MS Risk Blog

Two American Jihadists Arrested in Somalia

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The US State Department has revealed that an American resident, a Minnesota man named Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan, who joined al-Shabaab in Somalia more than seven years ago, surrendered to Somalia’s federal government on 6 November. This report comes just a day after an African Union official confirmed that another American was arrested in Somalia.

It is not immediately clear why Mohamed Abdullahi Hassan’s arrest was not announced earlier. Hassan was a lawful permanent resident of the US but not an American citizen. He had been fighting with al-Shabaab however recently went online to urge others to carry out violence on behalf of IS. A State Department spokeswoman has disclosed that Hassan is in the custody of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency in Mogadishu, adding that the US is discussing the case with the Somali Federal Government. The spokeswoman noted that Washington does not have an extradition agreement with Somalia.

On Monday 7 December, Somali security forces arrested an American who was fighting with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab. According to African Union (AU) spokesman Col. Paul Njuguna, Abdimalik Jones, who has said that he is from San Diego, was arrested in the southern port of Barawe, which is located southwest of Mogadishu. An official with Somali security forces has reported that Jones claimed that he fled al-Shabaab because of rifts within the rebel group, adding that he fled following his decision to pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda’s main rival, the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. An official has disclosed that Jones is missing the index finger of his right hand and that he does not speak any Somali, adding that he had been fighting with the al-Qaeda-linked group for several years in Somalia. Reports have indicated that he admitted to taking part in the attack at Garissa university in neighboring Kenya earlier this year, which left nearly 150 people dead. The arrest of an American comes amidst signs of increasing tensions within al-Shabaab between Somali and foreign fighters over whether the insurgents should remain aligned with al-Qaeda or should switch allegiance to IS.

The defections of two fighters, an American who was arrested earlier this week and the US resident, highlight tensions within al-Shabaab, with analysts indicating that the tensions are over whether the militant group should remain affiliated to al-Qaeda or whether it should switch allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. According to sources, foreign fighters are being alienated and feel trapped in Somalia over suspicions that they are plotting to switch allegiance to IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq. Sources have further reported that the “ambitions” by some foreign fighters within al-Shabaab to join IS have led to them being isolated within the group, with some even facing death at the hands of their comrades-in-arms. Late last month, al-Shabaab’s leadership declared that fighters acting in contravention with the mainstream stand to be aligned with al-Qaeda would represent “Bid’ah,” or misguidance, which would lead to them being killed.

The arrests of the two Americans comes as the Pentagon confirmed that a top al-Shabaab military commander was killed in a US airstrike on 2 December.

According to Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, Abdirhaman Sandhere, also known as ‘Ukash,” was heavily involved in operations in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region and was killed in the village of Kunyo Barrow, which is located near the capital Mogadishu. Davis has disclosed that “’Ukash’s removal from the battlefield is a significant blow to al-Shabaab and reflects the painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals,” adding, “this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabaab, and the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military – to dismantle al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups who threaten United States interests and persons.”

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