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Today from Hiiraan Online:
Al-Shabaab's leadership disputes continue
Saturday, April 07, 2012
At the weekend, Sheikh Hassan Dahir 'Aweys', now Al-Shabaab's military commander in southern Somalia publicly disagreed with comments by Al-Shabaab's leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane 'Abu Zubayr' that that only Al-Shabaab could wage a jihad inside Somalia.
Sheikh 'Aweys' responded that membership in a jihad was open to all.
He said that it was better to have many Islamic groups and then unite them later on - "this is how we have been carrying on for the last two decades", he added.
Sheikh 'Aweys', a former military leader of Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya in the early 1990s, later went to Eritrea where he set up the Alliance for the Rehabilitation of Somalia after the defeat of the Islamic Courts Union in 2006,and later headed Hizbul Islam until it was forced to merge with Al-Shabaab in 2010.
He was also quoted as saying that where the operations of Al-Shabaab are wrong "we should correct it." Sheikh 'Aweys' also said Ahmed Godane's statement was "not credible", and went on to criticise the way Al-Shabaab had made the killing of civilians lawful by making up its own laws.
"Al-Shabaab was not formed to spill the blood of civilians", he said. According to Somali sources, Ahmed Godane as leader of Al-Shabaab opposed Sheikh 'Aweys' rise in Al-Shabaab and was against him getting any official position in the organization despite the uniting of Hizbul Islam with Al-Shabaab.
Sheikh 'Aweys' however has the support of other influential Al-Shabaab leaders including Sheikh Muktar Robow and Fuad Mohamed Shongole.
Sheikh 'Aweys' in fact has openly challenged the decision of Al-Shabaab in February to amalgamate with Al Qaeda when Al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda.
This union with Al Qaeda was seen by some as an attempt to foil the plan to establish an "Islamic Emirate" in Somalia, announced in December at Baidoa at a conference organized by ex Al-Itihaad members including Sheikh 'Aweys', Sheikh Muktar Robow and others.
The meeting was boycotted by Ahmed Abdi Godane and the foreign jihadist elements in Al-Shabaab. Sheikh 'Aweys' told local journalists that the union with Al Qaeda was shameful and people should not "wear something alien". Even if all Islamic rebels joined Al Qaeda, he said, this did not mean they replaced the jihadist agenda and it did not mean Al Qaeda could replace the "Islamic Caliphate".
As we have noted previously, there have been other indications of strains within Al-Shabaab' leadership following its series of military defeats and withdrawals, whether tactical or enforced. It was only last month that Abu-Mansoor Al-Amrike put out a video airing his fears of being assassinated by other elements within Al-Shabaab. There were subsequent reports that Al-Amrike had been arrested.
The comments of Sheikh 'Aweys' immediately gave rise to fresh suggestions that it might signal the possibility of including the so-called nationalist elements in Al-Shabaab in the peace process. This is something that has also been raised by Sheikh Muktar Robow who told Somalia Report last month that he would be willing to negotiate with the TFG if the TFG first agreed to various conditions of which the most important included the withdrawal of all foreign troops, the building of a coalition government and the establishment of a constitution that must be based on Sharia law. The reports of divisions within Al-Shabaab's leadership have encouraged this sort of speculation but as others quickly pointed out it would need rather more than these comments to accept Sheikh 'Aweys' as a "reformed" person.One editorial stressed that "acceptance of his reform must come with the condition that he quit Somali politics altogether, seek national forgiveness and withdraw himself into seclusion. The blood of innocents killed by organizations for which Colonel Aweys sat at the top as leader is still fresh in the minds of many." It goes on "[He] must be willing to surrender weapons,must allow loyal fighters to undergo national rehabilitation programs and he must withdraw from Somali politics".
Meanwhile, last weekend Al-Shabaab again warned Kenya that it would suffer retribution and revenge for Kenyan military operations against Al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia. "The Kenyan public must be aware that the more Kenyan troops continue to persecute innocent Muslims of Somalia , the less secure Kenyan cities will be; and the more oppression the Muslims of Somalia feel, the more constricted Kenyan Life will be. Such is the law of retribution." There have already been a number of hit and run grenade attacks on innocent civilians in Nairobi including an attack in early March which killed four and injured another 40 though Al-Shabaab has denied involvement in these. Nor has it admitted responsibility for two grenade attacks last weekend in Mombassa where two Kenyans were injured and another in the nearby small town of Mtwapa where a woman was ikilled and 20 injured. This was the first such attack in Mombasa, a major toursit destination, and Prime Minister Raila Odinga emphasized that Kenya remained a safe destination for tourists: "Kenya is safe. Tourists should continue to come to Kenya and tyhe government will protect them." Internal Security Minister, George Saitoti, said the authorities would not tire of hunting for Al-Shabaab. They had runied their own country, he said, and now they were trying to ruin Kenya's economy.
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