Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, has called for the global terror group to send more fighters to "expand the East Africa jihad."
Shabaab's top spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, who is also known as Ali Dheere, issued a call for al Qaeda fighters to come to Somalia. Rage made the statement during a joint press conference held in Mogadishu on Friday with Sheikh Abdifatah Mohamed Ali, Hizbul Islam's spokesman.
"We call on our brothers [Al Qaeda] to come to Somalia and to help us expand the East Africa jihad," Rage told reporters,
Rage and Ali held the press conference to formally announce Hizbul Islam's merger with Shabaab. On Dec. 19, Hizbul Islam's top leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys,
announced he had joined forces with Shabaab
after his forces lost control over much of their traditional strongholds south of Mogadishu during a Shabaab onslaught and the subsequent defection of local Hizbul Islam leaders.
On Dec. 23, Rage also held a press conference to "inform our brothers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Uganda" of the Shabaab/Hizbul Islam merger, and he threatened the eastern African nations of Uganda and Burundi, which make up the African Union forces fighting in Mogadishu.
"We, al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam have united and we warn Uganda and Burundi forces and their people that we shall redouble our attacks,"
, according to
. "We also inform our brothers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Uganda, that we have united in one name -- al Shabaab."
Rage's call for a wider jihad in East Africa echoed Aweys's
call back in 2006 for the creation of a "greater Somalia"
in the Horn of Africa.
Shabaab's takeover of Hizbul Islam puts an end to more than two years of fighting between the two terror groups. Both groups have vowed to wage jihad in eastern Africa and have sought al Qaeda's support. The merger has freed up fighters and resources to battle the weak Somali government and African Union forces struggling to retake control of Mogadishu. Fighters formerly loyal to Hizbul Islam
have poured into Mogadishu
to swell the ranks of Shabaab.