The darker side of globalization is easily found in Somalia. The umbrella group Hizbul Islam is likely to see its profile rise after its role in Marc Aubriere's kidnapping came to light. The French security agent has just escaped the captivity of al-Shabab, but left a second hostage behind under the control of Hizbul Islam. Now the spotlight will turn squarely on him.
Hopefully the added attention will shed light on Somalia's latest insurgency.
Hibzul Islam is the alleged formation of four militant groups - Hassan Aweys' ARS-Eritrea, Jabhatul Islamya ("Islamic Front"), Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki's Mu'askar Ras Kamboni (Ras Kamboni Brigade), and Muaskar Anole. All groups had taken part in the insurgency against Ethiopian troops since 2006, but the four groups didn't unite until 2009. Ali Yassin Mohamed, a Swedish-Somali, travelled to Mogadishu in January to found Hizbul Islam and quickly aligned with al-Shabab.
It seems possible that Mohamed had been recruited or inspired by Fuad Mohamed Qalaf, another Swedish-Somali and senior leader in al-Shabab. Qalaf had sought Swedish asylum in 1992, steadily recruiting potential members before returning to Somalia in 2004. These men capitalized on Swedish neutrality as it loses meaning in the age of globalization. Any state is a potential host for diaspora from conflict zones, including those intending to return to battle.
Despite its recent formation, Hizbul Islam seems to be operating up to speed. The name change and organizational shakeup were official measures, but the groups were already operating together and show signs of complete integration. Aside from jointly kidnapping the two Frenchmen, al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam are fighting under the same command structure. Commander Bare Adan Khooje of al-Shabab told Reuters, "We had agreed to join all our forces and take orders from one command. The number of Hizbul Islam fighters (who) joined us are in the hundreds."
Judging by their recent operations and alliances, al-Shabab appears to be gearing up for a major offensive in 2010.