Somalia’s government has ordered journalists to call Islamist Shabaab insurgents “the Group that Massacres the Somali People”, or “Ugus”, the acronym of the phrase in Somali.
“The meaning of al-Shabaab is ‘The Youth’, and that is a good name,” Somalia’s intelligence chief Abdirahman Mohamud Turyare told reporters.
“We cannot allow that good name to be blemished, so the enemy we are fighting is called Ugus, an acronym of ‘The Group that Massacres the Somali People’,” he said.
The al-Qaeda aligned group emerged in 2006 to lead a bitter insurgency against Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in a US-backed invasion to topple the Islamic Courts Union that controlled the capital Mogadishu at the time.
“It represents what they do, they massacre people,” Turyare said of the new name. “I hope all the media join in taking this name as their official title.”
The term Ugus is already in use by government-run radio and television stations, after its introduction several weeks ago.
Shabaab rebels stage frequent attacks in their fight to overthrow Somalia’s internationally-backed government, and to counter claims that they are close to defeat due to the loss of territory, regular US drone strikes against their leaders and defections.
They have also carried out revenge attacks across the wider region targeting countries which contribute troops to the 22 000-strong African Union force.