Al-Shabaab leadership wrangles tearing it from within

Wednesday March 18 2020

KDF soldiers head to Lamu's Boni Forest to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in August 2017. Intelligence agencies say leadership wrangles are tearing the militia apart. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Wrangles within Al-Shabaab leadership have been causing rifts within the militia group, a situation that is benefitting countries that have suffered the brunt of terrorism.

The division has led to the execution of some of the leaders of the group’s Shura council, the militant’s governing body.

Kenyan intelligence agencies said this week that fighters affiliated to the militia have taken sides in leadership dispute, leading to conflicts, infighting and deaths.

“The result has been defection and retreat by fighters. Countries have recently embraced returnees with amnesty and economic empowerment and this has really helped in the fight against terrorism,” a counter-terrorism intelligence officer told the Nation.


Last month, the attack on a building complex in Bu’aale town in Middle Juba is believed to have targeted Al-Shabaab’s director of Kenyan operations Mr Ahmad Iman Ali.

Security forces reported that Mr Ali, who was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the United States, died during the March 22 attack.

The airstrike was reportedly conducted by an ‘unidentified aircraft’.

Somalia security forces and media reported recently that Mr Ali had fallen out with Al-Shabaab leadership and was seeking to defect from the group or pledge allegiance to the Islamic State.

Earlier in August 2017, Al-Shabaab’s second in command Mr Mukhtar Robow defected to the Somalia government.

Another high ranking commander Mr Abdi Haji surrendered to Somalia security forces to whom he claimed his life was in danger.

“Militants are now turning against each other to secure a place in the group. This has been caused by Mr Abu Ubeidah’s refusal to step down even with his illness worsening”, said Mr Haji told Somali authorities.


He reported that the Al-Shabaab leadership has increasingly been persecuting Kenyan fighters over spying allegations, attempted desertions and pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).

Earlier on April 2, 2018, Mr Ahmed Yusuf Hassan and Mr Ahmed Nur Abdi Osoble, both Kenyan Al-Shabaab fighters, were executed by Al-Shabaab firing squad at Buq Aqable in Hiraan region after being accused of collaborating with the Somalia government and African Union Mission in Somalia forces.

Other Kenyan Al-Shabaab militants who have been executed recently by their Al-Shabaab masters over spying claims include former Moi University student Mr Jared Mukaya Omambia alias Abdulaziz, a Nairobi recruit Mr Abdallah Talal Musa alias Manman and Mr Faraj Abdulmajid from Mombasa. 

Credible security sources indicate that Al-Shabaab are currently looking for a key Kenyan commander within its ranks who has disappeared after being deployed to conduct operations along the Kenya-Somalia border.

Mr Moulid Mohammed Bilal, is believed to be in hiding to evade capture and possible execution by the Somalia-based terror group.