Extremists from Somalia's Al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab have evacuated more than 70 troops to Yemen, according to All Headline News [AHN]. The effort is also a reinforcement of al-Qaida gains in Yemen, where discontent has paralyzed the central government and given the group the opportunity to form a small Islamic Emirate in the country's south.
A small boat carrying 76 foreign fighters, including top commanders of al-Shabaab, sailed from the Somali port town of Kismayo on Sunday evening, according to an al-Shabaab fighter calling himself Abu-Hureryah. Western helicopters had struck an al-Shabaab training camp on the outskirts of the port just days before, killing more than 39 militants.
"For the past several months we have been losing more lands and many fighters of us were killed, so this time it seems that our brothers in Yemen have more chance than we have here in Somalia… that is why the Mujahideen have left for Yemen," Abu Hureryah told AHN during a telephone conversation. "I will not go to Yemen myself, I would like to go to Kenya where my family had fled already—I will go back to Somalia when Islam is more strong," the 19 year-old said during the interview.
Abu Hureryah said that more Somali and foreign fighters would be evacuated from the port, while AHN reported that more fighters would be evacuated from fighting in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.
The news reports back up claims about al-Shabaab's growing relationship with al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), made by incoming U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
"The threat from Al-Shabaab to the U.S. and Western interests in the Horn of Africa and to the U.S. homeland is significant and on the rise," Panetta said in written remarks to the Senate Armed Services committee. "Al-Shabaab leaders, who have claimed affiliation with Al-Qa'ida since 2007, are developing ties with Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, and are showing an increasing desire to stage international terrorist attacks in addition to their acts of violence inside Somalia," he noted.
Al-Shabaab has fought a back-and-forth battle with Somali and African Union (AU) forces. The group has successfully recruited many youths from East Africa and the West, but has been plagued by desertions from forced conscripts in Somalia. After some successes against African forces, the group has lost a significant amount of territory, which was formed into another autonomous region ruled by government supporters.