Yesterday, I posted about a Twitter account I believed to be that of Omar Hammami or his close associate (here and here). Well, Hammami didn’t disappoint and returned this morning with some tweets and this afternoon with all the real dirt about the al Shabaab fractures and al Qaeda merger/fiasco. Omar, thanks for sending all the details on al Qaeda and al Shabaab’s infighting and how you got pushed out by Godane (Abu Zubayr). You confirmed many of my suspicions from last winter. @Aynte was also thinking along the same lines as well. And for those that were claiming there was no evidence of splits in al-Shabaab, stop being foolish.
Here’s where the morning started off.
First, a tweet from Omar. I’m not sure how Omar’s mission in Somalia relates to Martin Luther King. Last time I checked, Martin Luther King was about non-violence and Omar and the Somalia jihad is very much about violence. I believe MLK had a dream and Omar is having a nightmare.
But, then came this tweet.
Now we are talking. Omar seems to think the splits and fractures he is experiencing with al Shabaab are occurring with al Qaeda as well. Omar, we’d all love to know more so please expand. I realize you don’t want to put yourself in jeopardy, but I think you’ve already shot one of your feet, so no need to hold back.
Things were quiet for most of the day and then @azelin sent out the links to a new Hammami video showing a tired and gaunt Hammami (See below). This video link at his YouTube channel was accompanied with two documents in Arabic (Here’s #1 and #2). Previously, Omar had posted his biography, in english, which was ignored by the e-jihadi crowd. This time he wrote two Arabic documents, which detail his trials and tribulations in Somalia. I’m assuming he chose Arabic to make sure word got out in the jihadi crowd. While I don’t read Arabic, I’ve gone through the Google translate and talked to a knowledgeable scholar, Dr. Will McCants, about what I think are key passages.
Omar names “names” and illustrates in great detail conflict between different factions in al Shabaab, conflict between al Qaeda and al Shabaab, and even disagreements between different al Qaeda elements in Somalia. Great stuff all around and for those that believe al Qaeda is unified and operates in lock step based on the rules of an all powerful ideology – you need to stop what you are doing and read Omar’s notes.
Again, I’m not an Arabic speaker, but I’ll do some quick paraphrasing here of what I interpreted (could be some mistakes) and the implications. For Arabic speakers out there, if you do an english translation of these documents, please post and send me the link and I’ll do a post on them here.
- Connections between al Shabaab and al Qaeda in Yemen – In one section, Omar describes how members of al Qaeda in Yemen (AQAP) showed up in Somalia and were the communication conduit with al Qaeda Central in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The AQAP members were trying to coordinate the official merger of al Shabaab with al Qaeda. At the time, Ahmed Godane (Abu Zubayr) was against the merger as he thought the conditions in Somalia were not right yet. It seems at the point of the AQAP visit, Shabaab thought local public support for an Islamic state was sufficient but that the local populace would reject an alliance with al Qaeda. However, the foreign fighters present, in principle, did agree to be affiliated with al Qaeda. (My question: Did Godane balk at unity with al Qaeda at this point because he did not have firm control of al Shabaab and wanted to shore up loose ends before a formal merger?)
- Desire to conduct external operations in Kenya – Throughout the second document, Hammami consistently discusses the desire by many within al Shabaab and particularly al Qaeda elements to begin conducting foreign operations and a deliberate campaign in Kenya. However, it appears certain leaders within Shabaab, particularly Godane I think, wanted to keep a lid on the foreign fighters and keep them focused on internal fighting in Somalia. (My question: Does the recent uptick in al Shabaab activity in Kenya represent a loss of control by Godane over Shabaab? I would assume with Shabaab’s losses and Godane likely fleeing north to Galgala, his control on those wanting to operate in Kenya is limited.)
- Fazul’s return to Somalia, his conflict with Godane and resulting death – Omar describes in one section that legendary al Qaeda operative Harun Fazul returned with trainers to Somalia with the intent of establishing an external operations capability to project al Qaeda attacks from Somalia. Fazul told one of the commanders of foreign fighters, going by the name of A’sar Yusr, that he wanted to establish a training camp in the mountains of Puntland (probably Galgala). From what I understand, A’sar Yusr let Fazul’s plans slip to Godane (Abu Zubayr). Godane apparently didn’t like Fazul’s plan because 1) Godane, being from Hargeisa, didn’t want Fazul playing on his turf in Puntland (probably Galgala) and 2) Godane believed Fazul to be aligned with Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur) – Godane’s Southern Somalia rival for control of al Shabaab. As I understand it, this led Godane to plot Fazul’s demise setting Fazul up to approach a checkpoint in Mogadishu that was awaiting his arrival and prepared to kill him. (My note: This passage confirms Nelly Lahoud’s theory that Fazul was betrayed. This section also describes al Qaeda’s intent to conduct external operations from Somalia and matches the reporting of Michelle Shepard where she details how Fazul had plans for attacking London when he was killed.)
- Conflicts between local Somali clan fighters (Ansar) and foreign fighters (Muhajir)- Hammami describes how many of the trainers that came with Fazul left Somalia. When they departed, many foreign fighters to Somalia left the country with the trainers to join al Qaeda’s ranks outside of Somalia. Hammami says the foreign fighters were frustrated because the fighting in Somalia was not a real jihad. Omar suggests foreign fighters were treated poorly in a variety of ways. As mentioned in his biography, he notes that there were constant tensions about how foreign fighters desired to be separated into their own cadres similar to how its done with Taliban/al Qaeda in Pakistan. There are also some comparisons to how foreign fighters are used in Iraq but I didn’t understand all of this. (My note: Omar, this is an exact replay of al Qaeda’s experience in Somalia from 1992-1994. The clans didn’t like being bossed around by outsiders and they always wanted to focus on local battles over global issues.)
- Hammami overstepped with Godane and got punished – In one passage, Hammami describes his rift with Godane and how this has likely put him in his current predicament. Hammami had pledged at some point to stay out of Shabaab politics. Godane, at some point, wants to know why the foreign fighters are leaving Somalia. Hammami volunteers to explain the circumstances under which foreign fighters are frustrated over the local focus of clan fighters. Hammami suggests that a way to alleviate this frustration is for Godane to step aside and let Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur) take a bigger leadership role in Shabaab as he is well respected by the local Shabaab fighters and also has good rapport with the foreign fighters. Godane sees this as a challenge to his leadership and believes Hammami is partaking in politics again (breaking his promise to abstain) and joining the side of his rival Robow. This overstep later leads to Godane having angst with Hammami. (My notes: Omar needs a class in how to win friends and influence people. Sounds like he directly questioned Godane’s leadership and it wasn’t received well.)
- Disastrous merger between al Shabaab and al Qaeda – My interpretation is that Godane calls a meeting for all of al Shabaab’s shura. Once everyone arrives, Godane announces that al Shabaab is going to officially join al Qaeda. Those in attendance, I believe, were caught a little off guard but were amenable. Then, Godane’s deputy (Guessing this might be Ibrahim al-Afghani) compels everyone to swear bayat (oath of allegiance) to al Qaeda and Godane. Those at the meeting think they have been fooled because there is no immediate formal recognition of this merger by al Qaeda Central and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Those that swore allegiance have a bad taste in their mouth about how this meeting went down as they have been told before they were going to be officially part of al Qaeda only to find out later that this was not true. Instead they would usually find out that a Somali leader had used the claim only as a political ploy to consolidate power. Also, Robow (Abu Mansur) is not at the meeting, which makes people nervous, and it is weeks (if I remember correctly) before Zawahiri formally and publicly recognizes the merger. (My note: It appears that Godane is a total Machiavelli in Somalia. Over many months, he systematically kills or pushes out those al Qaeda operatives in the country with connection to al Qaeda global, particularly after Bin Laden’s death. Once all connections to al Qaeda Central are removed, he uses his remaining connection to al Qaeda to push the merger forward and secure loyalty of other Shabaab leaders and establish sole communication and control with al Qaeda, which I imagine included resources. Total Game of Thrones going on with Godane, he sounds like a real dick! An additional note for all those that believe an oath to al Qaeda’s is a rigid everlasting and binding agreement that cements loyalty of al Qaeda members forever, please read this section. This totally undermines such a notion.)
- Omar asserts that Godane killed off al Qaeda members and foreign fighters such as abu Talha, Fazul, Sudani and detained other foreign fighters – After the al Qaeda merger, Godane gave Hammami a figurehead position on a Shura but ultimately Hammami pushed back on the strategic direction of Shabaab landing him in his current predicament. Essentially, Godane used his linkage with al Qaeda to take firm control over foreign fighters in Somalia, focus all efforts on local power plays and suppress dissent. (My note: Bin Laden would not go with a Shabaab merger because he knew better and he had his aides in Somalia – Fazul. Zawahiri fell for the alliance with Godane, and in doing so is now aligned with a leader, Godane, and an affiliate, Shabaab, that killed off core members of al Qaeda. While I don’t think Zawahiri called for the killing of old al Qaeda vets like Fazul, he is negligent for not doing better intel in preparation for the merger.)
There are many other things in these documents and I just haven’t had time to go through it.
Other small things I picked up on:
- Omar used his own money at some point to hire his own security and car to protect himself against Godane- Shabaab. (My note: this is when I would have broken with the group probably, like when they are trying to kill me.)
- Omar explains how Shabaab deliberately discussed shifting back to Phase 1 guerilla warfare once Ethiopia and Kenya had fully invaded.
I’ll stop for now. And Omar, thanks for the information and feel free to send more. It appears you have resigned yourself to Shabaab and what appears to be a confrontation that will likely lead to your death. You don’t have to go that way. You’ve been betrayed by the group you joined. You could always turn yourself in and encourage those that might be considering a similar path to rethink their choice to join a terrorist group.