Somali Al-Qaeda Affiliate Al-Shabaab Tweets Jihad and Martyrdom

December 13, 2011

Background

As part of its research, the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor follows the multiple ways in which jihadi groups are using Twitter – “tweeting” news flashes from the jihadi fronts, reporting attacks, battles, and other operational activities, sharing videos, and more.[1]

Jihadi groups’ use of Twitter is part of their online media strategy of using Western websites and technologies, along with uploading videos to YouTube[2] and to the Internet Archive,[3] creating official Facebook pages,[4] and other methods. Jihadis have come to depend on free web hosting, where content can be uploaded anonymously, reliably, and at no cost.

Headquartered in San Francisco, California and with servers in San Antonio, Texas, Boston, Massachusetts, and New York, Twitter – the online social networking and microblogging service – is increasingly being used by terrorist organizations and their media outlets, and their online followers are growing in number. These organizations include the Taliban,[5] Jihad Al-Ansar Media,[6] Nukhbat Al-I’lam Al-Jihadi,[7] Ribat Media Center,[8] and many others.

Twitter’s Terms of Services Do Not Ban Terrorist Groups

According to Twitter’s Terms of Service, account holders may use the Services only if “you [the user] can form a binding contract with Twitter and are not a person barred from receiving services under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction.”[9] Its “Restrictions on Content” state, “We reserve the right at all times (but will not have an obligation) to remove or refuse to distribute any Content on the Services and to terminate users or reclaim usernames… We also reserve the right to… enforce the Terms, including investigation of potential violations hereof.”[10] Twitter also provides readers with the option to report violations.

Twitter’s Terms of Service do not ban terrorist groups, which are increasingly active on it, but focus instead trademark violations, breaches of privacy, child pornography, copyright issues, harassment and violent threats, impersonation, and “name squatting.”[11]

The following report is about Al-Shabaab and its Twitter activity, and includes an interview with Al-Shabaab’s Twitter conducted by an Al-Jazeera correspondent via her Twitter account.

Al-Shabaab: A State Dept-Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization

On February 26, 2008, the U.S. government, pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224, designated Al-Shabaab a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. The Department of State announcement stated that the group “poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.”[12]

The Department of State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2010, released August 18, 2011, describes Al-Shabaab’s activities as follows: “The group has claimed responsibility for several high profile bombings and shootings throughout Somalia targeting African Union troops and TFG officials. It has been responsible for the assassination of numerous civil society figures, government officials, and journalists. Al-Shabaab fighters or those who have claimed allegiance to the group have conducted violent attacks and targeted assassinations against international aid workers and nongovernmental organizations. During 2010, al-Shabaab carried out multiple attacks… In the organization’s first attack outside of Somalia, al-Shabaab was responsible for the July 11 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda during the World Cup, which killed nearly 80 people, including one American citizen.”[13]

Al-Shabaab frequently threatens to attack the U.S. Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, the group vowed to continue the jihad against America.[14] An October 29, 2011 message from Al-Shabaab read: “My brothers and sisters do jihad in America, do jihad in Canada, do jihad in England, anywhere in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in China, anywhere you find kuffar. Fight them, and be firm against them.”[15] On May 8, 2011, senior Al-Shabaab commander Fu’ad Shongole threatened to kill U.S. citizens in revenge for bin Laden’s killing, saying: “We are sending the Americans and their allies the following message: You made us a target, so we will make you a target and kill Americans wherever we find them.”[16]

Al-Shabaab is media savvy; its leaders frequently hold press conferences with major media outlets, including Al-Jazeera, in attendance. They maintain a media company, Al-Kataib;[17] an Internet TV network with the same name;[18] and a radio station, Al-Andalus;[19] and also put out a great many press releases, that are distributed on major jihadi Internet forums. Today on the main Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi forum Al-Shumoukh Al-Islam, Al-Shabaab announced that they had amputated the hands of two Somalis accused of theft.

About Al-Shabaab’s Twitter Page

On December 7, 2011, Al-Shabaab entered the twitterverse; a tweet on its new official Twitter page stated “Martyrdom seeker infiltrates K4 circle in #Mogadishu. 3 #Ugandanm 7 TFG soldiers pronounced dead on the scene. 2 mercenaries injured.”[20] The official Al-Shabaab Twitter page[21] is titled “HSM Press – Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Press Office,” and its avatar is the Al-Qaeda flag. On December 10, 2011, the HSM Press Office changed its “Bio” to “Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen is an Islamic movement that governs South & Cen. Somalia & part of the global struggle towards the revival of Islamic Khilaafa.”[22] As of December 12, 2011, the page had 56 tweets and 2,489 followers.

The HSM Twitter account is also using a Yahoo Account, [email protected], to connect with media and potential new Al-Shabaab members. It should be mentioned that on January 1, 2011 Al-Shabaab published a list of the email addresses of its media wing, Al-Kataib. The statement, released on the Shumukh jihadi forum, said that the email addresses, [email protected],[email protected], and [email protected], were being provided so that anyone could convey an opinion, idea, or advice to the group. The statement also included the encryption key code to be used when corresponding.[23]

Al-Jazeera Twitter Interview with Al-Shabaab Twitter Account

On December 13, 2011, Al-Jazeera correspondent in the Ivory Coast Nazanine Moshiri used her Twitter account (http://twitter.com/#!/nazaninemoshiri) to interview the Al-Shabaab HSMPress account about their Twitter and other activities. The following are excerpts from the interview:


nazaninemoshiri

@HSMPress well it certainly isn’t that easy or safe for me to come and interview you face to face is it?
December 13, 2011


HSMPress

@nazaninemoshiri This must be #AlJazeera’s innovative new approach to Twitter interviews. Should we call it Twinterview?
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress  what are you fighting for? International Jihad? Or a peaceful united future for Somalis? December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress  Most ordinary Somalis want peace, and reconstruction, what message do you have for them?
December 13, 2011


HSMPress

@nazaninemoshiri How can one lay down his arms when his enemies are grinding their swords to terminate him. No to negotiations undr invasion
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress: what will it take for you to come to the negotiating table, and lay down your arms? December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri
Yes do & HSM is united unlike the crippled TFG militia. A fragmented org. couldn’t possibly confront so many adversaries.
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress  Do your views on Twitter represent the whole of your movement? Isn’t Al Shabab fragmented, into different layers of leadership?
December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri  Most of it is propaganda masqueraded as objectivity, thus precluding the possibility of obtaining anything impartial
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress  how do you view the way you are portrayed by the media?
December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri bloodshed is the predictable corollary of foreign intervention; its impact on geopolitical structure of the region is broad
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress but unfortunately, the Somali war isn’t virtual is it. People on both sides are being killed or injured.
December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri A little inconvenient, of course, but tele-density here in Somalia is 3X higher than that of some countries, like Ethiopia!
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress  is that how you are able to Tweet so easily from Somalia?
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress True, but you have to be on same network as the person you are calling. When desk in Doha calls us, often can’t get through.
December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri
Your comment regarding lack of reception is open to dispute; Somali telecom industry is booming with millions of subscribers
December 13, 2011


HSMPress
@nazaninemoshiri If #US has a virtual embassy in #Tehran, why can’t HSM maintain a virtual presence to impart the reality of Somali warfare?
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
@HSMPress This is my take on your tweeting.blogs.aljazeera.net/africa/2011/12…
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri
#AlShabab #Somalia
: check out what I think about the group going on Twitter. blogs.aljazeera.net/africa/2011/12…
December 13, 2011


nazaninemoshiri

#Somalia Conflict – Al Jazeera English aljazeera.com/indepth/spotli… via @ajenglish
December 13, 2011

Image of the Al-Jazeera correspondent’s nazaninemoshiri Twitter account page:

Some Notable Al-Shabaab Tweets

Al-Shabaab’s tweets are very similar to the Taliban’s – direct messages to the media, battlefront news, and official statements.


HSMPress
Most comments are predictably ludicrous, irrational and uninspiring and, therefore, do not warrant the time for a response.
December 10, 2011


HSMPress
We’d anticipated some irrational outbursts, but the level of absurdity here is quite astonishing. Nothing constructive to consider thus far!
December 10, 2011


HSMPress  PR: We hereby clarify that we do not recognize the United Nations, or any of its institutions and affiliates, as legitimate authorities
December 9, 2011


HSMPress
HSM PR: #UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit to #Somalia is simply a futile morale booster for the African Union forces in #Mogadishu.
December 9, 2011


HSMPress
Journalists are encouraged to verify and double-check their sources instead of regurgitating unreliable accounts often from subjective media
December 9, 2011


HSMPress
FWIW, all reports of #AlShabaab re-branding are false! Suggestion from Somali scholars was perhaps misconstrued as an official HSM statement
December 9, 2011


HSMPress
The details of some of the soldiers will be published Monday 1100h Mecca time and will include names, ID cards, ranks of the slain soldiers
December 8, 2011


HSMPress
#KDF: Despite the tragedy and loss of life & wealth, a Mujahid does not desert the dignity to defend what he holds dearest: His Faith!
December 8, 2011


HSMPress
#KDF: An army without experience, clear strategy & objective is fragile to winds of resistance & slightest confrontation precipitates defeat
December 8, 2011


HSMPress
#KDF envisaged a lightening invasion of #Somalia but the Blitzkrieg they’d hope for became a thorny quagmire for the inexperienced soldiers
December 8, 2011


HSMPress

By time the intoxicated #TFG militia sober up from their excessive Qaat sessions, the scales of war would have turned rather significantly!
December 8, 2011


HSMPress
Sheikh Abu Mus’ab (Military Spokesman): “The Jihad being waged here in Somali shall continue untill the country is purified of all invaders”
December 7, 2011


HSMPress
6-DEC: Mujahidin forces attack #Amisom base in Dharkenley District, #Mogadishu. 3-hour battle resulted in some #Amisom casualties+base burnt
December 7, 2011


HSMPress
6-DEC: Martyrdom seeker infiltrates K4 circle in #Mogadishu. 3 #Ugandanm 7 TFG soldiers pronounced dead on the scene. 2 mercenaries injured
December 7, 2011

*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute.

Endnotes:

[1] For example, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 755, “Deleting Online Jihad on Twitter: The Case of British Jihadi Anjem Choudary – Tweeting for the Caliphate and the Conquest of the White House,” November 4, 2011, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/5779.htm

[2] MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis, “Part I – Deleting Online Jihad and the Case of Anwar Al-Awlaki: Nearly Three Million Viewings of Al-Awlaki’s YouTube Videos – Included Would-Be Christmas Airplane Bomber, Fort Hood Shooter, 7/7 London Bomber, and Would-Be Fort Dix Bombers”http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3871.htm

[4] MEMRI JTTM, “Jihadi Media Company Announces New Website,” July 25, 2011, http://www.memrijttm.org/content/en/blog_personal.htm?id=5256%C2%B6m=GJN.

[12] U.S. State Dept, February 26, 2008, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/other/des/102448.htm: “In the Matter of the Designation of al-Shabaab…  as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist pursuant to Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224, as Amended. Acting under the authority of and in accordance with Section 1(b) of Executive Order 13224 of September 23, 2001… I hereby determine that the organization known as al-Shabaab…  has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of U.S. nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States. Consistent with the determination in Section 10 of Executive Order 13224 that ‘prior notice to persons determined to be subject to the Order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States would render ineffectual the blocking and other measures authorized in the Order because of the ability to transfer funds instantaneously,’ I determine that no prior notice needs to be provided to any person subject to this determination who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, because to do so would render ineffectual the measures authorized in the Order.”

[13] Country Reports on Terrorism 2010, U.S. Department of State, Chapter 6: Foreign Terrorist Organizations, August 18, 2011, http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2010/