According to AU and Somali sources foreign-born Al Qaeda fighters are now filling the ranks of Al Shabab. Intelligence reports obtained by ABC News show the leadership of the organization filled with established Al Qaeda figures from outside of Somalia, even the United States. Abu Mansur Al-Amiriki, a U.S. citizen from Alabama with a Syrian father and white, Baptist mother, is in charge of financing Al Shabab according to the reports.
They also state that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is considered a key figure in Al Shabab. Mohammed, who was born in the Comoros and raised in Kenya, is on the FBI's most-wanted list for his role in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people.
Along with a Saudi, a Pakistani, a Yemeni and few other foreigners, Mohammed and Amriki make up what is called the "Shura Council," a consultative body to the Somali Shabab leadership, according to African Union and Somali government officials. And their tactics of suicide bombings and remote-controlled ieds, are distinctively Al Qaeda - not Somali.
"This is not a war among Somalis. This is not something that is happening within Somali clans, maybe it started that way 10 or 20 years ago but the reality now is people are coming to create destruction in a country that's already destroyed," said Ahmed Abdisalam Xaji Adan, the Minister of National Security for Somalia's Transitional Federal Government. "The tactics that are employed by the insurgents… are to send a message to say 'this is our war and we'll do everything possible.'"
The government is calling for more help from the international community and wants an increase of the 6,000 AMISOM troops already operating in Mogadishu, and fighting alongside government troops. At the AU summit held in Kampala, the body agreed to increase the mission by 2,000 troops. It also is considering strengthening AMISOM's mandate, allowing troops to fire first if they are facing imminent attack.
But the additional responsibilities and expansion of the mission come at a time when AMISOM is being criticized for indiscriminate shelling in highly-populated civilian areas. Human rights groups and the United Nations have repeatedly called on the mission to better protect the Somali population. The Associated Press recently published a report highlighting an internal African Union memo about concerns over civilian casualties, and said that the mission "continues to underestimate the importance of being seen to address this critical issue."
AMISOM and Somali government officials deny the troops are careless about civilians and say the real issue is Al-Shabab attacking them from populated areas and using civilians as shields. Carson said the United States has had discussions with AMISOM and that it recognizes the need to improve the accuracy of their counter-batteries and intelligence.
Carson said that firing indiscriminately into civilian areas "not only creates casualties but turns the population against them."
That's what many Somalia experts say happened in 2007, when Ethiopia invaded the country to topple its last Islamist government. Thousands of civilians were killed, and Ethiopia was accused of committing human rights abuses against the population including torture, rape and murder.
Now, Al Shabab is trying to cast the current conflict in the same light with its news channel.