The Canadian multi-role patrol frigate HMCS ''Fredericton" off the Somali coast seen in this January 7, 2010 file photo. The Fredericton takes part, with others military boats, in a NATO operation to conduct counter-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, being the closest NATO warship in the area.
Somalia is so dangerous the United Nations runs its Somalia operations from neighbouring Kenya. Since 2008, 14 World Food Program aid workers have been killed in Somalia, some execution-style.
Without a government since 1991, Somalia has spiralled ever deeper into anarchy, famine and extremism. Furthermore, its central location near key waterways has made it a marketplace for weapons and the exchange of extremist philosophies.
The first symptom of Somalia's malaise to affect the world was piracy, which intensified in 2005. Fisherman, dismayed at the destruction of their fish stocks by foreign fleets, began hijacking ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.
Al-Shabaab began in 2006. It was founded by Aden Hashi Farah, an al-Qaida operative who trained in Afghanistan, and passed these lessons to his Somali recruits. Al-Shabaab literally means "The Youth," reminiscent of the Taliban, which means "The Students."
Al-Shabaab's cadre consists of perhaps 308 hard-core Islamists, including international al-Qaida jihadis with experience fighting in various theatres of war. Al-Shabaab's rank-and-file fighters are largely Somali, bringing troop estimates up to several thousand.
The group's international recruitment strategies are sophisticated, indicating Al-Shabaab has terrorist ambitions beyond East Africa. For instance, recruiters have convinced ethnic Somali youth from North America to train and fight in Somalia. These radicalized youths could be used in future terror strikes in the West.
Al-Shabaab gained a reputation for cruelty and malevolence during the ongoing East African drought, due to its refusal to allow international aid to provide emergency relief into areas under its control.