Al-Shabaab's American recruits: A comparative analysis of two radicalization pathways

Matthew W Richardson, University of Texas at El Paso


From 2005 to 2011, at least 41 Americans joined, or attempted to join, al-Shabaab, Somalia's preeminent terrorist organization. This thesis examines the radicalization process for al-Shabaab's American recruits by dividing the sample into two groups: non-Somali and Somali. The author employs causal flow diagramming as a means of visualizing each group's unique radicalization pathway. While most of the non-Somali recruits were motivated by political grievances and Salafism, most of the Somali recruits were motivated by identity conflict and nationalism. Considering al-Shabaab is both a religious and an ethno-nationalist terrorist organization, these results make sense. Radicalization within diaspora communities is a growing trend that must be addressed to prevent more at-risk youth from becoming terrorist recruits.

Subject Area

Islamic Studies|Sociology|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Richardson, Matthew W, "Al-Shabaab's American recruits: A comparative analysis of two radicalization pathways" (2012). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1512635.