Al-Shabaab supporters recently issued the fifth and now the sixth edition of pro-Shabaab magazine Gaidi Mtaani (“Terrorism Street”), covering a range of issues. [PDF in full – right click link and “Save Target As”]
The editor’s statement in the preface of the newest issue reveals one of the major themes of the issue, remarking, “demokrasia ni ukafiri na jihadi ndio suluhisho” (democracy is blasphemy and jihad is the solution.)
The other significant motif encourages Muslims to migrate away from “unbelievers” and to seek paradise through martyrdom. Toward this goal, the magazine features Qu’ranic quotes translated from Arabic to Kiswahili that encourage readers to participate in violent jihad.
It also covers abuses by Kenyan security forces against ethnic Somali and Muslim communities, and in a more global view, dedicates a passage to criticizing the Islamic beliefs and war-time actions of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite sect in the brutal war in Syria.
The final page is saved for a graphic of slain al-Shabaab supporter and radicalist Mombasa recruiter Abubakar Shariff “Makaburi” — who was allegedly killed in a government-sponsored hit in April 2014 just weeks after winning a cash judgment in court against the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU).
“Come to Jihad”
One of the longest English-language articles in the edition comes from an anonymous Somali Diaspora member who left Somalia when he was young to settle in an unidentified Western country. The author accused Westerners of largely having “no morals” and caring foremost about money, and this inevitably led him to join al-Shabaab in order to “live under the banner of Shari’a.”
Other fighters are profiled in the edition, and out of the four al-Shabaab fighters covered extensively, this anonymous author is the only one who appears to be alive. A subsequent section hails the exploits of three ex-fighters from Minnesota who were killed in action years ago in 2009: Dahir Gure, Troy Kastigar (a Muslim convert who had lived in a predominately Somali neighborhood in Minneapolis), and Mohamud Hassan.
It is possible that the article highlighting the life of Minnesotan jihadists was intended to reinvigorate an audience that East African jihadists have lost in recent years as al-Shabaab’s reputation deteriorated — contributing to radicalized individuals being more likely to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
The magazine gives a few details on the experiences of these fighters in battle and circumstances of their death, and is lacking in any dazzling prose.
However, the core goal of these pieces is to attract audiences with provocative graphics, simple messages, and selective proof-texting from the Qu’ran. The degree to which Gaidi Mtaani is successful at doing this is difficult to measure, but the content does not lack in any of the prerequisites to contribute to the radicalization of its target audiences.
The Arab Spring and the Caliphate
In an article entitled “Fight for the Sake of Allah Not For Democracy,” pseudonymed Kenyan author Abdullah al-Kenyi argues that the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, and Yemen have not produced the desired results of the protesters, thus “proving” that efforts to form democracy in Muslim countries are “doomed” to fail. The article hints at the return to autocratic rule in Egypt, simmering battles in Libya, and the intensification of the war in Syria, but puts no attention to the democratic gains in Tunisia.
Going further, it stated that any stable governments in predominately Muslim countries inevitably produce Western-allied governments and militaries that “target Muslims”, pointing especially to Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements.
In response, it argues that Muslims should focus on the re-establishment of the Caliphate but conveniently ignores how Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi controversially declared a caliphate in June 2014.
As a result, it could be argued that the authors behind the magazine — along with its AQAP allies in Yemen — do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the Islamic State’s “Caliphate” and continue to support al-Qai’da leadership — which remains a bitter rival against Islamic State in the fight for supremacy in the jihadist hierarchy as the latter continues to attract other allies.