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Somali Terror Group Vows Loyalty to Al Qaeda

This story was filed by CBS News' Khaled Wassef.

(AP / CBS)
Somalia's largest homegrown Islamic militant group has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda for the first time, a sign that, in spite of continuing military pressure on Osama bin Laden's group, it remains a source of inspiration and its influence is spreading.

The Emir of Somalia's Shabab al-Mujahideen, Abu Zubair, lent his support to bin Laden in a new video distributed on Jihadi blogs over the weekend.

It was Shabab's the first open acknowledgment of ties to al Qaeda — made less than a week after the assassination of al Qaeda's chief of operations in East Africa, Saleh al-Nabhan, in a U.S. special forces operation in the costal city of Baraawe, southern Somalia.

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"We answer your call, our sheik and our emir," read the title of the elaborately produced 48 minute video. "The Mujahideen here are fine and the winds of victory are still blowing on them and the enemy's plans are collapsing, one after another," Abu Zubair said in the video, addressing bin Laden.

"We bring you glad tidings and tell you; rejoice, we are awaiting your guidance in this advanced stage in the life of Jihad in which the challenges of fighting the occupiers have overlapped with the requirements of establishing the Islamic State."

A crowd of purported Shabab militants were shown in the video waving their arms and shouting: "Here we are O' Osama; We are your soldiers O' Osama."

The tape is Shabab's response to a message from bin Laden to Somalis in March, asking them to rebel against their newly elected president, Islamic militant-turned-politician Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad. Excerpts from that bin Laden audio ("Fight On O' Champions of Somalia") are played throughout the new video from Shabab.

The video included pictures the American citizen who has become a Jihadi commander in charge of military training for Shabab, Omar Hammami, aka, Abu Mansour al-Amriki. He appears in the video (at left) supervising a small group of Somali Jihadists as they train in military tactics.

Al-Amriki is an American convert to Islam, who was raised Baptist by his mother, though his father was a Syrian Muslim. He grew up outside Mobile, Ala. in the city of Daphne, from which he vanished. He reappeared in 2007 as a military commander for the Islamic Courts Union in Somalia.

Al-Amriki recently released an audiotape in response to U.S. President Obama's Cairo speech, advising the Muslim world not to be fooled by Mr. Obama's "sweet talk."

Al-Shabab blames African Union forces, who have tried to maintain some semblance of order in Somalia for years, for the suffering of Somalis in the capital city of Mogadishu and its surrounding areas.

Under the title "Butcheries of the Crusader Forces," the video shows street clashes between well-armed Shabab militants and pro-government militias and African Union forces.

There is also video of militants at a training camp and vehicles full of gun-toting Shabab members riding around in jeeps equipped with what appear to be anti-aircraft guns on a rural airstrip.

The only time statement which helps put a vague date on the Shabab production is a reference to the launch of "operation Winds of Victory," which started at the end of August — the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Shabab al-Mujahideen and its main ally, the Islamic party, have always denied links to al Qaeda, at least on the organizational level, though intelligence officials know al Qaeda militants have traveled to Somalia to help train al Shabab members.

The motivation behind the sudden change in the group's public position is not yet clear. It might have been prompted by a desire to give the group a more global dimension, which leader Abu Zubair mentions in his statement.

"Allah willing, the brigades for Global Jihad will be launched from the land of the two migrations (Somalia) to deprive the disbelievers of sleep and destroy their interests around the world," Abu Zubair said.

In recent months, counterterror officials in the U.S. have expressed serious and growing concern over the increasing influence of Shabab in lawless Somalia.

In 2008, the U.S. State Department added the group to its list of foreign terrorist organizations, and concerns over Somali migrants grew when the first-ever U.S. suicide bomber blew himself up in Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland.

Since then, there have been several reported incidents of Somalis from Minneapolis joining the ranks of Shabab and committing suicide operations. So far, the flow has always been from the U.S. Somali community toward Somalia — no known cases of movements the other way, yet.

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