In a recent interview with Radio Andalus, Shabaab’s leader said that three influential al Qaeda leaders played an important role in fighting the Americans in Mogadishu in the early 1990s.
Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed, the spiritual leader who is better known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr and Godane, said that al Qaeda played a “prominent role” in fighting along with Somalis during the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. Abu Zubayr’s statement to Al Andalus, a Shabaab-run radio station, was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
When asked by the interviewer “what was the role of the emigrant brothers in fighting the Americans,” Abu Zubayr said foreign fighters played important combat and support roles during the Battle of Mogadishu. Two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 US soldiers and more than 1,000 Somalis were killed during two days of heavy street fighting.
He said that three influential al Qaeda leaders, including one who has risen to the top tier of the terror group’s leadership council, were present during the battle.
“Actually, they had a prominent role that includes many fields. For example, the field of training, supplying help in actual participation in the fighting, etc.,” Abu Zubayr said. Al Qaeda continues to play a similar role with the Taliban in Afghanistan and in other theaters of jihad.
“Very important men came to Mogadishu including Sheikh Yusuf al Ayiri, commander Saif al Adel, and Sheikh Abu al Hasan al Sa’idi,” he continued.
Abu Zubayr also said that the fighting in Mogadishu “was a starting point for the long war between the mujahideen of al Qaeda Organization and America.”
“Sheikh Osama himself pointed this out in his speeches and he mentioned that they got to witness the weakness of the American soldier and his fragility through this war.”
Saif al Adel is one of al Qaeda’s top leaders. He served as al Qaeda’s interim emir after the death of Osama bin Laden and is a senior member of the Shura Majlis. In the past, he has served as the top military leader, a senior strategist, and a member of the external operations council. Al Adel has been involved in numerous terror plots, including the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He is believed to be sheltering in Pakistan.
Sheikh Yusuf al Ayiri was the former leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia who was killed by Saudi security forces in 2003. Al Ayiri was a prolific writer and strategist; he is considered to be one of the most influential writers in jihadist circles. In addition to Somalia, he is known to have fought in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, the Philippines, and Afghanistan. While in Afghanistan, Al Ayiri attended al Qaeda’s Al Farouq training camp, where he eventually became an instructor. He also served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden for a short period of time.
Sheikh Abu al Hasan al Sa’idi was a prominent ideologue for al Qaeda. He fought against the Soviets in 1989 and traveled to Sudan along with Osama bin Laden. He was killed in a suicide attack while targeting US forces in Afghanistan.
Although not named by Abu Zubayr, another prominent al Qaeda leader that fought in the Battle of Mogadishu was Fazl Mohammed. Fazl was indicted for his role in the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings along with al Adel, and has been involved in multiple terror plots in East Africa. Osama bin Laden named Fazl the head of al Qaeda in East Africa in 2009; Abu Zubayr presided at the ceremony. Fazl also served as a senior leader in Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia. He was killed by Somali troops in June 2011.
Al Qaeda leaders continue to play significant roles in Shabaab’s command structure. Among the al Qaeda leaders serving Shabaab are: Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa’id, a Saudi who serves as a top financier and manager; Abu Sulayman Al Banadiri, a Somali of Yemeni descent who is a senior aide to Abu Zubayr; Abu Musa Mombasa, a Pakistani who serves as Shabaab’s chief of security and training; Omar Hammami, a US citizen who is a military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist; and Mahmud Mujajir, a Sudanese citizen who is Shabaab’s chief of recruitment for suicide bombers.