Somalia: Al-Shabaab leaders rocked in wrangles over control of finances
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Qaeda's main ally in East Africa, the Al-Shabaab group, are embroiled in a simmering battle over the control of resources, intelligence reports have established, in what could mark the collapse of the militants.
For months now, a report seen by the Daily Nation established, top leaders have differed on critical issues, leading to imminent split which would in long run jeopardize their terror activities to the advantage of civilians.
In February, multiple reports gathered by Garowe Online established that the group's de facto leader Ahmed Diriye Alia Abu Ubaidah had expelled the finance and intelligence operations head Mahad Karate and the external operations chief Bashir Qorgab.
While initial reports indicated that the three had differed over attacks targeting civilians across Somalia and elsewhere, intelligence reports have, however, linked the battle for control of resources as another factor fueling internal divisions.
The expulsion, intelligence reports add, was resisted by Karate and Bashir Qorgab's clans, further plunging the top leadership into unprecedented limbo, occasioning to the current stalemate.
But shortly after the purported expulsion, Bashir Qorgab, who had been on the US military surveillance with $5 million bounty on his head, was killed by a drone strike along with his wife, another Al-Shabaab operative, within the vicinity of Saakow town in Middle Juba, AFRICOM said.
Gen. Stephen Townsend, the AFRICOM commander, confirmed the death of the two, linking Qorgab to the Al-Shabaab attack at US Naval Base in Manda Airfield, Kenya early this year. Saakow is about 150 kilometers north of Jilib, the Al-Shabaab headquarters.
“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.
According to the reports, which are yet to be made public, Diriye ordered the assassination of Muse Moalim, the former Amniyat brigade leader in Mogadishu, who was lured to Buale and killed.
Moalim was a key ally of Karate within the Banadir district where Mogadishu is located. And lately, Diriye has taken over intelligence duties in Mogadishu following Moalim's death early this month, reports indicated.
“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," the report reads in part.
"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."
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, 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, adds the report.
With the group now operating on limited finances, it has limited most of its operations across East Africa, further pulling towards the Kenya-Somalia border, which is also under the surveillance of KDF troops.
The airstrikes in central and southern Somalia have further weakened Al-Shabaab. By Tuesday last week, the US had waged 31 airstrikes in Somalia, the highest ever within the same period in previous years, AFRICOM added.
“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.
Already, the group has suffered numerous setbacks in recent weeks among them the loss of Janaale town in Lower Shebelle to SNA and AMISOM troops. The agricultural-rich town was one of their Zakat sources, officials said.
During the raid, three top leaders were captured among them Ibrahim Mohamed Rooble, Al-Shabaab's tax collector leader in Lower Shebelle. SNA troops have since started establishing a civilian administration in the town, PM Hassan Ali Khaire said.
But despite suffering massive losses, the group claimed that it held a "Consultative Forum for Jihadist in East Africa" which lasted for five days in an unidentified location, posting photos through its affiliate media.
The forum, which started on Mar. 13, discussed among others, the US airstrikes, Kenya and Ethiopia's "invasion" and openly discredited the much anticipated December polls in Somalia.