Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage.
Shabaab’s spokesman said that the Somali terror group has sworn allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaedan’s new leader, and will follow his orders.
Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, the Shabaab spokesman who is also known as Ali Dheere, made the statement on the “al-Andalus Islamic station,” according to a translation of a statement by an internet jihadist. The statement was posted today on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al Islam forum, and the translation was provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“In an initiative and in [a demonstration of] loyalty, love and support amongst the mujahideen in the world, the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement announces the renewal of its allegiance to the Emir of Qaedat al-Jihad,” the statement said.
“The mujahideen in Somalia confirm to the mujahideen in al-Qaeda: ‘You are more experienced than us and you have better views than us in the future of the jihad of our Ummah against the enemy, as we experienced from you before. We await your instructions and we will act according to what you see in the coming stage to be in the interests of jihad and the Muslim Ummah,'” the statement continued, quoting Rage.
Rage said that Shabaab and “the mujahideen in Somalia are an inseparable part of the Ummah’s jihad against the Zionist Crusader invasion of the lands of Islam, and they see Qaedat al-Jihad as the teacher in whom they find instructions and advice.”
“They, the mujahideen in Somalia, said to the new emir: ‘Here we are, here we are, and we are waiting for your instructions,'” the statement concluded.
Zawahiri was officially appointed to lead al Qaeda by the terror group’s central command on June 16. Zawahiri has succeeded Osama bin Laden, the co-founder of al Qaeda and emir who led the terror group over the course of three decades.
Background on Shabaab’s links to al Qaeda
Shabaab merged with al Qaeda in November 2008, after requesting to join the international terror group in September 2008. Top al Qaeda leaders, including slain emir Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and Abu Yayha al Libi, have praised Shabaab in propaganda tapes and encouraged the group to carry out attacks against the Somali government, neighboring countries, and the West.
Al Qaeda has been instrumental in appointing Shabaab leaders to posts in the terror network. Over the past several years, al Qaeda commanders have taken over some of the top leadership positions in Shabaab.
In late 2009, Osama bin Laden appointed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed to serve as al Qaeda’s operations chief in East Africa; the announcement was made at a ceremony in Mogadishu that was attended by Ahmad Godane Zubayr, Shabaab’s spiritual leader. At the time, Fazul, who had been indicted for his involvement in the 1998 attacks in Kenya and Tanzania along with Osama bin Laden, was serving as Shabaab’s top intelligence official as well as a senior military leader. Fazul was killed by Somali troops at a checkpoint outside of Mogadishu on June 3, 2011. In the years before his death, Fazul sought guidance from Osama bin Laden, according to several terrorists detained at the Guantanamo Bay facility.
Other foreign al Qaeda operatives also hold key leadership positions in Shabaab. Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa’id, a Saudi citizen, serves as a top financier and a “manager” for Shabaab. Abu Musa Mombasa, a Pakistani citizen, serves as Shabaab’s chief of security and training. Mahmud Mujajir, a Sudanese citizen, is Shabaab’s chief of recruitment for suicide bombers. Abu Mansour al Amriki, a US citizen, serves as a military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist.
Al Qaeda’s central leadership, which is based in Pakistan, recently instructed Shabaab to downplay its links to the terror group but to continue to target US interests in the region, a senior US intelligence official who closely follows al Qaeda and Shabaab in East Africa told The Long War Journal in June 2010. The report was confirmed by intelligence information seized at bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
In the recent past, Rage has openly called for al Qaeda to send more fighters to Somalia to fight the weak Transitional Federal Government and African Union forces from Uganda and Burundi.
“We call on our brothers [Al Qaeda] to come to Somalia and to help us expand the East Africa jihad,” Rage told reporters at a press conference in Mogadishu in December 2010, while announcing the takeover of a rival Islamist group.
Shabaab is considered by some US military and intelligence officials to be one of al Qaeda’s most successful affiliates. Shabaab has defeated Hizbul Islam, a rival Islamist terror group, and has taken control of much of southern and central Somalia after waging a terror insurgency against Ethiopian forces and the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government.
Somali troops and African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are battling Shabaab in Mogadishu and in southern and central Somalia in an attempt to regain control of the capital and surrounding areas. Shabaab has lost ground in Mogadishu but is still in control of large areas of the center and south.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.