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[Dehai-WN] Foreignpolicy.com: Somalia's al-Shabab militants rebrand

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sat, 10 Dec 2011 00:02:54 +0100

 
<http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/08/somalias_al_shabab_rebrands>
Somalia's al-Shabab militants rebrand


Posted By <http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/blog/651437> Uri Friedman
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/images/091022_meta_block.gifFriday, December
10, 2011 - 5:47 PM http://www.foreignpolicy.com/images/091022_meta_block.gif



Want a play-by-play of the battles al-Shabab militants are waging today with
<http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/witnesses-unidentified-warplanes
-bomb-militant-bases-in-southern-somali-town-1-dead/2011/12/08/gIQA5T1veO_st
ory.html> Kenyan forces in southern Somalia and
<http://blogs.voanews.com/breaking-news/2011/12/08/violence-in-somali-capita
l-escalates/> Somali troops in Mogadishu? Look no further than al-Shabab's
Twitter feed, which
<https://twitter.com/HSMPress/status/144456333108838401> launched yesterday
with a <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16091751> quote from the
Koran ("in the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful") and has
since tweeted in vivid and impassioned English. The Kenya Defense Forces
"envisaged a lightening invasion of
<https://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%23Somalia> #Somalia but the Blitzkrieg
they'd hope for became a thorny quagmire for the inexperienced soldiers,"
<https://twitter.com/HSMPress> _at_HSMPress (short for Harakat al-Shabab
al-Mujahideen) <https://twitter.com/HSMPress/status/144690477462069249>
declared this morning,
<https://twitter.com/HSMPress/status/144689873952051200> adding, "Military
ineptitude, deteriorating economy, social imbalance, & public ambivalence
trigger a desultory face-saving attempt by the
<https://twitter.com/#%21/search?q=%23KDF> #KDF: FLEE!" A
<https://twitter.com/HSMPress/status/144693513207033857> battle cry followed
minutes later: "Despite the tragedy and loss of life & wealth, a Mujahid
does not desert the dignity to defend what he holds dearest: His Faith!"

The new presence on Twitter, as
<http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/12/shabab-twitter/> Wired notes, may
be part of a larger rebranding effort for the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic
militant group. Earlier this week,
<http://www.somaliareport.com/index.php/post/2212/Al-Shabaab_to_Change_Name_
to_Imaarah_Islamiyah> Somalia Report noted that al-Shabab had decided to
change its name to Imaarah Islamiyah ("Islamic Authority"). "Al-Shabab means
'youth' but many of us, including the leaders, are very old," a spokesman
for the militant group explained. Wizened but still very much with it, mind
you. After all, they're on Twitter.

In truth, though, al-Shabab's Twitter account represents more of a
propaganda campaign than a branding campaign. On Wednesday, Wired pointed
out that "journalists, terrorism researchers and aid workers make up the
lion's share of its early followers, not eager Muslim youth" (hence the
value of English-language tweeting). _at_HSMPress serves as a counterweight to
the <http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/11/kenya-tweets-air-raids/> much-
<http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15547512> publicized
<https://twitter.com/MajorEChirchir> Twitter feed maintained by Kenyan
military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, who has used the microblogging
service to <https://twitter.com/MajorEChirchir/status/131394603067777024>
warn Somali civilians about air raids and get in the occasional jab. "Even
with Al Shabaab change of name, KDF/TFG is committed in delivering the
promise," Chirchir
<https://twitter.com/MajorEChirchir/status/144054482295205888> tweeted this
week, in reference to the Kenyan and Somali militaries. "Reduce Al Shabaab
effectiveness."

The proxy microblog battle speaks to a larger trend: Twitter, for all its
pluses, is becoming a bit of a propaganda cesspool as the power of new media
becomes more difficult to ignore. <https://twitter.com/ISAFmedia> NATO has
been
<http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/09/natos-responds-kabul-attacks-
twitter-flame-war/42454/> tweet-sparring with two
<https://twitter.com/alemarahweb> Taliban <https://twitter.com/ABalkhi>
feeds for months now (a sample salvo from NATO today: "Scores of coalition
killed in Kunar mortar attacks, huh?
<http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/12/08/somalias_al_shabab_rebrands#
%21/Alemarahweb> _at_Alemarahweb How about none killed"). The North Korean
government <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/17/world/asia/17north.html>
launched a Twitter feed -- <https://twitter.com/uriminzok> _at_uriminzok ("our
nation") -- last year, prompting the South Korean government to
<http://www.npr.org/2011/12/01/142998183/in-south-korea-old-law-leads-to-new
-crackdown> threaten any of its citizens who reply or retweet _at_uriminzok's
messages with legal action. This week, the House Homeland Security
subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
<http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/197591-lawmakers-worry-
about-terrorists-on-twitter> held a hearing on the threat posed by
terrorists using social media tools such as Twitter to attract followers.

Propaganda, as the popular feeds mentioned above attest, does indeed attract
followers, though one imagines not all of them are ideological sympathizers.
After two days and 21 tweets, _at_HSMPress already has 759 followers and
counting.

 






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Received on Fri Dec 09 2011 - 18:02:50 EST
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