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Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has released a joint video with Al Qaeda, announcing the two groups have merged.
Somali Islamist militant group Al Shabaab has released a joint video with Al Qaeda, announcing the two groups have merged.
Al Qaeda's leader Ayman al Zawahiri gave "glad tidings" that Al Shabaab had joined with the terrorist group, the Associated Press reported, citing a translation of the 15-minute video released on Thursday by the Site Intelligence group.
"Today, I have glad tidings for the Muslim Ummah that will please the believers and disturb the disbelievers, which is the joining of the Shabaab al Mujahideen Movement in Somalia to Qaedat al Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers," he reportedly said.
Agence France-Presse also quoted Al Shabaab's leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, as addressed Zawahiri, saying: "We will move along with you as faithful soldiers."
"In the name of my mujahedeen brothers, leaders and soldiers... I pledge obedience," Zubair reportedly said.
"Lead us on the road of jihad and martyrdom, in the footsteps that our martyr Osama bin Laden had drawn for us," he added, referring to the late Al Qaeda leader killed in a covert Navy SEAL team raid on his hide-out in Pakistan last year.
The announcement comes as Al Shabaab, which is fighting to overthrow a fragile Western-backed transitional government in Somalia, is under pressure on several fronts, according to the BBC.
While the group controls many southern and central areas of the war-torn Horn of Africa country, Africa Union troops supporting the forces of the UN-backed government have taken control of the capital, Mogadishu.
Meanwhile, both Kenya and Ethiopia have sent forces into Somalia to push back the Islamists.
And it's not the first time Al Shabaab leaders have pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, according to the AP.
The group released a video in 2009 called "At Your Service Osama!" "The same year, former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden released a video in which he made encouraging comments about the Somali insurgency."
However, BBC Somali editor Yusuf Garaad Omar wrote that the Shabaab-Qaeda merger had the potential to change the dynamics of the conflict in Somalia, which has been without an effective central government since 1991.
And a suicide car bombing that reportedly killed at least 15 people in the capital on Thursday showed how Al Shabaab can strike almost at will and with deadly force.
(GlobalPost reports: Somalia News: Bumps on the road to a peaceful Mogadishu)