MOGADISHU, Somalia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Al-Qaida says al-Shabaab, the Islamist group that has been fighting for control of Somalia for five years, is part of its network.
Ayman al-Zawahiri issued a statement posted on the Internet on Thursday, Voice of America reported. Al-Shabaab has previously described itself as an independent group allied to al-Qaida and in June said it was loyal to Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's successor as head of al-Qaida.
The interim government in Mogadishu responded Friday. Abdulkadir Hussein Mohamed, the minister of information, said the al-Qaida announcement is "no news to us."
Al-Shabaab cannot continue its "masquerade as an indigenous Somali-Islamic organization," Mohamed said.
Al-Shabaab, which has been driven out of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, by African Union forces, has been desginated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government.