A high ranking al-Shabaab official said Wednesday that al-Qaida helped his group overthrow the former Somali government.
"In the 1990s, the martyred al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has sent a number of fighters to Somalia to train some of Somali guerrillas in order to help dispose [of the] Somali military regime," Sheikh Mukhtar Rabow, known as Abu Mansur, said.
Al-Shabaab's ties to al-Qaida are well established. The group has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and vowed to seek revenge for his death after U.S. Navy SEALS shot and killed him in his Abbottabad compound.
Abu Mansur's admission shows the alliance dates back to before al-Shabaab's rise to power.
In 2004, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) was recognized as the first legitimate Somali governing body since the government's collapse in 1991. Islamist groups, unhappy with the new secular government, began to fight the TFG for control of the Somali capital Mogadishu and other key cities.
Amid the fighting, al-Shabaab emerged out of the Islamic Courts Union and Al-Ittihad Al-Islami (AIAI), two groups dedicated to the establishment of pan-Islamic state, from 2003 to 2004. Several AIAI militants who fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan went on to serve as commanders in al-Shabaab.
The TFG continues to fight al-Shabaab, with help from African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces. Al-Shabaab, said Abu Mansur, continually relies on al-Qaida for military and financial support.
Though the face of al-Qaida is gone, bin Laden continues to inspire the Somali militants.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage made this clear while speaking in Mogadishu after bin Laden's death. "We shall never divert from the path of Sheikh Osama and we shall continue the jihad till we taste the death our brother Osama faced, or achieve victory and rule the whole world."
Similarly, American-born al-Shabaab leader Omar Hammami said that bin Laden's death will not stop attacks against U.S. interests.