JERUSALEM, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- A Somali terrorist group with al-Qaida ties has for the first time threatened to attack Israel, an International Crisis Group official said.
In light of recent Temple Mount standoffs in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinians, the Somali armed group, al-Shabaab, says it will focus terrorism on Israel, CNN reported Sunday.
"The Jews started to destroy parts of the holy mosque of al-Aqsa and they routinely kill our Palestinian brothers, so we are committed to defend our Palestinian brothers," an al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, said.
Al-Shabaab created a new offshoot called "Mujahedin al-Aqsa" specifically for the purpose of attacking Israel, said Rashid Abdi, spokesman for ICG, a conflict prevention group.
"We should not underestimate the capacity of al-Shabaab. This is a deadly organization, a formidable foe," Abdi said, adding that al-Shabaab had been mutating from a nationalist group into a terrorist organization similar to al-Qaida, which perpetrated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
It is not clear whether al-Shabaab has the capacity to carry out its threats against Israel, CNN reported.
"The most gruesome and gross violations of human rights are committed by al-Shabaab. ... They just shoot, they kill, maim and lash," an activist, Hassan Shire Sheikh, said.
The group also threatened African neighbors, including Uganda, Sudan, Ghana, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, and Eritrea, the report said.
The U.S. State Department Country Reports on Terrorism from April lists al-Shabaab as a terrorist organization and said it has carried out suicide bombings and shootings within Somalia. The report shows that some group members have trained and fought in Afghanistan along with al-Qaida.