Sunday 18 December 2011
Thursday 15 December 2011
Thursday 8 December 2011
Here is my report for the BBC on Al Shabaab's latest experiment with the power of the internet:
The first tweets gave a hint of what was, within a few hours, to become the most intense fighting for several months between the Islamists and government troops backed by African Union or AMISOM peacekeepers in Mogadishu.
The tweets spoke of an attack by Al Shabaab on an AMISOM base in the north of the city. This was despite the fact that Al Shabaab in August announced that it had withdrawn from Mogadishu, something the transitional government described as a massive victory.
The tweets then launched into what Al Shabaab described as the utter failure of Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia. One quoted a BBC story about the plan for Kenyan troops to join AMISOM. It said this was proof that Kenya had run out of money to pay for the military operation, so need the African Union to pay for it instead. The advice to the Kenyan soldiers was put into one word, in capital letters. It said simply ‘FLEE’.
There was also a tweet referring to the need for Somali government soldiers to sober up, accusing them of being intoxicated by the narcotic leaf, qat, which has been banned by Al Shabaab.
The Al Shabaab Twitter site has attracted dozens of followers since it was launched a few hours ago. So far, Al Shabaab is following nobody.
The Islamist movement has in recent months become increasingly adept at communicating its activities and messages to a non-Somali audience. It writes sophisticated press releases in excellent English, complete with photographs.
And now it has a Twitter account. Perhaps this is in response to the highly active Twitter account of Kenya’s military spokesman, Major Emmanuel Chirchir. He issues a steady stream of information about what he says are Kenya’s military successes in Somalia.
So far, he appears to be winning the Twitter war. He has nearly ten thousand followers. Al Shabaab has four hundred, but its site has only been active for a few hours, and that number increases every time I look at it.