- Somalia’s radical Islamic insurgent group, al Shabaab, has finally confirmed its affiliation to al-Qaeda's global militant campaign.
Al Shabaab made its announcement a day after Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed marked his first year in office.
The group said in a statement that the "jihad of Horn of Africa must be combined with the international jihad led by the al-Qaeda network led by Osama Bin Laden ".
Islamist insurgents control much of southern and central Somalia.
The militant group al Shabaab said it would ally with al Qaeda in a drive to establish an Islamic state in Somalia and fight for Muslims across East Africa, vowing to continue a fight against US-backed African peacekeepers struggling to defend a weak Somali government.
The statement is believed to be the first explicit confirmation of what the US and Somali government have long suspected, according to local reports.
The past year has offered little respite from the violence that has rocked Somalia for nearly two decades. In the short term, a combined threat is likely to increase pressure on Mr Sharif's tenuous government and those trying to stave off its collapse.
The US supports Mr Sharif and is the biggest backer of an African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, for which it has provided training and equipment. That support reflects concerns that al Qaeda is attempting to establish a base in Somalia to attack Western targets.
Last year, the group had distanced itself from the al Qaeda, saying it will resolve its own political crisis in Somalia.
Al Shabaab has struggled to hold the support of a population wearied by war in part by claiming not to kill civilians. After a suicide bombing in December killed at least 19 people, most of them civilians, Somalis took to the streets in protest.
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