Somalia: Al-Shabaab leader captured in new video meeting "delegates"

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Shabaab leader has emerged in a new video meeting "delegates" at an undisclosed location, just weeks after the U.S. announced Nov 14, 2022, increased rewards of up to $10 million for information that helps find him.

Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, the group's Emir who took over from Ahmed Godan, the former leader who was killed in a US drone airstrike in 2014, was captured in an interview with the group’s al-Kataa'ib media wing.

The interview was conducted at a recent conference attended by about 100 Al-Shabaab delegates, it has emerged. Among those who attended the conference were senior members of Al-Shabaab, traditional elders, and religious scholars who are loyal to the group. The rare meeting was held between May 8-15.

The group's leader addressed ongoing military operations against Al-Shabaab, noting that "they will be defeated just as we have done it before". "We have fought them and won before and nothing will prevent us from securing this country from them."

Hassan Sheikh activated a crackdown against the group in August last year which saw the liberation of 80 towns and killings of thousands of militants during the first phase, according to the Somali government.

The Emir of the Al-Qaeda-linked group discusses the ongoing war in Sudan, suggesting that the interview took place a few weeks ago. The Sudanese war is now about five weeks old and the government is Somalia has been facilitating the evacuation of its citizens from the country.

Some of the Al-Shabaab leaders pictured in the conference include vocal spokesperson Ali Dheere, Al-Shabaab's former Galgaduud Waali Hassan Yaqub whose current designation remains unclear, and Sheikh Mohamed Aala-Suldan who is a senior advisor to the Emir.

The Al-Shabaab has repeatedly vowed to eliminate foreign soldiers in Somalia, particularly blaming the US for "interference". The group has been battling to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia but their attempts have often failed due to sustained military operations.

As a routine, Abu Ubaidah’s face is blurred but he appears to be tall, [presumably] with some grey hair in his beard. He is believed to be one of the oldest members of the group’s leaders having risen through the ranks to lead the militants despite his deteriorating health.

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However, credible sources say the group's financial ability has significantly reduced following a major security crackdown against business owners who remit taxes to the militants. The government said it closed down over 70 mobile money transfer firms and 250 bank accounts associated with Al-Shabaab.

The US has expressed optimism in the ongoing crackdown and even pledged to pump more resources as bounties to those who can report Al-Shabaab militants. Although the group is said to have been degraded, they are still capable of waging sporadic retaliatory attacks across Somalia.

GAROWE ONLINE

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