Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda backed militant terrorist group in Somalia, has just released a statement through their media outlet Radio Andalus banning the usage of plastic bags in their territories. Simultaneously, an independent website that is supportive of the group has printed that al-Shabaab has also banned the logging of native trees.
The ban has been implemented since the use of plastic “pose a serious threat to the well-being of humans and animals alike.” This environmentally conscious move follows other more traditionally terroristic bans on western music, cinemas, smartphone and fibre optic devices, satellite devices and humanitarian organisations.
This is not the first time al-Qaeda or one of it’s affiliates has boasted environmentally-friendly attitudes. In November 2016, the Arabian al-Qaeda backed publication Inspire, blamed the Obama government for being hypocritical on climate change policy.
“The environment has suffered from America’s policies. In latest official statistics of International Health Organisation, it mentions that 92% of the world population are breathing polluted air…It is astonishing and deceptive to hear Obama talk about the necessity of acting boldly in combating the danger of greenhouse gases, yet his own state has not responded and dealt adequately in reducing these deadly emissions.”
Similarly, the Taliban’s Department of Agriculture and Agronomics in Afghanistan implemented a policy to plant more trees to win over the hearts and minds of the locals earlier this year.
Speaking to HuffPost, Raffaello Pantucci, counterterrorism expert at Royal United Services Institute, this move is aimed at legitimising the al-Shabaab’s rule. “Other East African governments have banned plastic bags and this ban is al-Shabaab’s attempt to show their people that they too can implement laws and govern like any legitimate ruler,” he said.
According to Pantucci, the irony of this PR stunt is that al-Shabaab tend to finance their own operations largely through the illegal sale of ivory. “It’s quite ironic though that the same group has been involved in the banned ivory trade to fund its terror activities across the Horn of Africa,” he stated.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, al-Shabaab has between 7000-9000 fighters, and is weaker than it has been for a time. The Somalian-based terrorist group rose to prominence around 2006 when it started taking advantage of a weak administration in Mogadishu to assert it’s own domain of governance.
While they have a knack for killing civilians and soldiers alike – through both bombings and refusing starving Somalians to access supplies delivered by foreign aid – they are also trying to actively win the support of disillusioned villagers in rural regions of Kenya and Somalia.
Al-Shabaab first came to international popularity as the group that were finally able to kill of the threat of the Somali pirates that were attacking international ships along the Eastern coast of Africa. However, reports from the last couple of years claim that the pirates and terrorists are now working in tandem.
Last October, al-Shabaab bombed a truck in Mogadishu killing over 300 people and injuring hundreds more. It was their deadliest attack to date, and largely affected the civilian population in Somalia’s capital. It is also considered to be one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in recorded history.