Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa

The Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (“People of the Sunna and Community,” ASWJ) is a militia that represents Somali Sufi orders in opposition to Islamist groups such as Hizb ul-Islam and al-Shabaab. In 2010, the ASWJ joined forces with the Transitional Federal Government (TSG) with the expectation that they would be granted positions cabinet positions, though not all members supported the move and some have complained that the TSG reneged...

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Al-Islaah is a moderate Islamist movement that formed in the 1970s and is affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It evolved from a postwar social service network, recognized for the quality of its hospitals and schools (including the University of Mogadishu), to a political movement with broad support from students, professionals, and business people. It has rejected violence. Damul Jadiid (DJ)—"New Blood"—is a faction within al-Islaah that broke with the organizational rejection of violence and joined the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Current president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud...

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Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI) is an Islamist militant organization that was founded in opposition to the Siad Barre regime, formed from an assortment of various Wahhabi groups. It took a strong political and military stance against Ethiopia and sought to regain the Ogaden region for Somalia. Some members of the AIAI leadership emerged as prominent leaders in the Islamic Courts Union, including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys...

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Al-Shabaab is a radical Islamist militant movement in Somalia that emerged following the United States supported Ethiopian conflict that brought down the Islamic Courts Union in 2006. Al-Shabaab has affiliated itself with, and receives support from, the transnational radical Islamist organization al-Qaeda. It is not a defined or clearly-organized movement, but rather al-Shabaab represents a network of clan-militias, foreign fighters attracted to the “Somali jihad,” and business interests....

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Bantu, The

The Bantu are a non-Somali ethnic minority that has historically been marginalized within Somalia. Some trace their lineage to pre-Somali local tribes, while others are the descendants of slaves brought to Somalia by Arab slave traders to work in Somali homes. As ethnic outsiders, only some Bantu are affiliated with Somali clan lineages, typically as clan clients. While most Bantu are Muslim, a small percentage follow traditional African religion or...

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Benadiri, The

The Benadiri are a southern coastal ethnic minority descended from ethnic Somalis as well as Arabs, Persians, Indians, and coastal Bantu peoples. Historically, they formed a successful nonpastoral mercantilist class and were instrumental in the spread of Islam in Somalia. Benadiri participated in nationalist politics at independence, forming their own political parties. Despite these auspicious roots, the Benadiri were severely disadvantaged during the civil war, in part because they did not form a...

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Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down or the Battle of Mogadishu was a military incident that took place on October 3-4, 1993 between United States and African Union (UNISOM) forces and Somali militias under the leadership of General Mohammad Aideed. The battle was named for the two American Black Hawk helicopters shot down by Aideed’s militiamen. The military operation to rescue the downed servicemen led to the death of 18 American troops, one Pakistani and one Malaysian soldier, as well as hundreds of Somalis, both combatants and noncombatants. Public...

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Christianity in Somalia

There is a small Christian minority in Somalia of unknown size, which face persecution on the part of militant Islamist organizations such as al-Shabaab. Its members include Bantu as well as ethnic Somalis who have converted from Islam. Christians are not represented by the government and have no say in Somali politics.


Martin Hill,...

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Failed State

The concept of a Failed State denotes a nation lacking effective government and legal structures. The term was first used in the early 1990s post-Cold War context as western developed nations—especially the United States—sought to empower themselves and the United Nations to intervene in underdeveloped nations guided by principles of democracy, global security, and a human rights agenda. The term lacks a clear definition and has been criticized by some as representing power relations associated with neocolonialism, which ultimately stigmatizes those states to which the term is applied....

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General Mohamed Farah Aideed

General Mohamed Farah Aideed (d. 1996) was an Italian-trained military leader, often described as a warlord, who played a leading role in the coup against President Siad Barre in 1990. He was a member of the Habr Gidr subclan of the Hawiye, and leader of the United Somali Congress and later Somali National Alliance. Aideed’s clan-based militias comprised one of the major forces in control of parts of Mogadishu and southern Somalia during the civil war, fighting against U.N. and American...

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