21 June 2013

Somalia: Al Shabaab Dispute Turns Violent, Factions Emerge

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
Members of the militant Al-Shabaab in southern Somalia.

Mogadishu — Al Shabaab armed group fighting to topple Somalia's federal government and its domestic allies has been engaged in an internal dispute in recent months and on June 19, Al Shabaab factions engaged in a deadly confrontation in the ancient port town of Barawe in southern Somalia, Garowe Online reports.

On June 17, a public statement attributed to Al Shabaab senior leadership, led by Ahmed Abdi Godane, appeared on Al Qaeda websites in direct response to public statements attributed to a new faction of Al Shabaab, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and including Ibrahim Jama Micad Afghani, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur, Zubery Al-Muhajiri, Abu Mansur Al-Amriki.

Godane's public statement accused the new faction of Al Shabaab of a serious of crimes, including "dividing the Muslims", "spreading false information that damages the unity of Al Shabaab", "sharing Al Shabaab secrets with the enemies of Islam", "shedding the blood of Mujaahideen (Al Shabaab fighters)", and "rejecting to appear in front of Al Shabaab Court".

Godane's public statement was preceded by a series of press releases and public remarks on Somali media attributed to the faction led by Sheikh Aweys, the former leader of Islamic Courts Union (ICU).

Aweys and his allies called on the Somali people to "fight the foreign invaders and the infidel so-called Somali Federal Government", whilst blaming Al Shabaab chief Godane of "dictatorship behavior" and of "ordering the killing of Muslims and Mujahideen".

A public statement published by Aweys blamed Godane for "hunting down Mujahideen fighters in Bay and Bakool regions" and for "putting foreign fighters and other Mujahideen in secret jails" operated by Godane's loyal fighters.

Moreover, the new faction accused Godane of "exercising direct control over Al Shabaab Court and threatening or ordering consistent killings of anyone with a different viewpoint".

On an interview on Somali Channel TV, Aweys said that the Al Shabaab Shura Council for consultative discussions has been "disbanded", making Godane a dictator of the organization.

Al Shabaab infighting

On June 19, at least 10 people were killed during the fighting between two Al Shabaab factions in Barawe port town, including six foreign fighters, local sources report. Reports of casualties could not be ascertained, however, the two Al Shabaab armed factions have since been engaged in a standoff in Barawe town.

Some sources say the fighting erupted after some Al Shabaab members - led by Sheikh Aweys and his allies - began discussions on forming a breakaway faction, reportedly with a new leadership and a new organization name.

However, Godane's feared Amniyaat assassination squads, who had been hunting down Al Shabaab foreign fighters since early 2013 in Bay and Bakool regions, were reportedly sent to Barawe port town in Lower Shabelle region to seize control of Barawe town, a major base of operations for Al Shabaab militants in southern Somalia.

Al Shabaab group appeared in Somalia in 2006, as a breakaway faction of Islamic Courts Union, and has been responsible for numerous suicide bombings including the June 19 deadly attack on the UN compound in Mogadishu, where more than 15 people were killed.

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