Al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI)

From: "Chapter 8; Other Groups of Concern," Country Reports on Terrorism 2005, US Department of State, April 30, 2006.

AIAI, a Somali extremist group that was formed in the 1980s and reached its peak in the early 1990s, failed to obtain its objective of establishing a Salafist emirate in Somalia and steadily declined following the downfall of the Siad Barre regime in 1991 and Somalia's subsequent collapse into anarchy. AIAI was not internally cohesive, lacked central leadership, and suffered divisions between factions. Following military defeats in 1996 and 1997, AIAI devolved into a loose network of cells, factions, and individuals without central control or coordination. In recent years, the existence of a coherent entity operating as AIAI has become difficult to prove. Former elements of AIAI continue to pursue a variety of agendas ranging from social services and education to insurgency activities in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia. Some sheikhs formerly associated with AIAI espouse a fundamentalist version of Islam, with particular emphasis on a strict adherence to Sharia (Islamic law), a view often at odds with Somali emphasis on clan identity. A small group of former AIAI members embrace global jihad and support al-Qaida members in East Africa. There is no information, however, to indicate that the group itself supported terrorist activity against the United States or U.S. interests. The United Nations al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Committee has listed AIAI for its associations with al-Qaida.

Individuals formerly associated with AIAI may have been responsible for several kidnappings and murders of relief workers in Somalia and Somaliland since 2003 and also in the late 1990s. Factions of AIAI also may have been responsible for a series of bomb attacks in public places in Addis Ababa in 1996 and 1997. Most AIAI factions in recent years have concentrated on broadening their religious base, renewed an emphasis on building businesses, and undertaken "hearts and minds" actions, such as sponsoring orphanages and schools and providing security that uses an Islamic legal structure in the areas where it is active.

The actual membership strength is unknown and remains open for debate.

Location/Area of Operation
Primarily in Somalia, with a presence in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, Kenya, and possibly Djibouti.

External Aid
Receives funds from Middle East financiers and Somali diaspora communities in Europe, North America, and the Arabian Peninsula.