NAIROBI — Two thousand miles from Syria, the Islamic State is trying to expand its territory by establishing a branch in what its fighters call the “little emirate”: the war-torn country of Somalia.
Winning ground there won’t be easy. Al-Shabab, a Somali group linked to al-Qaeda, has a long-standing presence in the country at Africa’s eastern edge and has threatened those who join the Islamic State with death. But that hasn’t stopped a trickle of fighters — likely a few dozen — from switching sides, raising concerns among U.S. officials, who have invested hundreds of millions of dollars of aid in a new Somali government and a regional military campaign against Islamist extremists.
Somalia holds potentially huge rewards for the extremist group: It is a marginally governed nation with the continent’s longest coastline and borders three U.S. allies — Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.
Although only a few dozen Somalis have joined so far, the ISIS campaign worries U.S. officials.