Shabaab denies rift between top leaders, pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden

Sheikh Abu Mukhtar Robow (left) and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (faced covered) in a propaganda video acquired by The Long War Journal.

Sheikh Abu Mukhtar Robow, the deputy leader of Shabaab, has denied recent reports of a rift between him and Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, Shabaab’s leader. The reports, which have surfaced in the Somali media, claimed that Robow is upset with Zubeyr’s management of finances and the infestation of foreigners in Shabab’s top leadership positions (foreigners are said to hold six of the 10 positions on Shabaab’s top council; also see LWJ report, Al Qaeda leaders play significant role in Shabaab). One report even claimed that Robow would merge his faction with Hizbul Islam.

But Robow said that the reports of a disagreement with Zubeyr are false, and denied withdrawing his forces from Mogadishu. And in the process, Robow pledged allegiance to none other than Osama bin Laden. From AHN:

Speaking just after Friday’s congregational prayer in a mosque at the center of the capital city Mogadishu, Robow’s comments were his first on rumors of possible disagreements between the top officials. He termed the reports baseless and groundless, accusing the Transitional Federal Government of disseminating propaganda against the hard line group.

“Let alone Al Shabaab to have been dismantled, it will declare new offensive uprooting AMISOM forces and their apostate government,” Robow was quoted as saying.

Saying he was sending a message to Al Qaeda leaders, particularly Osama bin Laden, Robow said, “your students in Somalia are united.” He referred to Bin Laden as “our leader.”

As the photo above shows, Robow has no problem working with foreign members of al Qaeda. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, before his death at the hands of US special operations forces in September 2009, was a senior leader in Shabaab. He also was a senior al Qaeda leader, and was indicted by the US along with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri for his role in the deadly 1998 suicide attacks in Kenya and Tanzania.

One other point: The fact that Robow made his statement in public, at a mosque in the heart of Mogadishu, should indicate the level of control Shabaab exercises in Somalia. Shabaab and Hizbul Islam leaders routinely hold press conferences and other public events in the capital, untouched by Somali and African Union troops.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • hanif says:

    Did Shabaab really lose territory in Mogodishu? Different media organizations seem to be giving different reports. I have found some saying that Shabaab gained territory in Mogodishu following the Ramadan offensive. What is the truth?


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