Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen’s Press Office Opens Twitter Account
December 8, 2011 2 Comments
-Christopher Anzalone (McGill University)
The press office of the Somali Islamist insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Warrior-Youth) has opened up a Twitter account, @hsmpress. The account’s first Tweet, “In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful (بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم ),” was posted on December 7. Every Tweet thus far, save for the first, has been in fairly crisp, idiomatic English, suggesting that the account, if its in fact run by one of Al-Shabab’s offices, is being administered by English-speakers, perhaps some of the English-speaking foreign fighters from the Somali diaspora or other groups in the United States, Canada, or Britain. Hash tags are also being used, showing that the Tweeter(s) has at least general familiarity with Twitter and its usage.
@hsmpress joins at least two Twitter accounts believed to be affiliated with the Afghan Taliban and a number of other transnational jihadi-takfiri Twitter accounts, some of which have been shut down. If this account is actually connected to Al-Shabab’s media wing, the opening of @hsmpress is a further sign of the media messaging prowess of the insurgent movement’s media department, at the helm of which is its in-house video production outlet, the Al-Kata’ib (The Brigades) Media Foundation.
Up to this point, @hsmpress is being used mostly to engage in polemics against Kenya, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). The most recent Tweets as of the writing of this post (6:29 P.M. EST) claim that Al-Shabab will release details of the scores of Burundian soldiers from AMISOM believed to have been killed during fierce fighting in the Mogadishu suburb of Dayniile in late October. In a series of Tweets, @hsmpress writes: “In response to the requests from their families in Burundi, HSM to publish details of some of the #Burundian soldiers killed in #Somalia. The details of some of the soldiers will be published Monday 1100h Mecca time and will include names, ID cards, ranks of the slain soldiers. Note: only families that have contacted us will be given official confirmation regarding the fate of their sons killed in #Somalia battles.” If this claim is fulfilled it will suggest that the administrator(s) of the account have at least some ties to Al-Shabab’s leadership and/or media department. It is also possible that the account is simply run by Al-Shabab sympathizers, though the specific claims made with regard to the Burundian casualties, if they pan out, suggest the account’s administrator(s) may have some ties to the insurgent movement.