Home

Source: Center for Combating Terrorism

On the night of Monday, September 1, 2014, a U.S. airstrike targeted two vehicles near a wooded area of Sablale district in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, an area used by the Somali militant group al-Shabab to train its military forces.[1] The strike killed Ahmed Godane, the elusive amir of al-Shabab, upon whom the United States had placed a $7 million bounty in June 2012.[2] The U.S. government officially confirmed Godane’s death on September 5, 2014.[3]

Godane’s death, significant in itself, comes at a particularly sensitive time for al-Shabab. The group is facing a renewed offensive, Operation Indian Ocean, by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali federal government that aims to capture Baraawe, the last major port town that the insurgents still control.[4] The internal dynamics within al-Shabab itself remain the subject of intense debate and speculation, although there is little hard, verifiable information about the current state within the group’s multiple leadership tiers, from the top level to the regional and district-level administrators and field commanders. The death of Godane, who only succeeded in consolidating his control of the group by killing or driving out his major critics and potential rivals last summer, has led to renewed predictions that al-Shabab will split into different factions bickering over power and control of the group’s remaining manpower, territories, and resources.[5] Al-Shabab announced Godane’s immediate successor, Ahmad Umar, within a week of his death and a day after the Pentagon confirmed that al-Shabab’s leader had been killed. Known as Abu Ubayda, Umar reportedly played an instrumental leadership role in the purge of dissidents from the group in 2013.[6]

This article examines Godane’s tenure as al-Shabab’s amir, paying particular attention to both the group’s period of expansion, followed by stalemate and beginnings of its decline, the strategic outmaneuvering of his critics and rivals, and the internal purge he and his loyalists enacted in 2013. It finds that Godane was a charismatic and multifaceted leader who demonstrated both organizational capabilities and media savvy, enabling him to oversee al-Shabab’s territorial and governing expansion between 2008 and 2010. His desire for sole power within al-Shabab, however, ultimately shattered the group’s internal cohesion and led a number of founding leaders and prominent members to break ranks and leave. The future of the group after his death will depend on the internal cohesiveness of the post-June 2013 version of al-Shabab.

Early Life and the Islamic Courts Union
Many of the details of Godane’s early life remain shrouded in unverifiable rumor and hagiography, particularly in al-Shabab circles. He was born in July 1977 in Hargeisa, now the capital of the self-declared independent republic of Somaliland in northern Somalia, into the large Arab/Isaaq clan.[7] His initial education was at the Umar bin al-Khattab Islamic school in Hargeisa where he reportedly excelled.[8] Well versed in poetry, which he regularly inserted into his audio statements and other messaging while al-Shabab’s amir, Godane was drawn in particular to the poetry of Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, a Somali Sufi leader who led a rebellion against the British and Italians, who dubbed him the “Mad Mullah,” in the early 20th century.[9]

Godane received scholarships to study in Sudan and Pakistan, the latter reportedly funded by private Saudi donors, and it was during his travels abroad that he is believed to have been attracted to militant Islamism.[10] From Pakistan, Godane is believed to have traveled in 1998 to Afghanistan, where he received military training and battlefield experience alongside the Afghan Taliban before returning to Somalia in 2001.[11]

In the 1990s, Godane worked for the money transfer company al-Barakaat, which was shut down by the U.S. government after the 9/11 attacks, in an office in the town of Burao in the Togdheer region of Somaliland.[12] He is suspected of participating in the murders of several foreign nationals in Somaliland between 2003 and 2004 alongside Adan Hashi Farah Ayro, an influential founding ideologue of the group and Godane’s one-time deputy.[13]

In mid-2006, Godane was named the secretary-general of the Islamic Courts Union’s (ICU) executive council.[14] A close associate of Ayro, he had previously been connected to al-Ittihad al-Islami, the first major organized Somali Islamist movement that emerged after the fall of Siad Barre in January 1991.[15] After the Ethiopian invasion toppled the ICU from power in 2006, Godane was one of the al-Shabab leaders instrumental in reorganizing the group and laying the groundwork for the launch of its insurgency against the subsequent Ethiopian occupation.[16] He was also at the forefront of delegitimizing Shaykh Sharif Shaykh Ahmad after the latter was elected as the new president of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG).[17]

The exact date of Godane’s rise to al-Shabab’s amir is debated, although it seems he ascended to this position in December 2007.[18]

At the Helm During al-Shabab’s “Golden Age” (2008-2010)
Godane, during his time as amir, oversaw the rapid expansion of both al-Shabab’s territorial control in southern and central Somalia as well as the construction of insurgent governing structures to exercise a degree of control over these newly-acquired areas. Regional governors were appointed to oversee the implementation of the group’s policies, programs, and edicts at the provincial (wilayat) level, with local administrators exercising authority at lower levels.[19] Each wilayat has, at least in theory, a local Shabab-controlled Shari`a court, offices of financial and social affairs, including departments for the collection and distribution of religiously-mandated charity (zakat), and units from al-Shabab’s two armed forces, the frontline fighting Jaysh al-‘Usra fighting force and the “police force,” known as Jaysh al-Hisba.[20]

By 2009, al-Shabab succeeded in bringing about a period of relative stability in much of the territory it controlled through the implementation of a strict interpretation of Shari`a that essentially reduced Islamic jurisprudence to the carrying out of punishments for a set list of offenses including murder, theft, robbery, adultery and fornication, and spying. The harsh implementation of this strict legal code was important from an economic perspective as well because it led to a relative revival of commerce and trade in areas under the group’s control, including major population and economic centers, such as the cities of Baidoa and Kismayo, as well as major towns and transit points.[21] Local insurgent administrations also undertook small to medium scale public works projects, including the construction or repair of bridges and roads, the building of irrigation canals, and the distribution of relief aid during the famine in East Africa in 2011.[22] Al-Shabab also developed a sophisticated and capable media operations network that produced materials in a variety of languages.[23]

Under Godane, al-Shabab’s leadership pursued a pragmatic approach toward clan politics and drew its leadership and rank-and-file from a relatively diverse array of clans and sub-clans, unlike many of Somalia’s other armed factions, which were thoroughly clan-based.[24] There were allegations, however, that Godane privileged fellow Isaaq clan members with advancement in al-Shabab over members of other clan groups.[25]

Decline, Internal Discord, and the Purge
Differences between Godane and other al-Shabab senior leaders, chief among them Mukhtar “Abu Mansur” Robow, have existed since at least 2008, when the two disagreed over strategy.[26] These earlier disputes, however, were settled peacefully and did not result in a split within insurgent ranks.[27] Some, however, saw Robow’s ouster as the group’s official spokesperson as part of a campaign by Godane and his loyalists to marginalize the popular Rahanweyn commander.[28]

Godane faced mounting internal criticism from other insurgent leaders for the failure of the “Ramadan Offensive” in Mogadishu in August 2010. Planned and pushed for by the amir, the offensive was essentially composed primarily of ill-considered mass infantry attacks on AMISOM and TFG positions in the capital city, which led to high insurgent casualties likely numbering in the hundreds.[29] Subsequent “Ramadan offensives” in 2011-2013 also failed to yield many substantial positive results in the longer term for al-Shabab.[30] Internal discord continued and ultimately centered on control of the group’s consultative council, which Godane focused on stacking with loyalists while removing or otherwise marginalizing independent voices and critics, including Robow and Ibrahim al-Afghani (also known as Ibrahim Hajji Jama Mee’aad), who were both founding members of al-Shabab.[31] Ultimately, Godane suspended the meetings of the council.[32] Internal discord increased following the entry of Kenyan and Ethiopian military forces in southern and western Somalia in October and November 2011 respectively, and it was exacerbated further by Godane’s decision to formally join al-Shabab with al-Qa`ida.[33] Mounting criticism from Somali Salafist religious scholars and jurists who had previously supported the group also damaged al-Shabab.[34]

In mid-March 2012, what went on to become the most public internal crisis began when the American Omar Hammami, arguably al-Shabab’s most internationally recognizable foreign fighter, posted a video to his YouTube account revealing that he had left the group due to differences concerning “Shari`a and strategy” and feared for his life.[35] He and other disgruntled foreign fighters, including another former field commander in al-Shabab, Khattab al-Masri, continued to spar with al-Shabab and its supporters both on the ground and online.[36] The transnational jihadist e-universe grew polarized between supporters of Hammami and dissident al-Shabab leaders on the one hand and Godane and his loyalists on the other, creating a public relations nightmare for the group. Hammami in particular goaded Godane, other al-Shabab members, and their supporters online via his Twitter account. The Godane faction, which was busy consolidating its hold of the group, tried first to ignore Hammami’s criticisms while it sought to track him and other dissidents down to quietly kill them. They were eventually forced, however, to publicly respond to Hammami’s allegations that Godane and his supporters had purged a number of foreign fighters from al-Shabab’s ranks, including Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, a longtime East Africa al-Qa`ida operative, and Bilal al-Berjawi, a British-Lebanese foreign fighter.[37]

The feud culminated in September 2013 when the Godane-controlled Amniyat, al-Shabab’s intelligence branch, finally managed to track down and kill Hammami and another dissident foreign fighter, Usama al-Britani.[38] Shortly before his death, Hammami accused Godane of targeting Muslims and other mujahidin, stating that Godane had thus become an apostate. He also compared Godane and his faction to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which turned its guns on its own in the 1990s during a brutal war with Algeria’s military government and has since been used by Sunni jihadists as a cautionary tale of takfir (excommunication) and extreme ideological puritanism.[39]

Godane, as he was facing mounting criticism from Hammami and dissident foreign fighters, was threatened by a serious internal challenge from a number of prominent al-Shabab dissident leaders, including founding members Robow and al-Afghani. They criticized his leadership and treatment of foreign fighters as well as his use of violence in suppressing dissent both internally and among the communities under al-Shabab’s rule.[40] In late June 2013, al-Afghani was arrested by the Amniyat network along with another senior dissident and founding member of the group, the charismatic preacher Mu`allim Burhan (Abd al-Hamid Hashi Olhayi). Both were then killed under disputed circumstances.[41]

Godane had finally succeeded in eliminating his most vocal and potentially dangerous critics, and he and his loyalists now exercised complete control over al-Shabab. Godane stood at the pinnacle of his power, thanks to his gradual but continuing consolidation of control within the group, strategic outmaneuvering of rivals, and key support from within key segments of al-Shabab, chief among them the Amniyat network. He reaped a strategic media victory a few months later when al-Shabab gunmen seized control of the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi and confounded Kenyan security forces for days.[42] Al-Shabab also continued to carry out major attacks inside Mogadishu, suggesting that the Godane-led al-Shabab would continue to be a major player in the country despite its loss of territory and other setbacks suffered since the spring of 2011.

Conclusion
Despite his seeming brilliance in outplaying his opponents, in the end Godane’s tenure as undisputed amir of al-Shabab, free of internal threats from senior founding figures such as al-Afghani, Burhan, and Robow, and publicly known former insurgent media personalities like Hammami, was short. He outlived the latter by barely a year before being killed in a U.S. airstrike. During his tenure, al-Shabab reached the height of its territorial, administrative, economic, and military power. It was also under his leadership, however, that al-Shabab fell into decline, losing great swaths of territory and most major urban centers and economic hubs, and earning the displeasure of Usama bin Ladin, whom Godane had long tried to convince to accept al-Shabab as an official al-Qa`ida affiliate.[43]

At the time of his death, Godane and other al-Shabab leaders faced two difficult decisions: first, how to handle the renewed military push by AMISOM and Somali federal government forces; second, how to resolve the serious ideological and strategic conundrum of what to do regarding Syria and the competition between Ayman al-Zawahiri’s al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[44] The rapid territorial expansion of the latter has outshined the seemingly moribund and isolated al-Qa`ida central leadership in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Abu Mus`ab al-Zarqawi, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, and Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, past leaders of ISIL’s predecessor organizations, have long been popular with al-Shabab members, and each has appeared in the group’s media releases. Godane, however, was ultimately unwilling to abandon al-Zawahiri, with whom he had reached an agreement to formally affiliate al-Shabab with al-Qa`ida, something the Somali insurgent leader had long wanted.[45]

Godane’s death has led to predictions of al-Shabab’s imminent collapse into competing factions vying for control of the group’s remaining military and economic resources. The future of al-Shabab as a cohesive organization depends on a number of internal and external factors. Internally, a great deal rests on whether or not Godane, in the process of consolidating his control of the group, put in place a process, agreed upon by al-Shabab’s senior leadership and military commanders, to choose a successor in case of his death or capture. The level of support from these same segments of al-Shabab for Godane’s successor, Ahmad Umar, also remains an open question. The support of the group’s regional governors, senior administrators, and top military commanders, as well as influential local notables and clan leaders, will be key to his longevity and success as amir.[46] If there are dissidents within al-Shabab that oppose Umar, their access to military and economic resources, and the extent of their support base, will have an impact on their ability to challenge him. The Kenyan foreign fighter contingent within the group, which has been steadily growing during the past few years, will also play an influential role in the trajectory of al-Shabab and its new amir.[47]

External factors will also play a major role in deciding the ultimate fate of al-Shabab. The strategies, decision-making, and implementation of reforms by the Somali federal government, AMISOM forces, local strongmen like Ahmad Madobe and Barre Hirale, and international actors including the United States and European Union will be key in determining whether the insurgents continue to have a pool of support to draw upon by tapping into local grievances.[48] The strengthening of governing structures, significant reduction of blatant corruption at high levels of government, allure of the federal government’s “amnesty” offer to al-Shabab fighters, and reining in independent militias will significantly damage al-Shabab’s narrative as well as bolster the confidence of local communities.

Christopher Anzalone is a Ph.D. candidate in the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. His research focuses on political Islam, contemporary jihadist movements, Shi`a Islam and contemporary Shi`a militant groups, the social and ideological construction of jihadist narratives of martyrdom, and Muslim visual cultures. He is also a former adjunct research fellow at the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies at George Mason University and a former teaching fellow at McGill University.

[1] Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh, “Somalia’s al Shabaab Name New Leader after U.S. Strike, Warn of Revenge,” Reuters, September 6, 2014; “Al-Shabab Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was Target of U.S. Airstrike,” Associated Press, September 1, 2014; Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, and Jeffrey Gettleman, “Strikes Killed Militant Chief in Somalia, U.S. Reports,” New York Times, September 5, 2014.

[2] Andrew Quinn, “U.S. Offers Millions in Bounty for Top Somali Militants,” Reuters, June 6, 2012; “Somalia’s al-Shabab: Ahmed Abdi Godane Targeted by US,” BBC, September 2, 2014.

[3] “Statement by the Press Secretary on the Death of Ahmed Godane,” White House, September 5, 2014; David Smith, “Al-Shabaab Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane Killed by US Air Strike in Somalia,” Guardian, September 5, 2014.

[4] “Somali and AU Forces in al-Shabab Offensive,” al-Jazira, August 30, 2014.

[5] Edmund Blair and Drazen Jorgic, “Attack on Somali Islamist Leader Seen Triggering Power Struggle,” Reuters, September 4, 2014.

[6] Abdi Sheikh, “Somali Islamist Rebels Pledge Allegiance to New Leader,” Reuters, September 8, 2014; Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh, “Somalia’s al Shabaab Name New Leader after U.S. Strike, Warn of Revenge,” Reuters, September 6, 2014.

[7] “Security Council Committee on Somalia and Eritrea Issues Lists of Individuals Identified Pursuant to Paragraph 8 of Resolution 1844 (2008),” United Nations, April 12, 2010; Markus Virgil Hoehne, “Counter-terrorism in Somalia: How External Interference Helped to Produce Militant Islamism,” Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, December 17, 2009, p. 15.

[8] Stig Jarle Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia: The History and Ideology of a Militant Islamist Group, 2005-2012 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2013), p. 37.

[9] Godane spoke about his admiration for Hassan in an interview with al-Shabab’s Radio al-Andalus. See Ahmed Godane, “The First Interview of Radio al-Andalus with the Amir of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, the Shaykh Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr,” 2011.

[10] Tristan McConnell, “Who is Al Shabaab Leader Ahmed Godane?” GlobalPost, October 1, 2013.

[11]Ibid.; Hoehne, p. 15; “US Confirms al-Shabab Leader Ahmed Godane Killed,” BBC, September 5, 2014; Smith, “Al-Shabaab Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane Killed by US Air Strike in Somalia”; Chothia; Smith, “Ahmed Abdi Godane: What We Know About U.S. Airstrike Terror Target.”

[12] Hoehne, p. 15; Paul Beckett, “Shutdown of Al Barakaat Severs Lifeline for Many Somalia Residents,” Wall Street Journal, December 4, 2001.

[13] Hoehne, p. 15; Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, p. 37; Millat Ibrahim 1, September 2008, p. 17.

[14] Ibid.; Abdulkadir Khalif, “Slain Al-Shabaab Chief a ‘Master Manipulator and Orator,’” Africa Review, September 7, 2014.

[15] Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, p. 37.

[16]Ibid., p. 53.

[17] “Somalia’s Divided Islamists,” International Crisis Group, May 2010.

[18] The United Nations and Hansen date his rise to amir as occurring before Ayro’s killing. See Hoehne, p. 21; Smith, “Ahmed Abdi Godane: What We Know About U.S. Airstrike Terror Target”; Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, p. 59; David Smith, Abdalle Ahmed, and Tom McCarthy, “Al-Shabaab Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane Killed by US Air Strike in Somalia,” Guardian, September 5, 2014; “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1853 (2008),” United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, p. 14; “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia Pursuant to Security Council resolution 1811 (2008),” United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, p. 19.

[19] “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia,” United Nations Monitoring Group on Somalia, March 10, 2010, pp. 14-16; Stig Jarle Hansen, “Shabab Central: Africa’s ‘Taliban’ Grows More Unified,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, July 16, 2010.

[20] “Jaysh al-‘Usra” (Army of Difficulty/Hardship) is the name that the Prophet Muhammad reportedly gave to the army he gathered, after great difficulty, for a military expedition in 630 CE against Tabuk. The term “hisba” refers to the practice of verifying moral and ethical behavior, originally in the marketplace.

[21] “The Announcement of the Implementation of the Law of Islam in the city of Marka in Front of a Large Rally of Muslims,” al-Shabab, November 13, 2008; “The General Command [of Al-Shabab] Mobilizes Jaysh al-Hisba for the Implementation of the Call to God in the Freed Cities and Villages,” al-Shabab, August 5, 2008.

[22] Hamza Mohamed, “Somali Farmers Benefit from al-Shabab Reforms: In Somalia’s Breadbasket, Many Welcome al-Shabab’s Move to Expel Foreign Aid Groups and Build Canals,” al-Jazira, March 11, 2014; Christopher Anzalone, “Al-Shabab’s Setbacks in Somalia,” CTC Sentinel 4:10 (2011); Christopher Anzalone, “Insurgency, Governance, & Legitimacy in Somalia: A Reassessment of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, its Rhetoric & Divisions,” al-Wasat blog, December 6, 2010.

[23] Ken Menkhaus, “Al-Shabaab and Social Media: A Double-Edged Sword,” Brown Journal of World Affairs 20:2 (2014); Christopher Anzalone, “The Rapid Evolution of Al-Shabab’s Media and Insurgent ‘Journalism,’” OpenDemocracy, November 16, 2011.

[24] Christopher Anzalone, “Harakat al-Shabab Continues to Court Somalia’s Clans as Hasan Dahir Aweys Assumes a More Public Role,” al-Wasat blog, March 21, 2011; “Harakat al-Shabab Claims Support from ‘Ayr Clan Leaders,” al-Wasat blog, November 4, 2011; “Harakat al-Shabab & Somalia’s Clans,” al-Wasat blog, March 8, 2011.

[25] Michael A. Weinstein, “Somalia: Al-Shabaab’s Split and its Absorption of Hizbul Islam,” Garowe Online, January 8, 2011; “Internal Disputes Plague Al-Shabaab Leadership after Mogadishu Withdrawal,” Terrorism Monitor 9:33 (2011).

[26] Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, p. 78.

[27]Ibid.

[28] “Somalia’s Divided Islamists,” pp. 6-7.

[29] Hansen, Al-Shabaab in Somalia, pp. 102-106; “Attack Kills U.N. Peacekeepers in Somalia,” United Press International, August 31, 2010; “Somali Fighters Attack Capital: Al-Shabab Sends 11 Truckloads of Armed Fighters to Mogadishu after Declaring Final War,” al-Jazira, August 27, 2010; “115 Killed, 200 Wounded in 4-Day Mogadishu Clashes,” Garowe Online, August 26, 2010.

[30] “Islamic Militants Launch Ramadan Offensive in Famine-stricken Somalia,” CNN, August 1, 2011; “Somalia’s al-Shabab Rebels Leave Mogadishu,” BBC, August 6, 2011; “Al-Shabaab Changes Tactics, Withdraws from Somali Capital,” CNN, August 6, 2011.

[31] Matt Bryden, “The Reinvention of Al-Shabaab: A Strategy of Choice or Necessity?” Center for Strategic & International Studies, February 2014.

[32]Ibid.

[33] Abdi Sheikh, “Residents Fear Clashes as Somali Rebel Row Worsens,” Reuters, April 1, 2012.

[34] Hassan M. Abukar, “Somalia’s Salafi Groups and Fatwa Wars,” Somali Observer, November 21, 2012; Tres Thomas, “War Igniting between al-Shabaab and al-I’tisam,” Somalianewsroom.com, March 12, 2013.

[35] Omar Hammami video message, “urgentmessage,” available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAr2srINqks&context=C4c3babcADvjVQa1PpcFOfNTzHx2GfZzvpWfoWlVAt97jxVvFusbw=. For background on Hammami, see Christopher Anzalone, “The Evolution of an American Jihadi: The Case of Omar Hammami,” CTC Sentinel 5:6 (2012). Hammami had met Godane during his training to join the militias of the ICU. Godane even “welcomed” him and other foreign fighters in the port town of Baraawe after the latter joined al-Shabab. See Abu Mansuur al-Amriiki [Omar Hammami], “The Story of an American Jihaadi: Part One,” May 2012, pp. 61, 99. For more in-depth discussion of the schisms, see Christopher Anzalone, “The Rise and Decline of al-Shabab in Somalia,” Turkish Review 4:4 (2014).

[36] Many jihadist internet forums quickly deleted posts critical of Godane and his loyalists within al-Shabab. A prominent exception was the Global Jihad forum, which became one of the main websites to not only allow the posting of materials critical of Godane and al-Shabab from Hammami and dissident former al-Shabab leaders and members, but also prominently advertised them. More recently, the forum’s administrators have taken a position against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, siding with Jabhat al-Nusra, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and other jihadist critics of the former. See J.M. Berger, “Omar and Me: My Strange, Frustrating Relationship with an American Terrorist,” Foreign Policy, September 16, 2013; Karl Morand, “Jihadis on Twitter,” podcast discussion with J.M. Berger, Middle East Week Podcast, April 11, 2014. Khattab al-Masri’s criticisms of Godane were published in a Somali translation in early July 2014 by the Global Jihad forum as “Tarjamad Soomali ah Kalimad walaalaheyga Ansartow walaalka qaa’idka khadaab al-misri—Allah dhowro.”

[37] Jason Straziuso, “Twitter-loving U.S. Jihadist Faces Death Threat from Somali Militants after Fallout,” Associated Press, January 18, 2013; Nelly Lahoud, “The Merger of Al-Shabab and Qa`idat al-Jihad,” CTC Sentinel 5:2 (2012); Raffaello Pantucci and A.R. Sayyid, “Foreign Fighters in Somalia and al-Shabaab’s Internal Purge,” Terrorism Monitor 11:22 (2013); Clint Watts, “Hammami’s Latest Call Reveals Deceit, Dissension and Death in Shabaab & al Qaeda,” Selected Wisdom blog, January 8, 2013. Al-Shabab released a lengthy written statement, “A Candid Clarification Concerning Abu Mansur al-Amriki,” in English and Arabic on December 17, 2012, in which Hammami and other dissidents were painted as collaborators with al-Shabab’s enemies.

[38] “Al-Amriki and al-Britani: Militants ‘Killed’ in Somalia,” BBC, September 12, 2013; “US-born ‘Jihadist Rapper’ Omar Hammami Reportedly Killed in Somalia,” Associated Press, September 12, 2013.

[39] Harun Maruf, “Interview with Omar Hammami,” Voice of America, September 12, 2013.

[40] Mukhtar Robow, Hasan Dahir Aweys, Abu Bakr al-Zayla‘i, Zubayr Muhajir, and Mu‘allim Burhan Sheikh Hashi, “Fatwa Concerning the Attempted Assassination of Abu Mansur al-Amriki,” April 2013; Abu Bakr al-Zayla‘i (Ibrahim al-Afghani), “Open Letter to Our Shaykh and Our Amir, Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may God protect him,” April 2013.

[41] Al-Shabab, now firmly under Godane’s control, claimed through its official military spokesman, Abd al-Aziz Abu Mus’ab, that the two had died during a gun battle after resisting arrest by the Amniyat. Al-Afghani’s and Burhan’s families, however, along with an al-Shabab defector alleged that they were tried by a kangaroo al-Shabab court and then summarily executed on Godane’s orders. See “Al Shabaab Extremists Kill Two of Their Chiefs,” France 24, June 30, 2013; “Godane Loyalists Reportedly Execute al-Shabaab Leader Ibrahim al-Afghani,” Sabahi Online, June 28, 2013.

[42] Christopher Anzalone, “The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab’s Media Strategy,” CTC Sentinel 6:10 (2013).

[43] Ken Menkhaus, “Al-Shabab’s Capabilities Post-Westgate,” CTC Sentinel 7:2 (2014); Stig Jarle Hansen, “An In-Depth Look at Al-Shabab’s Internal Divisions,” CTC Sentinel 7:2 (2014); Nelly Lahoud et al., Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined? (West Point, NY: Combating Terrorism Center, 2012), pp. 38-42; Christopher Anzalone, “The Formalizing of an Affiliation: Somalia’s Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen & Al-Qa’ida Central,” al-Wasat blog, February 10, 2012.

[44] In a May 2014 message, Godane opted for a non-committal “middle path.” Deploying Qur’anic verses, traditions of the Prophet Muhammad’s reported sayings and actions (hadith), citations from the writings of respected historical Sunni jurists and religious scholars, and Usama bin Ladin, he urged all the mujahidin in Syria to avoid discord, referring both to intra-jihadist fighting as well as the careless passing around of idle gossip about those “striving in the path of God.” He also urged all of them to respect the leaders and religious scholars of the jihad. Although he did not mention them by name, Godane was presumably referring primarily to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qa`ida affiliate in Syria. See Ahmed Godane, Muslims of Bangui and Mombasa: A Tale of Tragedy, May 14, 2014. Godane spent most of his time discussing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic and the plight of Muslims in Kenya, not on Syria, suggesting his discomfort with addressing the increasingly bitter feud between ISIL and al-Qa`ida’s central leadership and its supporters in any specificity.

[45]Glad Tidings from the Two Shaykhs, Abu al-Zubayr and the Amir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qa`ida and al-Shabab, February 9, 2012.

[46] Abdi Sheikh, “Somali Islamist Rebels Pledge Allegiance to New Leader,” Reuters, September 8, 2014; Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh, “Somalia’s al Shabaab Name New Leader after U.S. Strike, Warn of Revenge,” Reuters, September 6, 2014.

[47] Christopher Anzalone, “Kenya’s Muslim Youth Center and Al-Shabab’s East African Recruitment,” CTC Sentinel 5:10 (2012); Fredrick Nzes, “Al-Hijra: Al-Shabab’s Affiliate in Kenya,” CTC Sentinel 7:5 (2014). Notably, the eulogy statement from the “general leadership” of al-Shabab announcing Godane’s death, which was released on September 6, specifically called upon Somali clans to support the group and assured Kenyan Muslims that the insurgents have not “forgotten” them and will come to their aid. See “What a Profitable Gain, O’ Abu al-Zubayr! A Statement from the General Leadership: Congratulations and Condolences to the Islamic Nation for the Martyrdom of the Amir of Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen, the Shaykh Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr, may God have mercy on him,” al-Shabab, September 6, 2014.

[48] Hirale recently said he would lay down his arms and enter into political negotiations with Madobe, the president of the Jubaland region, and the Somali federal government in a move seen as potentially boosting peacemaking efforts. Hirale has reportedly retained a military option by withdrawing some of his militiamen to rural areas and maintaining weapons stockpiles, in case negotiations flounder. He and Madobe most recently fought a bitter battle over control of the southern port city of Kismayo in June 2013. See “Hundreds Flee Kismayo as Clashes Reignite,” BBC, June 8, 2014; Abdi Sheikh, “Somali Warlord Agrees to Talks, Boosts Government Peace Efforts,” Reuters, August 31, 2014.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s