Thursday, December 24, 2015

2,000 miles from Syria, ISIS is trying to lure recruits in Somalia

Kevin Sieff December 24 at 1:00 AM, WashPost

NAIROBI — Two-thousand miles from Syria, the Islamic State is trying to expand its territory by establishing a branch in what its fighters call the “little emirate”: the war-torn country of Somalia.

Winning ground there won’t be easy. Al-Shabab, a Somali group linked to al-Qaeda, has a long-standing presence in the country at Africa’s eastern edge. It has threatened those who join the Islamic State with death. But that hasn’t stopped a trickle of fighters — likely a few dozen — from switching sides, raising concerns among U.S. officials who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars of aid in a new Somali government and a regional military campaign against Islamist extremists.

Somalia holds potentially huge rewards for the extremist group: It is a marginally governed nation with the continent’s longest coastline, bordering three U.S. allies — Ethi­o­pia, Djibouti and Kenya.

“Looking at Somalia, ISIL is trying to insert itself and then may threaten to move into Kenya,” said Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control and international security, at a roundtable in Johannesburg this month. ISIL and ISIS are acronyms for the Islamic State.

(More here.)

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