About that al-Shabab rebranding …

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 ...

Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images
Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images
Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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.

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. Twitter: @UriLF

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.