Banner for the latest videotape from Shabaab, from the Al Ekhlass forum.
Al Qaeda has reported one of its senior operatives in eastern Africa was killed during fighting in Somalia more than one year ago. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior al Qaeda operative in eastern Africa, announced the death of Abu Talha al Sudani while discussing the May 1 airstrike that killed Aden Hashi Ayro, the leader of Shabaab in Somalia.
“And before him [Ayro], more than a year ago, our leader was martyred, the leader of the mujahideen in Somalia, Abu Talha al Sudani, while he was leading one of the battalions of the mujahideen,” according to a translation provided by Nick Grace. “And this is the first time that we make it public.” Grace monitors al Qaeda and other jihadi forums.
The disclosure was made in a tape released last night on jihadi Internet forums by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, Grace told The Long War Journal.
It is unclear if Sudani was killed while the fighting against the Ethiopian Army or in a US airstrike. The US military targeted both Sudani and Nabhan in an airstrike in early January 2007. Several other US airstrikes have targeted senior al Qaeda and Islamic Courts leaders over the past 20 months.
A look at some of the leaders of the Islamic Courts, Shabaab, and al Qaeda in East Africa. Click to view.
Sudani, also known as Tariq Abdullah, was al Qaeda’s ideological and strategic leader in East Africa. He was behind the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa. Nabhan is wanted for his involvement in the 2002 car bombing attack in Kenya and missile attack on an Israeli airliner.
Shabaab seeks to formally join al Qaeda
The videotape is the latest signal that Shabaab, an offshoot of the Islamic Courts, seeks to formally merge with al Qaeda. While the group’s leader have numerous ties to al Qaeda and many of its members trained in camps in Afghanistan, Shabaab has not officially joined the central al Qaeda organization.
Grace said Nabhan’s tape “seems to be Shabaab’s formal request to join al Qaeda.”
Nabhan said Somali forces would continue to wage “jihad” in Somalia even after the death of senior leaders. “Did the Jihad in Somalia stop [after Ayro’s death]?” Nabhan asked. “No, by Allah, instead we renewed the oath to death upon which died the noble martyrs.”
Last week, Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Mukhtar Robow admitted the group is closely aligned to al Qaeda and seeks to merge with the terror group. “We are negotiating how we can unite into one,” Robow said.
Shabaab has taken over much of southern and central Somalia in a vicious insurgency against the poorly supported Transitional Federal Government forces and the Ethiopian Army. Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia in December 2006, forcing the Islamic Courts to go underground.
For more information on the current state of Somalia and the rise of Shabaab, see Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab in control of southern Somalia.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.