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Who are al-Shabaab?

What lies behind the attack on the Nairobi shopping mall and what are Al-Shabaab trying to achieve by it?

The attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping mall was authored by al-Shabaab who have been opposing the Kenyan military presence in Somalia. They have been threatening to destablise Kenya's tourism economy if their demands were not met. Their aim is to cripple the Kenyan economy in order to achieve their objective.

Who are al-Shabaab, where did they come from? Are they Somali nationalists or are they Al Qaida-inspired terrorists?

You see what is prevailing in Somalia is a gang culture among the youth. This has its roots in the anarchic condition of the country over the last twenty years. These youth, which ‘al-Shabaab’ means in Arabic, have been educated and influenced by the Salafist school of thought, which is an extreme form of Islam originating from Saudi Arabia.

Over the last twenty years, whilst warlords were fighting to preserve their fiefdoms, Saudi philanthropists and charity organisations were financing Somalia's Koranic Schools. Over the last twenty years, while the world was watching the inter-clan fighting in Somalia, Saudis in the meantime were radicalizing our children into becoming Muslim extremists. Today we have inherited this mess created by Saudi Arabia. This is what went wrong in Somalia.

We have been too complacent and/or indifferent into what our children were being taught during the last twenty years. Only now are we coming to realise that we have to confront a whole new generation of radicalised Somalis, who are threatening the very fabric of our traditionally moderate Islamic society.

Is there a split in al-Shabaab, and why did it take place?

Over the last three years there has been a big split among al-Shabaab’s leadership. This split has been between those who don't believe in calling for the support of foreign fighters, and those who believe that this is a Somali cause and that there is no need to get their support.

Why have they chosen to launch an attack on Kenya? What is Kenya’s involvement in Somalia?

In 2011 Al-Shabaab elements kidnapped tourists from Kenya’s Lamu coast, a resort area bordering Southern Somalia. Kenya acted against this kidnapping in its jurisidiction by invading the Southern Somali port of Kismayo, which was al Shabaab's financial hub. By doing so, Kenya crippled Al-Shabaab's main income from Kismayo port. The attack on Westgate Shopping mall is to force Kenya to withdraw its combat troops from Kismayo and Southern Somalia.

What is happening in Somalia at the moment with the new government and what are the prospects for the future?

The Federal Government of Somalia is trying to patch together the country after twenty two years of anarchy. We are trying to liberate the country from these radicalised youth who are still occupying several districts in the south. We are determined to remove them from the rest of the country with the help of AMISOM troops financed by Western countries.

Currently there are 17,500 African troops in Somalia from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti and Kenya. Nigerians and Sierra Leonians are contributing in the training of our police force. We also believe in the creation of job opportunities for our young people who are un-employed and dissatisfied with the current economic situation in the country.

What is life like in Mogadishu at the moment? How are the ordinary citizens coping, living their lives?

Over the last two years since al-Shabaab militants were removed from Mogadishu, the city has experienced an economic boom thanks to the influx of Somalis from diaspora. Today, Mogadishu is coming back to life. With the installation of solar street lights, the city is also experiencing a night life. Almost forty percent of the people in Mogadishu depend on remittances sent from abroad. The only notable income in Mogadishu comes from the service industry; communication, banking, hotels and restaurants. In future we hope the Port of Mogadishu will play a big role for landlocked Ethiopia, which is looking for a sea port to serve its population in Western Somalia known also as Ogaden.

Mohamed Abanur is a Senior Communication Advisor at the Office of the Prime Minister, Federal Republic of Somalia, Mogadishu, Somalia.