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Somali Government Attempts to Rename al-Shabab

FILE - Captured suspected al-Shabab militants are seen in Mogadishu, Somalia, Dec. 25, 2014.

The Somali government says it wants media outlets to stop referring to militant group al-Shabab by its name.

Somalia’s national intelligence chief, General Abdurahman Turyare, says the government instead wants the militants to be known as “UGUS,” an acronym for the Somali words, "The Group that Massacres the Somali People."

In an interview with VOA's Somali Service, Turyare says the government's decision is aimed at denying terrorists a good name. Al-Shabab, an Arabic word, means “the youth.”

He says the government considers al-Shabab's name to be a "contagious disease," and that any media house using it would be regarded as “a disease spreader."

The general threatened to take what he called "necessary steps" against any outlet found using the name.

In response to the government call, the militants posted a message on a pro-al-Shabab website, referring to the government by the same acronym, UGUS, but with a different meaning.

It said, “From now on we recognize the so-called Somali government as UGUS, meaning 'the Group that Subjects the Somali People to Humiliation."

Al-Shabab has been trying to overthrow the Somali government and set up a strict Islamic state for nearly a decade. The group has carried out numerous suicide attacks in Somalia and neighboring countries. The biggest came last month, when gunmen assaulted Garissa University College in Kenya and killed 148 people.