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Somalia’s Shebab praise ‘heroic’ Charlie Hebdo massacre

January 9, 2015

Somalia’s Shebab militants, Al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Africa, on Friday praised the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris as a “heroic” act.

“They made millions of Muslims happy by taking action. Some misguided people claim that freedom of expression was attacked, but that is not the case, and the two heroic people acted accordingly,” Radio Andalus, the official mouthpiece of the militants, said in a commentary.

“They cut the head of non-believers who insulted our beloved prophet,” the radio said, adding that Osama Bin Laden had “told the West that if freedom of expression has no limit, then you have to expect your blood to be shed.”

It said the satirical magazine had “insulted our prophet and annoyed millions of Muslims”, and described the attackers as “our two brothers (who) were the first to take revenge”.

Alluding to early eyewitness accounts, the radio also noted that the two brothers suspected of carrying out the killings had “declared that they are part of Al-Qaeda”, the Islamist network to which the Shebab are also affiliated.

The Shebab, who control large areas of rural Somalia, are reported to have close links with Al-Qaeda fighters in neighbouring Yemen, where one of the two brothers suspected of carrying out the attack is believed to have trained.

The Shebab were also linked to Mohamed Geele, a Somali man who was convicted of a 2010 axe attack against Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who had faced numerous death threats since his caricature of the Muslim prophet Mohammed appeared in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in 2005.

Geele is serving a 10-year sentence for the attack.

The Shebab sprang out of the Islamic Courts Union that controlled Mogadishu in 2006 before being pushed out by Ethiopian forces.

The group were finally driven from fixed positions in Mogadishu in 2011, and have lost several strongholds in the south and centre of the country in a recent offensive by the African Union’s AMISOM force, which is fighting in support of Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

The group, however, still controls large parts of the south and centre of the country, and have expanded their reach with a string of major attacks in neighbouring Kenya — including the September 2013 siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that left at least 67 dead.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.