Thursday, June 20, 2013

Al-Shabaab commanders allegedly killed in bloody infighting

One day after Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in the UN Common compound in Mogadishu, the group’s leadership is said to have clashed in a deadly gun battle on Thursday in the seaside town of Barawe.

Security sources say that forces loyal to Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane aka Abu Zubeyr twice attacked another group of rival Al-Shabaab militants including foreign fighters led by Maalim Ali aka Ibrahim Afghani.

The night and down attack in Barawe town 200 km south of the capital Mogadishu resulted in a number of casualties. In a bid to prevent the news of their clash the attackers reportedly cut off telecommunication systems in Barawe making it near impossible to get reliable information.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Senior Al-Shabaab commander Afghani is among those apparently killed. Others reportedly killed include Abu Ayan, a Sudanese militant, Abu Sa’ad a Somali, a Kenyan militant called Abu Hussein, an unknown Spanish and Zanzibari foreign jihadists and another Somali militant called Samatar.

Another Somali man called Hikmater and believed to be Godane’s brother in-law was captured alive and is allegedly set to be executed.

If confirmed, the latest news about Afghani's death as well as the killing of his other comrades will seriously weaken Al-Shabaab and further split the already fractious group whose differences is centered around the hardline tendencies of Godane and Al-Shabaab's treatment of the Somali public including some callus suicide attacks that killed many innocent civilians attracting condemnation from even some Al-Shabaab senior officials.

In March 2012, American jihadist and Al-Shabaab senior commander Omar Shafik Hammami, also known by the pseudonym Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki accused Al-Shabaab of plotting to kill him. In May 2013, Fuad Mohamed Shangole, a senior Al-Shabaab official said that Al-Amriki was killed in Rama cadey area in Bay region.

Sources also confirmed that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a former Hizbul-Islam leader is said to be preparing for a showdown with Godane’s Amniyaat hitmen which the Al-Shabaab leader uses to assassinate whoever he considers a threat to his position.

Some local media in Somalia reported that Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Ali aka Abu Mansur, another top Al-Shabaab commander opposed to Godane, was allegedly heading to Baraawe to rescue the besieged Al-Shabaab foreign fighters and Somali commanders. However, it has since been established from his close allies that Abu Mansur is actually in Bakol region and did not travel overnight to Barawe as wrongly reported.

The timing of this attack coincides with a long seething wrangle among Al-Shabaab leadership and will further destabilize the group leading to more hostilities and possibly bloody clashes among its feuding leaders.