The Al-Shabaab Mujahideen movement is an Al-Qaeda affiliate based in Somalia. Its leadership is a structure that comprises political hardliners, radical Islam adherents from Somali clans and foreign fighters, most of them drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Uganda. Although Al-Shabaab precept ideology originated outside Somalia, firstly it must be understood that Al-Shabaab militant group emanated from the Somali society and thus their ideology is principally part of Somali Islam for the past three decades.
The militant group with primary goal in Somalia is to wage jihad to the Federal government and subsequently implement sharia law. Al-Shabaab operates majorly in Somalia but has set foothold in some East African countries particularly Kenya and Tanzania. The militant groups’ leadership hierarchy as far as the chain of command is concerned appears flexible.
Al-Shabaab militant group comprises of multiple cells, units, divisions and figures each with distinct and diverse powers. In terms of hierarchical organizational structure of its leadership, Al-Shabaab is well organized with independent components drawn from separate regions. Based on research by Strategic Intelligence, vast OSINT, and CT literature reviewed by S.I, most adherents join the terror group for various reasons, one of them being socio-religious.
It is fair to point out that, Al-Shabaab foot soldiers are primarily concerned with clan-related affairs and monetary gains promised at the time of their recruitment as opposed to the global jihad, thus socioeconomic factors play out as factoring becoming adherents. They are also prone to infighting and shifting alliances as witnessed in Al-Shabaab where a faction led by Sheikh Abdikadir Muumin shifted fealty to ISIS in October 2015.
Research by scholars indicate that Al-Shabaab in Somalia seeks to exploit these vulnerabilities by manipulating clan networks and politics in order to retain power and destitute youths, continue to be easy fishing pool for Al-Shabaab recruitment and radicalization on promise of a better life fighting for a cause (jihad).
Al-Qaeda’s influence on Al-Shabaab leadership and hierarchical structure is not clandestine or secret that the latter is linked to Islamists Al-Qaeda since their inception.
- Al-Shabaab leadership comprises of Shura/Advisory Council. This is the topmost organ and inner circle that directs the overall strategy of the organization.
- Sharia/Political – Responsible for issuing fatwas.
- Military – Responsible for conceiving and planning operations, as well as managing training camps.
- Finance – Responsible for fund-raising, and the concealment of assets. Also responsible for the acquisition of arm and supplies.
- Amniyaat – This is the intelligence unit of the militant group tasked with gathering intelligence to fence their operations.
- Information – the unit includes online media in charge of propaganda warfare of the group.
Al-Shabaab leadership cannot be complete without notable leader; Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, the de facto leader of the parent group, Al-Qaeda.
- Ahmad Umar Ubeidah was named Emir on 6th September 2014. He is believed to have previously played a role in Al-Shabaab’s internal intelligence unit known as Amniyaat. Currently, intelligence reports indicate that he is on his deathbed after a long battle with a kidney complication and subsequent renal failure.
Ubeidah had four deputies all whom are part of the powerful Shura Council.
- Sheikh Ali Fidow. Intelligence reports show that he one of the possible successors and masterminded assassination attempts against Ubeidah 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 Al-Shabaab governors, making him the most powerful figure in the Shura.
- Ali Mohamud Raghe “Dheere” alias Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage alias Sheikh Ali Dhere. He is also current Deputy Emir and hails is from Hawiye Murusade clan. He is Al-Shabaab’s official spokesman.
- Mahat Karate – currently he is the head of intelligence – Ubeidah’s preferred successor.
- Maalim Osman – Currently the head of foot soldiers
- Fuad Mohammed Khalaf “Shangole” – He was the third-most important leader after “Abu Mansoor”. In charge of public affairs. Hails from Awrtabe sub-clan of Darod
- Hassan Yaqub Ali – was official spokesman of the Kismayo administration and currently he is Waali (governor) of Gal-Mudug. He hails from Rahanwayn clan.
- Abdirahman Hassan Hussein – leader (Governor) of the Middle Shabelle region
- Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab – He currently Al-Shabaab military operations spokesman.
- Muhammad Abu Abdullah (Al-Shabab, Al-Shabaab) governor of Lower Shabelle
Al-Shabaab’s Precept Ideology
- Establishment of Islamic State
The Somali based Al-Shabaab’s main political ideology is to establish an Islamic state in Somalia. The militant insurgency group objective is to fight the federal government, overrun the Somalia and spill over its barbaric, unfounded ideology throughout East Africa. From there, they move towards the Central, South and Eastern Africa at large.
Initially, Al-Shabaab pursued the formation of an Islamic Emirate in Somalia including the setting active sleeper cells in north-eastern region of Kenya and coastal regions of Kenya
- Strict Interpretation and Implementation of Sharia law
In the unlikely event they establish an Islamic State. Al-Shabaab aims at imposing strict version of Sharia law. Through its sternness witnessed before, its includes stoning, limb amputations, beheading, assassinations, crucifixions among those convicted.
- Wage Jihad against the West and Foreign
Al-Shabaab ideology of creating an Islamic State in Somalia is by extension wish to implement a sweeping Sharia rule and not limited to getting rid of foreigners.
Al-Shabaab views allies of Somalia government as immediate enemies who deserves nothing but jihad. Kenya has suffered the retaliatory blunts of this ideology citing it has troops under AMISOM mandate battling the rag tag militia.
Since 2007, Al-Shabaab has prepared, planned and orchestrated frequent attacks as part of its violent insurgency. The tactics included mortar attacks, suicide bombers, assassination, guerilla war, use of rocket-propelled grenades and firearms.