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Fertile territory for Al Shabaab in chaos of Somalia02 Nov 2011

(CNN) -- Al Shabaab, which has connections to al Qaeda, is a militant Islamist group that controls much of southern Somalia and is active around the capital, Somalia. It has waged an insurgency against the weak Transitional Federal Government since 2007.
How it started
Somalia has been without any functioning government since 1991 -- perfect territory for different militia and factions to fight over the bones of the old state. Al Shabaab (which means "the youth" in Somali) emerged in about 2004. Its gunmen were involved in a series of assassinations of Somalis who had connections to the West.
Al Shabaab began prospering when the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) seized the capital Mogadishu and much of central Somalia in 2006.
After defeating a coalition of warlords backed by the United States, the ICU brought Shariah-style justice to the capital, temporarily halting the anarchy in the city. Many people in the capital welcomed the greater security that the ICU brought, thanks in part to the effective fighting skills of several hundred Al Shabaab fighters.