Infighting among the top leadership of Somali-based militia Al-Shabaab over finances is threatening to split the group, an intelligence report seen by the Nation shows.
Late last month, the group’s leader Ahmed Diriye, aka Abu Ubeyda, attempted to expel head of finance and intelligence operations Mahad Karate and head of external operations Bashir Qorgab as the three fight over control of resources.
Intelligence reports show that Karate’s and Qorgab’s clans resisted the expulsion.
Two weeks later, Qorgab, who the United States said was the mastermind of the Manda Bay base attack, was killed in a US drone attack alongside his wife.
After his death, Gen Stephen Townsend, the head of Africom, in a statement, confirmed that the two were killed in Saakow, about 150 kilometres north of Jilib, the headquarters of the militant group.
“Since January 5, the US Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on US and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” Gen Townsend said.
Now, the intelligence report seen by the Nation shows that Qorgab’s death has exacerbated wrangles and suspicion within Shabaab ranks.
In early March, the intelligence report said Diriye ordered the assassination of another key Karate crony, Muse Maalim Muawiye, the head of intelligence in Banadir, who was lured to Buale and executed in early March.
“Ubeyda is accusing Karate of hoarding all the money collected from forced taxation on farmers, herders and businessmen in Mogadishu and other Shabaab-controlled areas. On the other hand, Karate argues that his clan, the Hawiye, are the majority in Somalia and the ones who contribute much to the coffers and, therefore, the money belongs first to the Hawiye and then to other clans,” the report reads.
Sources say that Karate has also been citing an incident in October 2017 when Al-Shabaab detonated a bomb and killed over 1,000 civilians at KM4 junction in Mogadishu.
Most of the dead were members of Karate’s clan, and as such Karate has never recovered his credibility, the report said.
Diriye, it is understood, has been trying to wrestle control from Karate, something he finds hard due to deeply embedded clan allegiances within the group.
He is reaching out to smaller clans hoping to form a conglomeration of clans against the Hawiyes.
“The situation has been aggravated by the constant precise drone strikes which are taking out key leaders, thus causing allegations and counter-allegations of espionage,” the report said, adding that this, coupled with Amisom’s plan to flush Al-Shabaab out of its strongholds of Buale and Jilib, has put the group on the edge.
To deflect attention, Al-Shabaab has deployed fighters along the Kenyan border, albeit without food due to the financial wrangles.
As a result, militants deployed along the border have been looting shops. On March 14, on the border of Somalia and Garissa County, Al-Shabaab militants vandalised two shops, stealing food.
A fortnight ago security forces intercepted and killed six militants in Korisa, Garissa County, and captured one.
Last week soldiers raided an Al-Shabaab hideout in Holawajir, on the border with Lamu County, and shot dead 12 militants, among them a local commander who had been providing intelligence and logistical support to terrorists hiding in the forest.