Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab is linking up with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday in an interview with CBS News.
"[W]hat we've seen in the last several years is the rise of al-Shabaab," said Clinton, "which proudly claims some affinity with al-Qaida, which tries to work with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb."
Al-Shabaab's links to the Yemeni-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have been widely reported. The relationship between the two groups was the focus of a recent House hearing held by Rep. Peter King, R.-N.Y. Just last week, eight ships filled with al-Qaida weapons sent from Yemen reached the shoreline of al-Shabaab-controlled territory in Somalia.
While both groups are known to be tied to al-Qaida, this appears to be the first report about a specific link between al-Shabaab and AQIM, which has established itself in the Sahel region in Algeria and Mali, far west of Somalia. A State Department spokeswoman confirmed to the Investigative Project that the quote is correct and that it "speaks for itself."
AQIM, like al-Shabaab, began as an Islamist movement opposed to its secular government. Having started solely as a national movement inside Algeria known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, the group pledged allegiance to al-Qaida in 2003. In 2006, the group became an official al-Qaida affiliate and in early 2007 took on the AQIM name.
AQIM has conducted successful terrorist attacks against Western and government targets in Africa. Recently, however, the group has made most of its money through kidnapping for ransom and smuggling drugs and weapons.
Recent reports indicate a relationship between al-Shabaab and another group to its west: Nigeria's Boko Haram. Boko Haram released a statement in June claiming al-Shabaab had trained its fighters. "We want to make it known that our jihadists have arrived in Nigeria from Somalia where they received real training on warfare from our brethren who made that country ungovernable," the statement said.
In addition to working with official al-Qaida affiliates, al-Shabaab has openly expressed its support for al-Qaida. The group has pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and vowed to avenge his death after U.S. Navy SEALs shot and killed him in his Abbottabad compound May 2.