Somali terrorist group Al-Shabaab has released a frightening new video that appears to show the mass executions of innocent civilians led to a beach and ordered to swim for their lives, while Islamist thugs shoot at them in the surf.
The video, which follows slickly-produced, stomach-turning clips from fellow Islamic terror groups ISIS and Boko Haram, shows the masked killers calmly assassinating half a dozen young Somali men with a barrage of bullets from rapid-firing automatic weapons as they struggle to flee, then speeding off in armored vehicles, leaving their victims’ corpses behind.
The disturbing 2:22 minute video, “Remembrance 2,” the second in a series produced by Al-Shabaab's main media wing, the al-Kataib Foundation, has eerie similarities to the Feb. 15 video of 21 Coptic Christians being marched along a Libyan beach before being beheaded by black-clad members of ISIS.
“More than likely, Al-Shabaab is sending signals to the Islamic State that there is little difference between the groups.”
- Jasmine Opperman, TRAC
“In its desperation to regain international attention and prestige, Al-Shabaab uses the Islamic State's propaganda tactics and brutality sending a message they not only have the capacity to execute at free will, but also announcing their undeterred presence,” said Jasmine Opperman, the African director of the terrorist-tracking group, Terrorism Research & Analysis Consortium. “More than likely, Al-Shabaab is sending signals to the Islamic State that there is little difference between the groups.”
The video will backfire on Al-Shabaab, predicts Ryan Mauro, national security analyst and adjunct professor of Homeland Security at the Clarion Project.
“It does nothing to persuade jihadists to support Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda instead of ISIS and its brutality will only further alienate Muslims,” Mauro said. “When ISIS brags about massacring civilians, it is self-aware enough to include lengthy justifications. Al-Shabaab fails to do that and just looks like serial killers.”
The most apparent objective of the video is to raise Al-Shabaab's profile and honor its so-called ‘martyrs, Mauro said, but added Al-Shabaab, while trying to increase its propaganda quality, is still falling short of the grisly standard set by ISIS.
The murders are captured on short, crudely edited documentaries, unlike ISIS, which is much more media savvy.
“Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda desperately need to convince jihadist audiences that it is effective and not yesterday's news, especially after fellow Al-Qaeda affiliate Boko Haram in Nigeria swore allegiance to ISIS,” Mauro said. “It is known that a prominent American member of Al-Shabaab has defected to ISIS, so the group should assume that many other supporters are thinking of doing the same thing.”
There are some indications that factions within Al-Shabaab are moving closer to the Islamic State.
Senior ISIS media activist and inciter Hamil al-Bushra appealed to "our people in Somalia" just weeks ago, asking them to “pledge of allegiance” to ISIS and also called on Al-Shabaab to execute lone wolf type attacks, Opperman said.
Al-Shabaab's use of ISIS tactics, such as filming their bloody and terrifying exploits on video and making them public, must not be seen as indicative of an imminent pledge of allegiance to ISIS, Opperman said. The group already has stated allegiance to Al Qaeda.
In addition, Al-Shabaab doesn’t need direction from ISIS to commit their horrifying and senseless acts. On Nov. 22, 2014, Al-Shabaab ambushed and executed 28 passengers aboard a bus in northern Kenya, after they failed to recite the Muslim statement of faith, also known as the Shahadah, and weeks later, Al-Shabaab raided a quarry in northern Kenya, nine miles from the Somali border, and executed 36 Christian workers.
As with Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, whose numbers probably don’t exceed 2,000, started with a narrow objective that reflected a combination of nationalism and Islamic extremism. As Al-Shabaab expands its regional focus, a broader extremist ideology is transcending Somalia and causing concern in places like Kenya and Uganda.
There is a threat against the West as well, said Tony Schiena, a former veteran of the African intelligence and paramilitary community, who now runs the Multi Operational Security Agency Intelligence Company, one of the leaders in the private military industry.
“Al-Shabab went from jihadists carrying out attacks in the failed state of Somalia and neighboring countries to threats against American, Canadian and United Kingdom targets within their own borders,” Schiena said. “It’s alliance is with Al Qaeda, [but] there are already pro-ISIS factions within its ranks wanting to pledge loyalty to ISIS and have Al-Shabaab follow a path already laid down by ... Boko Haram, with an alliance with ISIS, broadening its power, reach and capabilities.”
Al-Shabaab remains prominent in the southern and central areas of Somalia, Opperman said, and also continues attacks in Mogadishu, such as the one, Friday, on Hotel Maka Al Mukaram in Mogadishu where nine people were murdered.
Malia Zimmerman is an award-winning investigative reporter focusing on crime, homeland security, illegal immigration crime, terrorism and political corruption. Follow her on twitter at @MaliaMZimmerman