The Al-Qaeda Branch in East Africa Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen Movement (HSM)’s emir (supreme leader), Sheikh Abu Ubaidah Ahmad Umar, published a series of audio messages in late April and early May 2018 encouraging the Al-Qaeda branch in the Arabian Penisula AQAP. These publications have key meanings and, these meanings, are critical in analyzing Al-Shabaab’s plans and actions.
Contrary to recent reports of ill health (a debilitating kidney disease and an injury sustained after a drone strike) Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar is taking or is already playing a leadership role within al Qaeda’s global network. His audio speeches are directed to global jihadist’s, with emphasis on Yemen and Syria. In the audio publications, the Emir salutes all the Al-Qaeda branches (AQIM, AQAP, Taliban and other pro-Al-Qaeda jihadists in the world).
- Ubaidah is taking up the role of an advisor and a uniting figure in the Al-Qaeda network. He starts his new role by re-swearing fealty to al Qaeda’s senior leadership and emphasizing his group’s (Harakat Al-Shabaab Mujahineed Movement) adherence to al Qaeda’s ideals. Next he salutes the leaders of the entire terrorist network but exempts Abu Muhammad al-Julani, the emir of the al Qaeda branch formerly known as Al Nusrah Front now known as Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). This exemption forms the basis of his lengthy lecture about unity in an attempt to rally the jihadists against their ‘alleged’ common enemies (The West, its allies, and Christians).
- Abu Ubeidah’s other new role in the global jihadi is that of a military advisor (Al-Shabaab remains the most robust affiliate of the Al-Qaeda. Its success in East Africa including campaigns against African Mission in Somalia AMISOM, and Somali National Army SNA, besides spectacular terror attacks gives the terror group credentials that warrant Ubeidah’s military advisory role). Ubeidah starts expediting his role by providing solutions for Jihad to the Al-Qaeda affiliates. The solutions include military tactics and unit leadership. By advising jihadists to wage guerilla warfare besides providing a list of other methods that have worked for his terror group, Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar is simply asserting his authority as a new Al-Qaeda advisor on how to wage jihad. Another notable is his call for the youth to migrate to the lands under oppression. This is an indicator that Al-Shabaab has been sending fighters to Syria, Yemen, and the Magreb.
On the other hand, Abu Ubaydah Ahmad Umar maybe saying his last prayers and wishing the Al-Qaeda great tidings as he approaches his death if the SOCMINT and OSINT reports are to go by. An unverified OSINT report alleges Al-Shabaab leader in charge of governorates, Hussein Ali Fidow, remains one of Abu Ubaydah’s greatest rival and that he is plotting a coup against the Emir. This sounds far-fetched owing to the fact that Abu Ubeidah served as top intelligence officer at the Amniyat, hence quite capable of eliminating Fiidow and other dissenters. Ubaidah, if ill would not wish to die unceremoniously.
Strategic Intelligence tracked his movement early 2018 and found out he frequented Eastern Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions to avoid drone strikes and Kenya Air force jets bombardment. If at all the uneducated leader of Al-Shabaab has lost his kidneys and is suffering from acute gangrene, he’d prefer dying in Jiliib, the current headquarters of the terror group, and that would mean, his audio publications were farewell messages to Al-Qaeda.