Credible INTREP in Somalia suggest that there is a growing mistrust among the members of the group, which has led to the emergence of splinter groups within the Al-Shabaab. The splinter groups are on allegiance either to ISIS or remain with Al-Qaida. This has led to infighting within the group, which has seen many Al-Shabaab fighters killed for suspicion of spying on the group.
In April, fighting broke-out among Al-Shabaab factions in Somalia after the terror group executed Sheikh Said Balbul and Abu Karim. The two high ranking individuals had pledged allegiance to ISIS. Following the executions, Abu Musab (an Al-Shabaab militant) released a clip castigating the execution of the two and pledging allegiance to ISIS. The terror group’s dwindling fortunes have led to the leadership trying to align itself with other terror groups. Al-Shabaab has sustained its allegiance to Al-Qaeda for a long time, but the recent alliance with ISIS by some of its mid-level commanders suggest a rift in the group’s governance further threatening its waning influence in certain parts of Somalia.
The anxiety and suspicions among the members has to many especially the younger Somali fighters to surrender and pledge their allegiance to the Somalia government. On 13th May 2017, a Senior Al-Shabaab commander Abdullahi Bahar was killed in clashes between the different affiliates. The fighting, which took place near Baardhere, began when Abdullahi contacted Somali Government officials in Mogadishu in order to surrender. This did not go down well with the rest of the leadership who decided to launch an assault on him. After his death, militants loyal to the slain official planned to surrender to the Somalia Government in order to fulfill the wishes of their slain leader Bahar and act against the whims of his killers.
In another case of internal squabbles, two Kenyan Al-Shabaab fighters were killed as tensions rose between the terror groups’ foreign fighters and their Somali commanders over spying suspicions. Ahmed Yusuf Hassan and Ahmed Nur Abdi Osoble were executed on 2nd April by the Al-Shabaab firing squad in Buq Aqable, Hiraan region after being accused of collaborating with Somali government and AMISOM forces.
Other Kenyan fighters who have been executed in the infighting debacle include; Asum, Jared Omambia a former Moi University student and Faraj Abdulmajid from Mombasa. Four other foreign fighters were also executed in lower Jubba in 2016 on allegations that they were spying for the security agencies.
June 2017, the US government removed Abu Mansoor, one of Al Shabaab’s feared leaders, from its wanted list. This led to the terror group seeing this as a sign that he had defected from the group. The resultant tension saw Abu Mansoor pull out with a significant number of his strong followers and is camped in a mountainous area near Abal village. With the Al-Shabaab leadership seeing the removal of the US$ 5 Million bounty on Abu Mansoor as a sign that he has ditched them for the US government, fighting between the factions is expected.
The infightings are also being fueled by the quest for leadership positions. It is emerging that Al-Shabaabs’ leadership is increasingly targeting foreign fighters in an effort to eliminate them from leadership positions and ensure it is the preserve of local Somali fighters. With the group having a number of foreign fighters in its ranks, local Somali fighters are looking to edge out the foreigners and consolidate leadership. The threat paused by the foreign fighters, is their ease to form the allegiance with ISIS this they have more power from the funds and weapons shifting the balance of power from the older indigenous Al Shabaab who pledge their allegiance to Al Qaeda.
The quarrels have further led to several Al Shabaab combat failures in the hands of AMISOM troops. The militant group has lost most of its territory to AMISOM forces and many of its fighters have been killed in Attacks on their bases.