MOGADISHU, Somalia (The Blaze/AP) -- Thousands of Somalis are gathering at a militant-organized demonstration on the outskirts of Mogadishu in support of the merger of the Somali militant group al-Shabab with al-Qaida.
Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told those gathered at Monday's rally that al-Shabab is happy with its unification with al-Qaida, a merger announced last week by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
Several hundred people gathered at the rally, including veiled women and armed, masked men. Rage also said that an upcoming international conference in London on Somalia is being organized to "colonize" Somalia.
Somalia has not had a fully functioning government in more than 20 years, but African militaries from Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Kenya are pressuring al-Shabab from three sides.
While the announcement of the merger is now officially being made, the United States government has known for quite some time about the ties between the two groups. Al-Shabab, which is estimated to have 14,000 members, controls a substantial portion of south and central Somalia.
As the Blaze has written before, al-Shabaab enforces sharia law and has been responsible for beheadings and other forms of torture and murder. The al-Qaeda-linked terror group has vowed to purge Somalia of Christianity, while fighting the “enemies” of Islam.
A handful of young Muslims from the U.S. are taking high-visibility propaganda and operational roles inside an al-Qaida-linked insurgent force in Somalia known as al-Shabab. While most are from Minnesota, which has the largest Somali population in the nation, al-Shabab members include a Californian and an Alabaman with no ancestral ties to Somalia. [...]
More than 40 people have traveled from the U.S. to Somalia to join al-Shabab since 2007, and 15 of them have died, according to a report from the House Homeland Security Committee. Federal investigations into al-Shabab recruitment in the U.S. have centered on Minnesota, which has more than 32,000 Somalis.
"Certain extremists aligned with al-Shabaab are believed to have trained and fought in Afghanistan," writes the National Counterterrorism Center. The U.S. first designated the group a terror threat in 2008.