Rarely does the Somalia based Shebaab terrorist organization fall for military deception tactics, but the publishing of a statement disputing claims made by Somali Army Intelligence and subsequent media suppositions that Emir Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah has passed on is not only suspect but largely telling.
Through its propaganda websites, Al-Qaeda branch in Somalia, Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen Movement has issued a statement refuting the death of its leader, Emir Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah who suffers from a debilitating kidney condition and renal complications. The terror group claims that Emir Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah is not dead neither is he bedridden. That he is in good physical health and in command of the terrorist organization. The group cited a top commander as the source of the clarification.
We view this response from a threat lens. It is an indicator of veiled fear. What is the Shura Council afraid of? A Split?
- The death of an Emir is not feted rather a worrisome event to the Shura Council. Silent succession wars have been going on pitting 4 powerful members of the Shura, Ali Fidow, Ali Dheere, Mahad Karatey, and Maalim Osman against each other. This could have factored the hasty statement.
- Most of the Emir’s Deaths, according to S.I data are announced long after burials (eulogized in videos or publications through Global Islamic Media) and shortly after a new Emir has been appointed amicably. The hasty statement confirms there’s fear that the Shura is not confident of handing over power to a new Emir. Intelligence reports show that one of the possible successors Sheikh Ali Fidow masterminded assassination attempts against Ubaidah forcing the leader to relocate to Gedo for 4 months, early 2018. Fidow is the head of Finance and administration hence presides over all the Shabaab governors, making him the most powerful figure in the Shura.
- Shura, throughout 2017 fought the influence of ISIS in its rank and file. The defection of Sheikh Muumin to Islamic States is viewed as a serious threat to the Al-Shabaab terror group since he is believed to weild a lot of influence within the Shura. The death of Ubaidah would most certainly open a floodgate of defections to ISIS. Intelligence also shows that 2 members of the Shura have always been warm to the idea of swearing fealty to ISIS. This would significantly fracture the financially weak Al-Qaeda affiliate.
- Powerful Defectors including Sheikh Dahir Aweys and Sheik Muktar Robow Abu Mansur still have strategic influence in the Shura and clan leadership. Shura may be afraid these powerful figures would start a campaign to win hearts and hearts of commanders, some governors, and most catastrophic 3 unnamed members of the Shura Council. Such an outcome would fracture the terror group into factions and clan based militia which can be easy to exploit and convert to pro-govt outfits.