CNN:s terrorismexpert Paul Cruickshank har skrivit en fyllig artikel om al-Shabaab, vari han tagit hjälp av danske Michael Taarnby. Inte oväntat handlar det en hel del om Skandinavien, då många exilsomalier bor här.
"But it is in Scandinavia that counter-terrorism officials have recently had most cause for concern. In the 1990s an open-door policy by Nordic countries led to tens of thousands of Somalis refugees from the war-torn country settling across Scandinavia, many of them in Denmark and Sweden. It has been a difficult process integrating them into mainstream society and a radical fringe has emerged in violent opposition to the West.
There is perhaps nobody who has more closely tracked Islamist militancy in the Somali community in Scandinavia than Michael Taarnby, one of Denmark's leading experts on Al-Shabaab and a Research Associate at the University of Central Florida. He has conducted extensive field research in Scandinavia and Somalia over the last decade and the trends he sees concern him profoundly.
"There is a significant radicalization problem in the Somali Diaspora community in Denmark and Sweden," Taarnby told CNN, "and intelligence services have very little understanding of what's going on-recruiting informants has been an uphill battle because Somalis don't trust them to protect them."
Taarnby says that well informed sources in the Somali diaspora community tell him that there are around 300 to 800 hardcore Shabaab sympathizers in Denmark out of a total Somali population of 18,000. "These hardliners have been harassing Somalis who do not share their view and just want to get on with their lives. There is nasty infighting going on," he told CNN.
Taarnby says that the attempted assassination of Kurt Westergaard woke up many in the Somali community to the threat of Islamist extremism. But he says their efforts have not yet turned the tide of young Somalis being indoctrinated by Al-Shabaab's propaganda videos. "Those attracted are usually quite young - there's the usual issue of a clash of cultures - of being stuck between east Africa and Scandinavia and not knowing where they belong," Taarnby told CNN.
Some young radicalized Somalis are gravitating away from mainstream Somali mosques to mosques associated with radical preachers attended by hard-line Islamists of all stripes. "There's a lot more cross-fertilization going on in radical circles," Taarnby told CNN, "and this may explain why an Iraqi was arrested along with the Somalis in Gothenburg."
Unlike al Qaeda or its affiliate in Yemen – which in recent years have only been able to recruit Western militants after they have already traveled to Jihadist fronts on their own initiative – Al-Shabaab has recruiters directly working for it in several Western countries who not only are trying to persuade young Somalis to join the group in Somalia, but are also facilitating getting them there, according to Western counter-terrorism officials.
In recent years an estimated 40 young Somalis have been recruited from the United States in this manner, many from the Minneapolis area where there is a sizable Somali community. Dozens of others have been recruited from other Western countries. Somalis living in Canada have grown so fearful of youngsters being recruited that that some have reportedly started hiding their children's passports.
"For young Somalis it is culturally difficult to refuse to meet someone with status in the community, especially if they are linked to organizations in the homeland and have combat experience. Some of these young Somalis are also adventurous and want to be Jihadist James Bonds. The recruiters lure them in by making fighting with Al-Shabaab sound like an adventure with friends with some shooting of AK-47s." Taarnby told CNN.
An organized facilitation network transports Western recruits into Somalia, says Taarnby. Most arrive in Kenya's capital, now home to a quarter million Somalis, where Al-Shabaab has an extensive presence. There they are housed in safe houses for around a month and then transported in 4-by-4 pickup trucks northwards across the lightly patrolled border into Somalia. What happens when they arrive in Somalia, he says, is less clear.
But what is plain, he says, is the reality facing many Western recruits is very different from the message they hear in Minneapolis or Malmo. Unlike local fighters, Al-Shabaab commanders do not have to worry about alienating clan leaders if they send them off to carry out suicide bombings, says Taarnby. A significant proportion of Western recruits, he says, have taken this path. According to Taarnby, several Westerners objecting to becoming cannon fodder have later been found with bullets in their head, like a group that recently arrived from Canada.
Some of the western volunteers are valued by Al-Shabaab, according to Taarnby, because they are more educated than most Somalis and have technical skills in short supply in the country - for example in operating computers. One Western jihadist in particular - Omar Hammami, a 27 year old Syrian-American from Alabama - rose to a prominent position in the group.
Somalia experts believe that recruits from the diaspora have been crucial to the evolution of Al-Shabaab from a gun-totting militia to a political force in Somalia.
Taarnby says it's unclear what level of training Shabaab's Western recruits receive in Somalia. Most of the group's rank and file recruits receive only very rudimentary fire-arms training. Taarnby says there is no clear evidence that Western recruits are getting the sort of bomb-making training that al Qaeda has provided Western militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
"In some terrorist training camps, AQ-affiliated foreign fighters led the training and indoctrination of the recruits," the U.S. State Department warned in an August 2011 report on terrorist trends in Somalia in 2010. Somali experts say the group operates at least two large camps in Somalia on which there is little open source information.
Counter-terrorism officials across the West are now worried that the group may use Westerners for attacks back in their home countries. In July, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King stated that "Al-Shabaab now has more capability than ever to strike the U.S. homeland," adding that "as many as two dozen Muslim-Americans with Al-Shabaab - who in many cases were trained by top al Qaeda leaders - remain unaccounted for."
British authorities warned in July, "Over the past 12 months, the threat to UK interests from terrorists in Yemen and Somalia has significantly increased. People from the UK are also travelling to these countries to engage in terrorist-related activity; some are returning to the UK to plan and conduct terrorist operations."