A senior commander of radical Islamist militant group al-Shabab in Somalia has issued a public call for foreign fighters from around the world to come to Somalia and join its fight against the Western-backed Mogadishu government.
The leader of al-Shabab forces in the Bay and Bakol regions, Sheikh Mahad Abdikarim, is asking for foreign Islamic militants to join al-Shabab in Somalia.
He says that all Muslim religious warriors should come and participate in their war.
The public announcement was prompted by the Islamic group's anger over the U.S. killing of wanted terrorist suspect Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in al-Shabab controlled southern Somalia. Nabhan was believed to be a central operative for the global terrorist group al-Qaida.
The suspected terrorist was thought to have been involved in a 2002 bombing of an Israeli tourist hotel on the coast of Kenya and a botched attempt at shooting down an Israeli charter jet the same day.
U.S. authorities also think that Nabhan is probably connected to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Al-Shabab is listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group, and analysts believe a number of its top leaders have been trained in al-Qaida camps abroad.
The al-Shabab commander said at the news conference that if Burundian and Ugandan troops have entered the conflict on behalf of the Western-backed transitional federal government, then the Islamist opposition fighters should also receive foreign help.
About 5,000 Burundian and Ugandan troops are stationed in Mogadishu as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM. The troops are technically mandated with the protection of key sites in the capital, including the presidential palace, airstrip, and seaport.
Al-Shabab was part of the coalition Islamic Courts Union which took power in Somalia in 2006. The governing group contained both moderate and extremist elements, but was considered dangerous by U.S. authorities.
A U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion in 2006 ousted the Islamic Courts Union from power, pushing al-Shabab deep into southern Somalia. In a deal backed by the United Nations, a moderate leader of the Islamic Courts Union, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, was elected president of the Mogadishu-based Somali government earlier this year.
Al-Shabab, alongside other Islamic opposition fighters, has pushed pro-government forces back to Mogadishu, where the two sides are engaged in ongoing street battles as the Islamist opposition attempts to topple the President Sharif administration.