December 26, 2009 – A rising dispute between militants in Somalia may
have split the country's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab group into two
factions. Reports say the suicide bombing at a Mogadishu hotel earlier
this month deepened divisions between an al-Shabaab leader closely
aligned with foreigners and another opposed to foreigners dictating the
Reports say a dispute has been simmering for months between the
Mogadishu-based ultra-hardline al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also
known as Abu Zubayr, and Muktar Robow Abu Mansour, a leader based in the
Bay region, southwest of Mogadishu.
Godane, who came to power after the death of al-Shabaab founder Aden
Hashi Ayro in a U.S. missile strike in May 2008, is firmly committed to
the idea of using al-Qaida-trained foreign fighters to help al-Shabaab
violently overthrow Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government and
establish an Islamic caliphate in Somalia. Robow is reported to be in
favor of engaging in talks with al-Shabaab rivals and maintaining a
popular backing for the militant group.
International Crisis Group, Horn of Africa analyst Rashid Abdi says
al-Shabaab has a decentralized leadership structure that has been
vulnerable to dissent.
"It has serious trouble in the sense that those who are wedded to the
idea of a permanent global jihad with Somalia as a staging post are now
in the driver's seat," he said. "Foreign jihadis are the ones who are
calling the shots. They are the ones who are behind the waves of suicide
bombings, which have caused horrific civilian casualties. And
increasingly, they are alienating those people who have a local agenda."
The exact number of foreigners in Somalia is not known. But in June, the
president of Somalia's transitional federal government, Sharif Sheik
Ahmed, said hundreds had arrived in the country to support al-Shabaab.
According to VOA sources in Somalia, many foreigners are based at
al-Shabaab training camps in the towns of Marka, Barawe, and Kismayo,
teaching thousands of recruits bomb-making skills and guerrilla fighting
Officials in Somalia say one of these recruits, a Somali man who had
grown up in Denmark, carried out the December 3 suicide bombing at a
graduation ceremony for medical students attended by several government
ministers. The blast killed four ministers, but also killed and wounded
at least 60 bystanders.
Amid a public outcry, al-Shabaab's Mogadishu-based spokesman Ali Mohamed
Rage denied his group had carried out the bombing. The denial prompted
some observers to speculate that foreign al-Shabaab commanders may have
planned the mission without consulting some of their key Somali
counterparts or receiving their endorsement.
Rashid Abdi says the bombing has convinced many ordinary Somalis that
al-Shabaab is increasingly being controlled by foreign fighters, who
have no regard for Somali lives.
Abdi says that public perception could now give Somalia's beleaguered
president an opportunity to erase the humiliation his government
suffered six months ago, when it was forced to beg for troops from
neighboring countries to keep the government from being toppled.
"We have to be cautious. Anger against al-Shabaab does not necessarily
translate into support for Sharif. But Sharif has to get out there and
try to regain the political territory lost to al-Shabaab," he added.
On Monday, President Sharif attended the opening session of the Somali
transitional parliament in Mogadishu, dressed in a military uniform. He
said the time had come to re-take the country from al-Shabaab and urged
parliament members and Somali citizens to assist the government in
efforts to defeat the militants.
Source: VOANews, Wednesday, December 23, 2009