- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
On Thursday, we noted that Somalia’s al-Shabab had joined Twitter amidst reports that it was considering changing its name to reflect the fact that its members aren’t as young as they used to be (al-Shabab means "the youth"). Echoing an earlier report on the developments, we suggested the moves might be part of a larger "rebranding" effort by the Islamic militant group.
Al-Shabab’s resident tweeter, it seems, isn’t happy with that assessment. "
All reports of
#AlShabaab re-branding are false!" the group’s Twitter feed declared earlier today. "Suggestion from Somali scholars was perhaps misconstrued as an official HSM statement." The account added a dose of media criticism (
"journalists are encouraged to verify and double-check their sources instead of regurgitating unreliable accounts often from subjective media") before turning its attention for the first time to the Kenyan military spokesman tweeting about his country’s offensive against the militant group.
"@MajorEChirchir 50,000 Ethiopian troops couldn’t pacify Somalia; you think a few disillusioned & disinclined Kenyan boys are up to the task?" al-Shabab taunted.
The Kenyan military spokesman, Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, at first seemed hesitant to engage with the newly minted al-Shabab account, noting this morning that the Kenya Defense Forces
"is not keen on twitter war nor propaganda." But Chirchir, it seems, couldn’t resist.
"With Al Shabaab joining tweeter, lets take fight to their doorstep, lets follow them for a week then unfollow," he tweeted hours later. The mass unfollow — your newest addition to the brave new world of modern warfare.