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War and Peace in SomaliaNational Grievances, Local Conflict and Al-Shabaab$
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Michael Keating and Matt Waldman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190947910

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190947910.001.0001

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Why They Fight and why They Quit

Why They Fight and why They Quit

An Analysis of Interviews with Current and Former Al-Shabaab Fighters

(p.318) (p.319) Why They Fight and why They Quit
War and Peace in Somalia

Richard Barrett

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the issue of why fighters join Al-Shabaab and why they quit, based on an analysis of over 100 interviews with individuals currently and previously in the group. It concludes that a majority seek a sense of belonging and purpose, influenced by Al-Shabaab's claim to be acting in defence of Islam. Younger members are attracted by the opportunity for adventure, prospects of economic security, and because of the encouragement of friends who have already joined. Fighters often leave because life in the group, and the treatment of its members, are harsher than expected, or they find that the group does not abide by its religious principles, especially in its brutality and use of arbitrary detentions. Interestingly, six Al-Shabaab leaders interviewed suggested that the group was fighting a political rather than ideological battle, and that its members had little interest in Al-Qaida's global agenda.

Keywords:   Al-Shabaab, Somalia, fighters, membership, Islam, militant groups

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