Nairobi: The Somali militant group al-Shabab has formally joined al Qaeda, according to a video translation released on Thursday of a message from al Qaeda`s leader.
Ayman al-Zawahri gave "glad tidings" that al-Shabab had joined al Qaeda, according to the translation of the 15-minute video by the Site Intelligence group.
"Today, I have glad tidings for the Muslim Ummah that will please the believers and disturb the disbelievers, which is the joining of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement in Somalia to Qaedat al-Jihad, to support the jihadi unity against the Zio-Crusader campaign and their assistants amongst the treacherous agent rulers," he said.
Al-Shabab leaders have pledged allegiance to al Qaeda in the past, releasing a video in 2009 called "At Your Service Osama!" The same year, former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden released a video in which he made encouraging comments about the Somali insurgency.
But the new al-Zawahri video which was posted on an Islamic Internet forum yesterday is the first formal welcoming of al-Shabab by the new al Qaeda leader. The new video also featured al-Shabab chairman Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, pledging allegiance to al-Zawahri.
Somalia`s al-Shabab militia is a mix of conscripts, paid fighters, clan militias, and ideologues. It counts a few hundred foreign fighters among its ranks. Most are drawn from other East African nations but a few have travelled from as far afield as Pakistan and Chechnya.
The foreigners brought cash and tactical and bomb-making knowledge to al-Shabab, but the extent of al-Shabab`s formal links to al Qaeda have often been unclear.
Clan allegiances are still an important part of the 21-year-old Somali civil war, which currently pits al-Shabab against the weak UN-backed government. The government is supported by some 10,000 African Union troops and allied militias.