Terrorist Tug-of-War

ISIS and al Qaeda Struggle for al Shabab's Soul

Al Shabab fighters in Somalia. Feisal Omar / Reuters

Without a doubt, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (also known as ISIS) is currently the most preeminent global jihadist group in the world. Yet al Qaeda is still fighting for influence, in both the Middle East and Africa. In recent months, the showdown between the two groups has been most apparent in East Africa, where ISIS has attempted, but thus far failed, to convince the al Qaeda–linked Somali militia al Shabab to switch allegiances.

Unlike in the west of the continent, where Boko Haram has declared allegiance to the Syrian jihadist group, in al Shabab territory al Qaeda still holds sway. However, there is no doubt that for more junior members of the group, joining ISIS is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition.

ISIS, for its part, has for months been desperate to announce a province, or wilayat, in East Africa, as it has long been fertile ground for global jihad.

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