Inside Al-Shabaab

Inside Al-Shabaab

The Secret History of Al-Qaeda’s Most Powerful Ally
Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph, foreword by Christopher Anzalone
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/01/2018
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-03748-0
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One of the most powerful Islamic militant groups in Africa, Al-Shabaab exerts Taliban-like rule over millions in Somalia and poses a growing threat to stability in the Horn of Africa. Somalis risk retaliation or death if they oppose or fail to comply with Al-Shabaab-imposed restrictions on aspects of everyday life such as clothing, media, sports, interpersonal relations, and prayer. Inside Al-Shabaab: The Secret History of Al-Qaeda's Most Powerful Ally recounts the rise, fall, and resurgence of this overlooked terrorist organization and provides an intimate understanding of its connections with Al-Qaeda. Drawing from interviews with former Al-Shabaab militants, including high-ranking officials, military commanders, police, and foot soldiers, authors Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph reveal the motivations of those who commit their lives to the group and its violent jihadist agenda. A wealth of sources including US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks, letters taken from the Pakistani hideout of Osama bin Laden, case files from the prosecution of American Al-Shabaab members, emails from Hillary Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, and Al-Shabaab's own statements and recruiting videos inform Maruf and Joseph's investigation of the United States' campaign against Al-Shabaab and how the 2006 US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia gave the group the popular support it needed to radicalize ordinary citizens and become a powerful movement.

Author Bio

Harun Maruf is Senior Editor in Voice of Americas Somali Service who has been covering Somalia and its struggles with war, terrorism, piracy, and drought since the early 1990s. With more than 100,000 followers, Maruf is the most followed Somali journalist on Twitter and a primary source of news to many people in the Horn of Africa. Prior to joining VOA, Maruf worked as a reporter for the BBC and Associated Press in Somalia and as a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Dan Joseph is an editor in Voice of America's central newsroom and has headed up its Africa desk since December 2005.


“Inside Al-Shabaab is the definitive history of the Somali militant group, rich with newly disclosed details about the group's genesis and its ties to al-Qaeda. It's a great introduction for those new to the topic, but it's also a landmark work and absolutely required reading for those who study and work to counter terrorism.”
 — JM Berger, author of Extremism and coauthor of ISIS: The State of Terror

“For years I studied and assessed Al-Shabaab in Somalia, and Harun Maruf was my go-to source on the terror group and the Horn of Africa. This book reveals insights I've never seen during my 15 years in counterterrorism—an excellent work.”
 — Clinton Watts, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Research Institute

“A compelling and deeply researched history of Al-Shabaab that lifts the veil on one of the world's most dangerous and resilient terrorist groups. Harun Maruf and Dan Joseph have drawn on their extensive experience reporting on Somalia and on interviews with key former figures in Al-Shabaab to produce one of the most important books ever written on jihadi militancy in Africa. This book is essential reading for everybody interested in Somalia and the evolution of global jihad.”
 — Paul Cruickshank, Editor-in-Chief, CTC Sentinel and coauthor Nine Lives: My Time as the West's Top Spy Inside al-Qaeda

“Featuring interviews with government officials, former al-Shabaab members, soldiers and numerous other sources, the authors leave no stone unturned in their quest to tell the story of just how al-Shabaab continues to operate and why it continues to attract young people. This is hugely informative painstakingly-researched book.”
 — African Arguments

    "For military enthusiasts, Inside al-Shabaab has vivid descriptions of street-by-street fighting in Mogadishu as the extremists pushed the fragile Somali government to the edge of the sea. For those wondering how Somalia has never been able to shake off the threat, the book has piercing details of what still goes wrong both among Somalis and in the international community."”
     — AP News

    “The book by Maruf and Joseph is a very readable, very informative and in passages thrilling account that provides partly unknown details for Somalia-specialists and a basis for reflection and comparison for counter-terrorism experts. Due to the style of writing, it is even accessible for interested non-specialists. The book is recommended strongly for thinking about and beyond the Somali setting.”
     — African Affairs

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    Table of Contents

    Foreword by Christopher Anzalone

    Sources and Acknowledgments

    Prologue: Birth of A Militant

    Origins and Rise

    1. Jihad Arrives in Somalia

    2. The CIA, Warlords, and Ethiopia

    3. "The Real Jihad Has Just Started"

    4. Godane

    5. Al-Shabaab Americans

    6. Radical Organization

    The Battle for Mogadishu


    8. "Send Troops Within 24 Hours

    9. Zenith and Stalemate

    10. The Ramadan Offensive

    11. Withdrawal

    On the Run

    12. Divisions and Purge

    13. The Road to Westgate

    14. No Place to Hide


    15. Arresting the Decline

    16. The ISIS Incursion

    17. Al-Shabaabs Future