Al-Shabaab expands capabilities with naval training – New propaganda video

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NAIROBI, Kenya (KAAB TV) – In a stark demonstration of their growing capabilities, the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al-Shabaab has released a one-hour-long propaganda video featuring hundreds of new recruits parading with seized Somali army weapons in an open field in southern Somalia.

The video, analysts say, was likely shot a few months ago and showcases the group’s extensive training capabilities and enhanced cache of weapons.

Al-Shabaab has been carrying out two decades of violence in Somalia and neighboring countries.

The video, set in a training camp named after Usama Bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader killed by the U.S. in 2011, highlights the militant group’s growing sophistication.

Al-Shabaab officially became an Al-Qaeda offshoot in 2012.

The parade features the introduction of a mounted horse unit and a motorcycle unit, signaling a strategic enhancement in their mobility and rapid response potential.

“The fact that the militants brandish new light machine guns, heavy weapons, military fatigue, and other combat equipment – all seized from Somali forces, is a clear indication of the failure in the international community’s support to the corrupt system,” says Ahmed Naser Ali, a security and governance analyst.

He also noted the presence of newer models of AK variants and other modern small arms, as well as more anti-aircraft mounted technicals.

Militants use similar military fatigue used by Somali government forces.
Militants use similar military fatigue used by Somali government forces.

Training Regimen and Foreign Influence

The video shows a rigorous paramilitary training workout regime, including karate and other martial combat techniques, agility and mobility exercises on an obstacle course, and training on naval warfare.

Sources suggest that the trainers are likely foreign terrorists within the ranks of Al-Shabaab.

“It seems they are preparing for sea or underwater attacks. There is no way they would train for water navigation skills unless they are planning something significant,” says Naser Ali.

Rashid Abdi, an analyst with Sahan Research, also noted that Ethiopia is in Al-Shabaab’s crosshairs.

“…New propaganda video is voiced-over in Amharic and Oromo languages. In July 2022, Al-Shabaab launched incursions into Ethiopia, infiltrated fighters. Al-Shabaab never managed to carry out attacks inside Ethiopia. The ‘need’ to do so is now far higher,” he said.

Among other concerning developments, the militants seem to be upgrading its training exercises on drive-by shootings and abduction tactics, likely targeting high-profile individuals such as government officials, journalists and aid workers which the group has targeted in the past.

The presence of specialized horse-mounted and motorcycle units further emphasizes their tactical versatility.

The Somali government forces, backed by local clan militia groups, have been conducting military offensives against Al-Shabaab’s positions in southern and central Somalia since 2022.

However, local military sources indicate that the group has managed to reclaim areas captured by the Somali forces and the clans.

The militants were seen studying compass navigation, territorial mapping, and communication methods using walkie-talkies, satellite GPS phones, and maps.

Al-Shabaab has been trying to exploit the dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia over the Red Sea access Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Addis Ababa with Somaliland on January 1, 2024. The video even includes maps of Mogadishu and Hargeisa of Somaliland.

Language and Propaganda Tactics

The video’s language diversity is another area of concern for analysts and counter-terrorism experts.

It includes translations in English, Somali, Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Arabic, and French.

The militants also leveraged other conflicts, such as the violence against Muslim Rohingyas, India’s government’s oppression of Indian Muslims, and the Israeli-Palestine conflict. They also referenced historical atrocities like the 1964 incidents in Zanzibar and other areas in Africa.

Al-Shabaab’s sophisticated propaganda and training efforts underscore the persistent and evolving threat they pose in the region, challenging both local and international security efforts.

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