Crisis deepens within al-Shabaab after public rebuke of al-Amriki

By Majid Ahmed in Mogadishu

December 20, 2012

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The escalating crisis between al-Shabaab's local leaders and its cadres of foreign fighters reached new heights this week after the militant group publicly rebuked American-born jihadist Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansoor al-Amriki.

"For the sake of clarification of the intricacies surrounding the Abu Mansoor saga, Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen hereby declares that Abu Mansoor al-Amriki does not, in any way, shape or form, represent the views of the muhajireen [foreign fighters] in Somalia," al-Shabaab posted on Twitter Monday (December 17th). "The opinions expressed by Abu Mansoor, the alleged frictions and the video releases are merely the results of personal grievances that stem purely from a narcissistic pursuit of fame and are far removed from the reality on the ground."

The militant group's statement comes after two high-profile videos starring Hammami were released on the internet: in a March video, he explains how is life is in danger from fellow al-Shabaab members "due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of sharia and matters of strategy"; in an October video, he pleads for global jihadist leaders to intervene into "the bitter situation that currently engulfs" al-Shabaab and the movement's foreign fighters.

Al-Shabaab's public rebuke of one of its most prominent foreign leaders is another sign of increasing differences among the group's leaders, said Abdullahi Sheikh Ahmed, a political analyst and former member of the Islamic Courts Union's Shura Council. "This step indicates that the current crisis within al-Shabaab has peaked in spite of the group's efforts to deny divisions within its ranks."

"Al-Shabaab now faces several multi-faceted problems and its members are apparently divided as local leaders do not trust their foreign-born mujahideen comrades and mistrust between both parties is reciprocated," he told Sabahi.

Hammami's case proves that al-Shabaab is fighting for power and resources rather than its alleged quest to implement sharia and perform jihad against government and allied forces, retired Somali army officer Mohamed Farah told Sabahi.

"The Somali people have now uncovered the lies and allegations of the group's members in terms of jihad because if they were seeking to implement sharia law, then how could they disagree about sharia?" Farah asked. "It is impossible for Allah's sharia to change for them to justify their disagreement. The only logical explanation regarding the current crisis among them is that they have disagreements around politics and power."

Hammami's fate still unknown

Al-Shabaab's delay in responding to the Hammami videos shows the depth of differences that exists within the group, said Abdirahman Ibrahim, a political analyst for the Somali Centre for Media Consultancy, which monitors al-Shabaab.

In its statement, al-Shabaab said it has been silent for months because it was "offering advice to Abu Mansoor in private, without publicly rebuking him, employing every possible avenue to veil his faults, overlook his shortcomings and conceal the egregious errors he had committed from the eyes of the Muslim Ummah, in the hope that Allah would guide him and us to the path of righteousness […] it is regrettable, however, that all such efforts have been fruitless despite the numerous attempts."

"It is still unknown whether al-Amriki is dead or alive because the group has not announced its verdict about him," Ibrahim said. "The charges he is facing are quite serious and it is likely that he will be executed even if it is not made public."

"Any rapid measure taken against al-Amriki could lead to bigger repercussions inside the group because this man used to represent a [strategy] that prioritized global jihad and al-Shabaab might have delayed its decision against him to avoid any further friction, particularly at a time when the group faces military pressure from allied regional forces," Ibrahim told Sabahi.

In July, the militant group executed three of its own members for treason. In 2010, al-Shabaab executed Ahmed Ali Hassan, known as Ahmed Kisi, who was the group's deputy head of intelligence, after being accused of spying for Western governments.

Ibrahim said al-Shabaab's leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, is trying to eliminate rival leaders.

"Since Hizbul Islam announced its secession from al-Shabaab last September, the leader of Hizbul Islam, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, has managed to survive several assassination attempts plotted by Godane's followers," he said. "This is a sign that Godane wants to get rid of his opposition as well as his rivals within the group."

Rebuke's effect on foreign fighters

Al-Shabaab's decision to rebuke al-Amriki affects the morale of other foreign fighters in the group, said Hussein Mohamed, a Mogadishu-based political analyst. "Abu Mansoor al-Amriki was a symbol for the foreign mujahedeen in Somalia who dreamed of leading the group or, at least, having a significant role since they travelled all the way to Somalia to advance [the cause of] global jihad," Mohamed told Sabahi.

Hammami became famous for his rap songs praising jihad and his video statements urging foreigners to join al-Shabaab.

"Al-Amriki was viewed as the most prominent personality among foreign fighters with al-Shabaab," Mohamed said. "He was also considered to be a prominent official in the recruitment and propaganda division and one the group's most well-known faces in the media. For this reason, sacking or executing him affects all foreign jihadists in Somalia and diminishes their influence."

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Reader's Comments

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    December 23, 2012 @ 02:14:02AM

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