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One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, a One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, and prayer. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally recounts the rise, fall, and resurgence of this overlooked terrorist organization and provides an intimate understanding of its connections with Al-Qaeda. Drawing from interviews with former Al-Shabaab militants, including high-ranking officials, military commanders, police, and foot soldiers, authors Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph reveal the motivations of those who commit their lives to the group and its violent jihadist agenda. A wealth of sources including US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, letters taken from the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, case files from the prosecution of American Al-Shabaab members, emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and Al-Shabaab's own statements and recruiting videos inform Maruf and Joseph's investigation of the the United States' campaign against Al-Shabaab and how the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave the group the popular support it needed to radicalize ordinary citizens and become a powerful movement.


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One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, a One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, and prayer. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally recounts the rise, fall, and resurgence of this overlooked terrorist organization and provides an intimate understanding of its connections with Al-Qaeda. Drawing from interviews with former Al-Shabaab militants, including high-ranking officials, military commanders, police, and foot soldiers, authors Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph reveal the motivations of those who commit their lives to the group and its violent jihadist agenda. A wealth of sources including US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, letters taken from the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, case files from the prosecution of American Al-Shabaab members, emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and Al-Shabaab's own statements and recruiting videos inform Maruf and Joseph's investigation of the the United States' campaign against Al-Shabaab and how the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave the group the popular support it needed to radicalize ordinary citizens and become a powerful movement.

30 review for Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally

  1. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    Astonishing book. The Somali civil war and U.S. intervention in that country have been largely opaque to the public. This book, based largely on interviews with al-Shabab and Somali government officials, as well as classified U.S. cables, does an incredible job of pulling the curtain back on this conflict and Somalia's tragic descent into chaos over the past two decades. I did not appreciate how deeply al-Shabab was intertwined with al Qaeda from the beginning, unlike other AQ franchises that th Astonishing book. The Somali civil war and U.S. intervention in that country have been largely opaque to the public. This book, based largely on interviews with al-Shabab and Somali government officials, as well as classified U.S. cables, does an incredible job of pulling the curtain back on this conflict and Somalia's tragic descent into chaos over the past two decades. I did not appreciate how deeply al-Shabab was intertwined with al Qaeda from the beginning, unlike other AQ franchises that they have a more arms-length relationship with. In fact al Qaeda's origins are deeply rooted in East Africa. This was the region that suffered the first major attacks from the group in the 1990s, which struck Kenya and Tanzania. Al-Shabab's founding cadres were personally tied to al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and returned to Somalia with a clear mission. This was not merely a relationship of distant moral support. In its behavior, al-Shabab is much closer to Islamic State than to more nationally-focused Islamist groups like the Afghan Taliban. The level of their brutality and uncompromising attitude is also much closer to ISIS than to other groups that might be reconciled or negotiated with. This book contains stunning revelations that are hard to find anywhere else in the English-language press. I was also not expecting a book published by a university press to be so grippingly written. This is a page-turner and an absolute must-read for those interested in the post-9/11 wars and the global jihadist movement.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Epimetheus Hydoff

    What a great book. As a Somali i absolutely hate Alshabaab and all terrorist organizations who kill innocent people, and have no strategy whatsoever, i hope in the future the Somali government will get it's shit together and defeat those maniacs. Special thanks to HARUN MARUF and DAN JOSEPH for putting in the time and effort to reveal the history and evolution of this retarded terrorist cartel. What a great book. As a Somali i absolutely hate Alshabaab and all terrorist organizations who kill innocent people, and have no strategy whatsoever, i hope in the future the Somali government will get it's shit together and defeat those maniacs. Special thanks to HARUN MARUF and DAN JOSEPH for putting in the time and effort to reveal the history and evolution of this retarded terrorist cartel.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anne Elisabeth Kobaek

    Interesting book that reveals all the insides and details about the formation of and developments in Al-Shaabab linked very well the political and economical trends in the region and globally. Written in a story-telling manner that makes for easy and entertaining reading while at the same time updates the reader on the ways of al-shaabab

  4. 5 out of 5

    Saeed M Osman

    Great book

  5. 5 out of 5

    Phil Kern

    Interesting information on the rise of violent extremism in Somalia. Of personal interest as I’ll be moving there this summer. I don’t know I would recommend this to someone who is not already familiar with the region or history though. I feel like it presupposes a good grasp of East African history and geography, both from the colonial period and modern day. The narrative ends in 2018, which is disappointing as there have been significant developments since then, but that’s not the book’s fault Interesting information on the rise of violent extremism in Somalia. Of personal interest as I’ll be moving there this summer. I don’t know I would recommend this to someone who is not already familiar with the region or history though. I feel like it presupposes a good grasp of East African history and geography, both from the colonial period and modern day. The narrative ends in 2018, which is disappointing as there have been significant developments since then, but that’s not the book’s fault. The most interesting parts for me was reading events that were taking place right next door while I was in Djibouti and personally knowing a number of the American actors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Apratim Mukherjee

    This book is one of the few books written on the Al Shabab,a terrorist organization operating in Somalia and parts of Kenya.The authors have really done a good job in writing the history of the organization.However,for a reference perspective,this book can be cited as one of the most accurate and authentic source of information on Al Shabab and its 'leaders'.The bonus is that the book has a chapter totally dedicated to future of Somalia which is something the FSG of Somalia needs to memorise and This book is one of the few books written on the Al Shabab,a terrorist organization operating in Somalia and parts of Kenya.The authors have really done a good job in writing the history of the organization.However,for a reference perspective,this book can be cited as one of the most accurate and authentic source of information on Al Shabab and its 'leaders'.The bonus is that the book has a chapter totally dedicated to future of Somalia which is something the FSG of Somalia needs to memorise and implement. Finally,as there were times,while reading the book,I found the writing more like a newspaper article than a text used in book(which in my opinion is the only flaw of the book),I am going with 4 out of 5. Please read this book if you are interested in the unrest in the Horn of Africa.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    This is a great book for anyone interested in some of the recent history of the Horn of Africa and the complex problem of terrorism in the region. It is very well researched and left me with a better understanding of what led to the current state of affairs in the region.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    After reading mentions of Al-Shabaab in the news (the 2013 Westgate Mall attack and this week's Riverside attack in Nairobi) and in Michael Scott Moore 's memoir The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast, I wanted to learn more about this terrorist group and its impact on Eastern Africa. Inside Al-Shabaab is very informative, describing this group's history, recruiting practices, and future (spoiler: Sadly, it's not going away anytime soon). Here's a November 2018 interv After reading mentions of Al-Shabaab in the news (the 2013 Westgate Mall attack and this week's Riverside attack in Nairobi) and in Michael Scott Moore 's memoir The Desert and the Sea: 977 Days Captive on the Somali Pirate Coast, I wanted to learn more about this terrorist group and its impact on Eastern Africa. Inside Al-Shabaab is very informative, describing this group's history, recruiting practices, and future (spoiler: Sadly, it's not going away anytime soon). Here's a November 2018 interview with author Harun Maruf that discusses Al-Shabab, Al Qaeda, and Somalia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ay_Vg... I originally gave Inside Al-Shabaab 4 stars, but as I thought about how much I'd learned from this book, increased my rating to 5 stars. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dalha Daher

    Great work from the most respected Somali journalist of his age Harun Maruf and his co-author, without question this book provides a remarkable look inside the Al-shabaab during period of 2006 - 2017. This is a must read book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abdul

    perfect book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    John Monti

    Page turner. If you like military type subjects and reading about 4th generation type conflicts, this book is good stuff. You'll come away with a better understanding of Somalia as well. Page turner. If you like military type subjects and reading about 4th generation type conflicts, this book is good stuff. You'll come away with a better understanding of Somalia as well.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Samo

  13. 4 out of 5

    Livian Tran

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jamal

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jay Nana

  18. 5 out of 5

    SŐmά ugas

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sudip Das

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mychal Loria

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Adams

  22. 4 out of 5

    Nyamu Muthama

  23. 5 out of 5

    Peter Heywood

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jason Ritchie

  25. 4 out of 5

    Abdisalam Isse

  26. 4 out of 5

    Adan Salad

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ahmed Sahal

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Logan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eugene Ngumi

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abdihakiim Illeeye

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