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FACTBOX-Somalia's al Shabaab rebels

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Fri, 28 Sep 2012 09:59 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Sept 28 (Reuters) - Kenyan troops attacked the Somali port city of Kismayu from three sides on Friday, aiming to drive the al Shabaab Islamist militant group from its last bastion.

Here is a look at the al Shabaab group.

* AL SHABAAB WAGING WAR IN SOMALIA:

- The toppling by warlords of military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 plunged the Horn of Africa nation into anarchy, allowing al Shabaab, which means "Youth" or "Boys" in Arabic, to seize control of large areas of south and central Somalia.

- Al Shabaab's militia was part of Somalia's Islamic Courts Union movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of the capital Mogadishu in June 2006 and ruled for six months before Somali and Ethiopian forces ousted the movement.

- Five years on, in August 2011, al Shabaab began pulling its fighters out of Mogadishu, raising hopes that humanitarian groups would be able to increase aid.

- Although the rebels have still struck back repeatedly with bombs and attacks in the capital, their retreat from Mogadishu signaled they could not defeat militarily a government propped up by foreign firepower. The group has been weakened as E thi opian, Kenyan and African peacekeeping (AMISOM) troops advance and take rebel strongholds.

- Al Qaeda announced in February that al Shabaab had joined its ranks and the group has resorted to guerrilla-style hit and run tactics against the AMISOM troops.

* AL SHABAAB THREATS AND MAJOR ATTACKS:

- A suicide bomber killed four government ministers and 19 others on Dec. 3, 2009 at a graduation ceremony at Mogadishu's Shamo Hotel.

- In July 2010, al Shabaab staged a bomb attack in Kampala that killed 79 people who were watching the soccer World Cup final. The strike, its first on foreign soil, was to avenge Uganda's participation in the African peacekeeping force.

- Al Shabaab rebels said they killed Somali Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan on June 10, 2011.

- Two attacks on a Nairobi bus station and a bar killed one person and wounded more than 20 in late October 2011.

- Kenya blamed al Shabaab for grenade attacks that killed at least six people at a Nairobi bus station on March 10, 2012.

- The head of Somalia's soccer federation and Olympic committee were among at least six people killed in April when an al Shabaab suicide bomber struck Mogadishu's newly-reopened national theatre.

- Islamist suicide bombers attacked the Mogadishu hotel where Somalia's newly-elected President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was giving a news conference on Sept 12, 2012, killing eight people. Mohamud escaped unhurt.

- Eight days later, two suicide bombers killed at least 15 people in a restaurant in central Mogadishu. (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and David Stamp)

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