25 September 2012

Somalia: Hizbul Islam Group Withdraws Allegiance, Says 'Al Shabaab Is Weakened'

Mogadishu — A spokesman for Hizbul Islam militant group in Somalia says the group has defected from Al Shabaab terror group, saying that "Al Shabaab is weakened", Garowe Online reports.

Sheikh Mohamed Moallim, spokesman for Hizbul Islam group that joined Al Shabaab in 2010, told reporters that the Hizbul Islam-Al Shabaab "joined forces by mouth only, and now we have decided to withdraw our support."

Moallim said Al Shabaab "issued propaganda against Hizbul Islam", adding that Hizbul Islam is "open to negotiations with all groups for the interest of Somalia," adding that "Al Shabaab has been weakened."

Since Aug. 2011, when Al Shabaab withdrew military forces from Mogadishu in the face of a military onslaught by Somali forces aided by AMISOM peacekeepers, Al Shabaab has lost control over key towns including Baidoa, Beledweyne, Afgoye, and Merka.

The spokesman, who said he is in Kenya, claimed that Hizbul Islam leaders issued this decision. Hizbul Islam is led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, former leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) that declared war on Ethiopia in 2006 and resulted in the subsequent Ethiopian army intervention in south-central Somalia that lasted until early 2009.

Sheikh Aweys has not spoken publicly yet about this issue, but his last public comment was last week when he declared war on the Somali Federal Government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected on Sept. 10, 2012.

Political analysts say Al Shabaab is a multi-clan outfit linked to Al Qaeda and international terrorism, while Hizbul Islam is a clan-based armed group claiming Islamist credentials, with Sheikh Aweys supported and surrounded by members of his own Habar Gedir sub-clan.

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