Al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group in the September 2013 attack on Kenya's Westgate mall as well as other attacks now appears to have put the group in the cross hairs of terrorism experts, and prompted the US Navy SEALs raid that was unsuccessful in its effort to capture one of its commanders.

Chances are, you'll hear alot more about it in the future.

1. Where did Al Shabab come from?

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP/File
Armed AlShabab fighters just outside Mogadishu prepare to travel into the city in pickup trucks after vowing there would be new waves of attacks against Ethiopian troops, Dec. 8, 2008.

The Islamist militia is only a few years old, taking root in the ashes of the old Islamic Courts Union government that was overthrown by a US-backed Ethiopian invasion in mid-2006. When Ethiopian troops left, Al Shabab, which translates as "The Youth," took control of perhaps a third of the country, with anywhere from a few thousand to 14,000 fighters. The money to feed troops and buy weapons and ammunition seems to come mainly from Al Shabab’s control of Kismayo port, which brings in up to $50 million a year in import duties for smuggled sugar bound for Kenya and charcoal bound for the Middle East. More money may come from individual donations from the expatriate Somali community, scattered in places as disparate as London, Nairobi, and Minneapolis.

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