Deep divisions are brewing once again within al-Shabaab, Somali analysts say, as another video message was released featuring American-born jihadist Omar Hammami, better known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki.
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
By Majid Ahmed
In the video released on October 19th titled "An Urgent Message", Hammami said there is "friction" between al-Shabaab's local leaders and foreign fighters. In his three-minute long video message, Hammami called on "the leaders of jihad and virtuous scholars" to intervene and find a fundamental solution to "the bitter situation that currently engulfs the Somali [foreign fighters]".
"We are afraid that this conflict might end soon in the favor of those who do not want the battalions of global jihad to take off from [Somalia] to bother the disbelievers and destroy their interests around the world," Hammami said. "Yet worse, we are worried that the end will have undesirable [consequences, including] injustice, imprisonment and infighting."
"Therefore, [I ask you in the name of] Allah [to come to the aid of] your mujahideen brothers, and to rein in the internal strife before it is too late," he said. "Do not abandon us... "
In a video released in March, Hammami, one of al-Shabaab's chief propagandists, said his life was in danger from fellow al-Shabaab members. Subsequent media outlets reported in April that al-Shabaab executed Hammami, but the group never admitted nor denied the claims.
Since the earlier video and the new release look very similar, it is unclear whether both were recorded at the same time.
Al-Amriki places risky bet to save his life
"Al-Amriki is closely linked to the leaders of al-Qaeda, so the video recording he released was yet another attempt to send a message to al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri and to put pressure on al-Shabaab leaders to save his life," said Abdirahman Mohamud, a political analyst who monitors al-Shabaab.
"Al-Amriki is now betting on al-Qaeda's leadership to intervene in this matter and save his life from his comrades," Mohamud told Sabahi.
But Badrudin Osman, a political analyst from the Somali Centre for Media Consultancy, said it is unlikely that al-Qaeda will intervene in this issue on behalf of Hammami.
"It appears that al-Qaeda is unable to intervene to solve this internal problem that al-Shabaab suffers from because al-Qaeda's leaders are being hunted down and are constantly on the run due to anti-terrorism operations led by the allied forces in Afghanistan," Osman told Sabahi.
Sheikh Hussein Ahmed, a former member of the Islamic Courts Union, said the internal divisions among al-Shabaab leaders have been ongoing since the group joined al-Qaeda.
"Al-Shabaab has never really been united and coherent but was always a group of radicals, extremists, foreign fighters and moderate nationalists," Ahmed told Sabahi. "But divisions have publicly surfaced with more depth and obviousness after the group joined al-Qaeda, which coincided with successive military defeats."
"The al-Qaeda merger, which came at a time when both groups were weakened, was not based on consultations between the top leaders of the group," he said.
He said the merger revealed divisions between al-Shabaab's local leaders and foreign jihadists who want to link the fate of al-Shabaab with that of al-Qaeda. "It is likely that this crisis will lead to the group's demise," Ahmed said.
"Al-Shabaab has been immensely weakened and is now in state of significant decline as it loses large swathes of land that it used to control," he said. "Also, the fact that Hizbul Islam broke away from the radical group has increased al-Shabaab's isolation."
Mass defections from al-Shabaab are also becoming increasingly more common. In late September, more than 200 al-Shabaab fighters surrendered with their weapons to Somali and African Union forces.
Al-Amriki in a state of despair
Abdiwahab Mohamed, political science professor at Green Hope University in Mogadishu, said Hammami's latest video is a desperate step on his part and a sign that the man is living in a state of frustration and despair.
"Although the situation has not yet escalated to an outright war among the different wings of al-Shabaab, al-Amriki's latest call refers to his feelings of concern in regard to his future and that he fears for his life," Mohamed told Sabahi.
"If al-Shabaab starts to eliminate the foreign jihadist leaders such as al-Amriki, who have come to Somalia to support the mujahedeen, this might affect the credibility of the group as seen by al-Qaeda and might deprive al-Shabaab of the financial funding coming from al-Qaeda," he said.