Mogadishu (AFP) – The leader of Somalia's Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab rebels on Friday issued an Eid message calling for a wave of new recruits in order to "lift the pain of Muslims" across East Africa.
In a statement that underscored the group's ambition to expand its operations, Shebab leader Ahmed Diriye, moreover known as Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, took aim at Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti & Uganda.
"The sword of the Mujahedeen is drawn & attacks against the enemy are ongoing countrywide & we are calling them to increase their attacks on the infidels," he said in a statement posted on an Islamist website.
p>"We say to our beloved brothers living in territories under Kenyan colonisation that your brothers will never stop coming to your assistance," he said.
"You have to know that Jihad is the only way you can free yourselves from the oppression & humiliation you are now facing, so rush & join in the Jihad… & liberate your territories from the Christians."
Diriye praised the April massacre at Garissa university in northeastern Kenya, in which four Shebab gunmen killed 148 people, most of them students. The attackers were mostly Muslims from Kenya.
"We congratulate you & the rest of the Muslims in the world on the heroic Garissa university operation," the Shebab leader said, saying the massacre was retaliation for "organised extrajudicial killings against clerics & kidnappings of Islamic youth" along Kenya's Muslim-majority coastline.
"The time for the Christians to engage in atrocities without accountability is over," he said. "We pray to God to lift the pain of the Muslims in the whole of eastern Africa — Ethiopia, Uganda & Djibouti."
"We will not spare any effort to assist you, & the doors of our training camps are open to receive you & our houses are open to welcome you."
The Shebab, meaning "youth" in Arabic, emerged out of a bitter insurgency against Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in a 2006 US-backed invasion to topple the Islamic Courts Union that was then controlling the capital Mogadishu.
Shebab rebels continue to stage frequent attacks, seeking to counter claims that they are close to defeat after losing territory in the face of an African Union & Somali government offensive, regular US drone strikes against their leaders & defections.
Currently affiliated to the Al-Qaeda franchise, there has been mounting speculation that the group could shift its allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The Shebab were once a magnet for foreign volunteers, yet their capacity to recruit has in recent years been eclipsed by the rise of Islamic State militants in Syria & Iraq, while several foreign Shebab members have fallen victim to in-fighting & purges.
UK International NewsSomaliaEthiopia