6 Nov 2015

Al-Shabaab and IS – changing allegiances in Somalia

Africa Correspondent

A high-profile Al-Shabaab preacher has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. Is it a sign of closer ties between the two Islamist militant groups, or a one off?

This is Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin pledging alligance to the Islamic State. He’s a well-known al-Shabab figure.

He was not based at al-Shabab’s stronghold in southern Somalia but was in Puntland in the northeast.

One of the few fighters at Galgala mountains.

Sheikh Abdulkadir – a charismatic preacher – used to live in the UK. And he’s thought to have influenced dozens of young men from Britain to join al-Shabab.

I met him in southern Somalia in 2012 at a ceremony announcing alligiance to al-Qaeda.

His role within the organisation has mainly been preaching the philosophy of jihad and motivating young fighters.

Only this year, the so-called Islamic State have sent several messages directly to Al-Shabaab, urging them to swear alligiance to al-Baghdadi.

While IS are the new boys on the block, with lots of money and menpower, Al-Shebaab regard themselves as the more mature group.

They have been around for about ten years and are probably the most succesful Islamist organisation in Africa.

Common goals

The two groups IS and AS have common objectives – in terms of waging global jihad and establishing the Khilafah.

However, the relationship between some Al-Shabab commanders and AQ leadership including Zawahiri, predates them.

So betraying their historical friends especially Al Qaeda is not a desirable option.

Al Shebaab don’t tolerate any opposition.

Sheikh Ali Dhere – their spokesman who’s the face of the group – recently spoke on the danger of crossing the “red line”.

To them, the bigger cause is more importants than individuals – and in the past, they killed top commanders who opposed the leadership; including some of their founding members and influential foreign fighters like al-Imriki.

Sheikh Abdulkadir has dozens of fighters and sources say he’s no longer in the Galgala mountains.

He’s thought to have moved to the coastal areas of Puntland, he has a chance if he attracts big number of militants.

Otherwise, he will either be killed by al-Shabab or others.

Al Shebaab are likely to chase him and force him to take a trip to Yemen to join IS.

In the near future al-Shabaab are unlikely to join IS but if Zawahiri dies, there’s a very good chance that they could unite.