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SOMALIA: Government bans the use of terror group’s name ‘al-Shabaab’

Horn of Africa country’s Religious Affairs Ministry urges public to refer to al Qaeda-linked group as ‘Khawarij,’ or deviant sect.

Mokhtar Abu Mansor Robow

The Somali government on Monday banned the use of the name “al-Shabaab,” referring to the al Qaeda-linked terror group that the majority-Muslim nation said is a deviant sect.

In a statement, Somalia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs also barred scholars from having dealings with the armed terror group, which it said should rather be referred to as “Khawarij,” a term describing a deviant sect.

“By executing the orders of the nation’s leaders and recommendations from the religious scholars, the Ministry has banned the use of term al-Shabaab and only should be called them as Khawarij,” said the statement, forbidding the group’s ideology, as well.

The new order came after President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud announced a “total war” against the group.

Somalia has been grappling with security threats for years, with al-Shabaab being one of its main concerns.

Since 2007, the terror group has fought the Somali government and international forces in a deadly campaign that has claimed thousands of lives.

The UN has warned of growing instability in the country, with its periodic reports on Somalia this year detailing attacks by al-Shabaab and groups aligned with the Daesh/ISIS terrorist organization.

At least 1,242 civilians were killed in terrorist attacks in Somalia in 2018-2019, while 1,735 were injured, according to UN figures.