Al Shabaab the official al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia that has sought violent means to oppose the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and install a government based on radical sharia laws has been evidently losing ground. The terror organization that has been at the helm of conflict that has spun close to three decades has been losing its appeal to recruit fighters both domestically and externally as well as lost financiers for what is being deemed as lack of appeal from sympathizers.
In November 2018, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) also known as Abnaa Ul Calipha waged war against al-Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab in Somalia as a way of seeking dominance and expanding the caliphate to the south of Somalia. The intra-Jihadi war between ISS and Al Shabaab has taken center stage and analysts maintain that al Shabaab has been weakened and greatly affected by the war and attacks on its assets by ISS.
While al Shabaab has been viewed as the losing side by most, ideologues affiliated to al Qaeda have maintained that al Shabaab remains as the true shepherds of Jihadi as their ways are unlike ISIS who appear more volatile. However, it is only appealing to people who do not wish to join as they perceive al Shabaab as the less violent of the two; Al Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia. Intelligence reveals al Shabaab has experienced a massive defection wave that has claimed some of the most experienced fighters either to ISS or the government and as such losing its capacity to both fight off ISS, SNA, and allied troops, as well as in-fighting within its ranks while at the same time protecting its territory.
More evidence of the current superiority of the Islamic State-affiliated terror organization is the fact that ISS has grown in numbers in Somalia and now maintains active large cells operating in El-Adde, El-Wak, Buale, Gododwe, Jiliib, Salagle, Saakow, Afgoye, and Mogadishu. These areas had been majorly, Al-Shabaab areas of operations for years.
Since its inception in 2015, ISS has appeared more appealing based on ideology and the treatment of foreign fighters as it attempts to forge a ‘global jihadi’ feel a factor that has increased defections from al Shabaab who are infamous for maltreating foreign fighters within their ranks. Both ISS and ISIS central have forged a path that lures foreign fighters through systemically fair treatment and allowing qualified and motivated foreign fighters to plan and execute attacks in the name of Jihad.
In terms of ideology, ISS, as compared to Al Shabaab, has remained more attractive and legitimate. Rough estimates from intelligence on the ground show that 90% of al Shabaab members that joined the group for ideological reasons support ISS but were afraid to defect for fear of persecution and assassination. This is a clear indication that in the future ISS could be a greater threat not only because it could attract members of larger ISIS but also pull members from Al Shabaab boosting it potential to be more dangerous than al Shabaab is in the Horn of Africa.
It is therefore in the best interest of Al Shabaab’s survivability to change tactics and as such analysts have been able to project that the trajectory of al Shabaab attacks has changed to include more external attacks. Evidently, al Shabaab has been concentrating its attacks away from home to attract most recently in Kenya’s capital an attack that left almost two dozen people dead. Time and again al Shabaab has attempted to extend their reach by conducting attacks outside of Somalia as a way to garner followers, followers and sympathizers from without. It is therefore imperative to know that comprehensive anti-al Shabaab campaigns have contributed to the gradual fall of al Shabaab both in Somalia and the larger East African region.