200 Islamic extremist fighters split from rebels, pledge allegiance to IS

About 200 Islamic extremist fighters have split from Somalia's Al Shabab rebels, who are allied to Al Qaeda, and have instead pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

AP/File
An armed member of the militant group Al Shabab attends a rally in support of the merger of the Somali militant group Al Shabab with Al Qaeda, on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia, in 2012. The defections of two American Islamic extremist fighters in Somalia highlight tensions within the insurgent group Al Shabab over whether it should remain affiliated to Al Qaeda or switch allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to an AlSShabab commander Dec. 8, 2015.

About 200 Islamic extremist fighters have split from Somalia's Al Shabab rebels, who are allied to Al Qaeda, and have instead pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, Kenya's police chief said Thursday.

The splinter group is operating around the Somali border in Kenya's north, and has carried out at least two attacks in the last two weeks, killing one soldier and two civilians in Mandera County, Joseph Boinett told the Associated Press.

The split in Al Shabab poses an extra challenge for Kenya's security forces, Mr. Boinnet said. Among those who have joined the pro-IS faction of Al Shabab is Mohamed Kuno, alias Gamadhere, who is wanted for the April 2 attack by Al Shabab gunmen on Kenya's Garissa University in the country's east, in which 148 people were killed, Boinnet said.

Al Shabab has vowed retribution on Kenya for sending troops to Somalia to fight the Islamic extremists. Kenya has experienced a series of Al Shabab attacks since it sent its troops to Somalia in 2011.

The defections are causing tensions within Al Shabab.

Two men, an American citizen and U.S. resident, defected from Al Shabab and surrendered to Somali authorities earlier this month fearing they would be killed by their former colleagues on suspicion that they are IS supporters. Al Qaeda and Islamic State are rivals for jihadi recruits.

In October, Nigeria's Boko Haram extremists urged Al Shabab rebels to join them in pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group and thus abandon Al Qaeda.

The appeal from an unidentified armed fighter is part of a wider courting of Al Shabab. Similar messages came nearly two weeks ago from militant extremists in Iraq, Sinai, Syria, and Yemen.

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