Al-Shabaab insurgents have warned that they will “cut the throat” of members who shift allegiance from al-Qaeda to the so-called Islamic State (IS). The news emerges amidst reports that some factions have already been punished for doing so.
On Monday, in a radio broadcast, top al-Shabaab official Abu Abdalla stated that, “if anyone says he belongs to another Islamic movement, kill him on the spot,” adding, “we will cut the throat of any one…if they undermine unity.” Al-Shabaab, which has been a long-time branch of al-Qaeda in East Africa, is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu. While the insurgents have lost much ground in recent years, they continue to be a threat in both Somalia and neighboring Kenya, where they have carried out a series of deadly attacks.
Reports of divisions within al-Shabaab come at a time when IS in Iraq and Syria has become what many see as being the jihadist franchise of choice. It has attracted fighters from abroad as well as the allegiance of other militant groups, such as Boko Haram, which operates in northeastern Nigeria. However recently, al-Qaeda expanded its territory in Yemen, which is located just across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia, and has proven that the group continues to have the capabilities to carry out deadly attacks despite, to a certain degree, being overshadowed by IS. Sources have reported that while a handful of al-Shabaab factions have switched allegiance from al-Qaeda to IS, the shift has failed to gain momentum. Furthermore, pro-IS groups have been attacked and their leaders assassinated as al-Shabaab emir and al-Qaeda loyalist Ahmed Diriye seeks to shore up his control. Last month, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud disclosed that “the now-public dispute” within al-Shabaab demonstrated that the group had “lost its way.” On Monday however, top al-Shabaab official Abdalla maintained that the insurgent group remained united, stating, “the world wanted us to be divided…This is a collective decision and anybody who wants to join another Islamic group must leave the country to meet them where they are,” adding, “I swear by the name of God we will not tolerate the acts of saboteurs.”
Al-Shabaab militants have reported that they ambushed a group of military trainees on Monday in a region located southwest of the capital of Mogadishu.
According to the militants, they killed thirty of the military trainees, however the claim has not been independently confirmed. While a Somali military officer did confirm that the ambush occurred, he disclosed that fighting was still on going and that no death toll was immediately available. Ahmed Ibrahim has indicated that “we understand al-Shabaab ambushed the Somali military commando trainees and captured two military pickup trucks,” adding, “it is too early to k now what the casualties are because fighting is still going on in the jungle.” Meanwhile al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, has reported that his group killed thirty commando trainees and seized four military trucks.
The ambush comes just a day after at least thirteen people were killed after al-Shabaab insurgents stormed a hotel in the capital city, where government officials and lawmakers stay.
On Sunday, security forces in Mogadishu fought for several hours before clearing a hotel of al-Shabaab gunmen who had stormed the building after two bombs ripped into it.
At least thirteen people were killed. According to Ahmed Nur, a police officer, a car bomb rammed the entrance to the hotel and was followed by a second blast, which a security guard disclosed was another vehicle bomb. Nur further disclosed that after a gun battle the lasted several hours, the hotel had been cleared of gunmen, adding, “the hotel has ben entirely secured.” Police officials have reported that amongst those killed were the hotel owner, a lawmaker, a former senior military commander, a radio journalist and other civilians. The hotel is located near a busy area in the capital city known as K-4.
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the assault on the Sahafi hotel, which is where government officials and lawmakers usually frequent. On Sunday, al-Shabaab’s military operations spokesman indicated that “mujahideen entered and took over Sahafi hotel where enemies lived.” The incident mirrored tactics used before by al-Shabaab, in which it detonates bombs in order to break through security at targets and then sends in fighters.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that dozens of British troops will be deployed to Somalia in a bid to help the ongoing peacekeeping efforts to counter Islamist militants operating in the Horn of Africa nation.
Sources have disclosed that up to seventy personnel will join the United Nations contingent, which is supporting African Union (AU) troops who are fighting al-Shabaab. British forces deployed to Somalia will provide combat training as well as medical, logistical and engineering support.
Furthermore, up to 300 personnel could also be deployed in South Sudan over time. The role of those being deployed to South Sudan will include combat training as well as engineer work in order to strengthen vital infrastructure.
The PM, who is due to pledge the support at the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, has disclosed that the approach could help curb migrants coming to Europe. According to Mr Cameron, it is important to “step up” existing British contribution,” adding, “obviously we will want to see all the right force protection arrangements in place but we should be playing a part in this.” The British PM further disclosed that “the outcome in Somalia, if it’s a good outcome, that’s good for Britain…It means less terrorism, les migration, less piracy. Ditto in South Sudan: if we can, as peacekeepers, help to maintain order and peace and see stable development in that country then that is going to be, again, less poverty, less migration, less issues that affect us back at home. Mr Cameron however noted that British troop swill not be involved in combat roles, stating, “its not committing troops to conflict, its committing troops to a UN blue-hatted peacekeeping role – as we’ve done many times in the past, as we will do in the future…And one of the reasons we’re doing it is obviously the expertise that British troops have in training, engineering, and mentoring and we’re raising the standard for peacekeeping troops, which has had some issues and problems in the recent past.”
During the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, Prime Minister Cameron will hold face-to-face talks with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Muhamoud, along with several other world leaders.
Al-Shabaab militants have overrun an African Union (AU) military base in southern Somalia, with officials reporting that they inflicted heavy casualties.
According to sources, at least 50 AU soldiers are believed to have been killed and another 50 have been reported missing after al-Shabaab militants overran a military camp in southern Somalia on Tuesday 1 September. A statement issued late Tuesday, more than 12 hours after the assault, indicated “given the complex nature of the attack, AMISOM is currently verifying the number of casualties and the extent of the damage.” The attack, which saw the militants target the camp in Janale, located 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region and manned by Ugandan troops, now ranks as one of the deadliest yet against AMISOM troops.
Sources have reported that the attack began with the destruction of two bridges, which cut the camp off. A suicide car bomber rammed the base and was followed by an estimated 200 al-Shabaab fighters who overran the camp. AMISOM has indicated that its troops “undertook a tactical withdrawal” as the attack began. A briefing note disclosed that they soldiers did not have any air support as “low cloud and landing restrictions prevented air support by UN contracted support helicopters.” The note further disclosed that Kenyan and Ethiopian jets as well as US drones “were unavailable at the time of the attack” while AMISOM tanks and artillery located in Janale had been redeployed elsewhere.
Al-Shabaab, which has recently lost a string of key bases in the face of an AMISOM offensive, indicated that the attack was revenge for the killing of seven civilians by Ugandan troops at a wedding in the town of Merka in July.