Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali, the leader of Shabaab’s branch in Kenya, from a videotape released on Jan. 6. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
Shabaab, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, has designated a radical Kenyan preacher who has advocated jihad across the globe to lead its branch in Kenya.
The Muslim Youth Center, a radical Islamist group in Kenya, said that Shabaab named Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali its “Supreme Amiir,” or leader, on Jan. 10. The Muslim Youth Center released a statement on their blog, which was obtained by the SITE Intelligence Group.
“Allah favours our beloved al Shabaab, and al Shabaab in return has placed the responsibility of waging jihad in Kenya in the capable Kenyan hands of our Amiir Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali,” the statement said.
According to the Muslim Youth Center, Ali has fought in Somalia, where he led other Kenyans against Somali troops and African Union forces.
“Some years back our beloved brothers in al Shabaab called upon our Amir to take up his duty and help the mujahideen in Somalia,” the statement said. “Without hesitation or excuses like many of the other Sheikhs in Kenya our Amiir left Majengo and MYC [Muslim Youth Center] to begin fighting in Allah cause. As a result, many of us in MYC and others in Kenya followed our dear Amiir to the land of Somalia.”
The Muslim Youth Center said Kenya “is legally a war zone” and that Ali now “now leads us into jihad in Kenya without hesitation or fear.”
“We will wage defensive jihad as we have been instructed to so without mercy for the sake of our precious religion,” the statement continued.
The Muslim Youth Center also said that Ali is following in the footsteps of “brother Fazul,” or Fazul Mohammed, the former leader of al Qaeda’s operations in East Africa who also served as a senior leader in Shabaab. Fazul was indicted along with Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other top al Qaeda leaders by the US government for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Fazul was killed by Somali troops at a checkpoint south of Mogadishu in June 2011.
“We in MYC have no doubt that our Amiir Sheikh Ahmad Iman Ali will continue the unfinished work of brother Fazul in Kenya and in the region of East Africa,” the statement said.
Shabaab named Ali to lead its branch in Kenya just four days after the terror group released a 51-minute-long video featuring him. In the video, he urged Muslims to travel to the global theaters of war, and if they could not make the journey, to wage jihad at home.
“[If you] are unable to reach the land of jihad, the land of ribat, like the land of Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Algeria, or Iraq, if you are unable to reach these lands which have established the banner of tawheed and the Shariah of Allah, then raise your sword against the enemy that is closest to you,” he said, according to a translation of the video by the SITE Intelligence Group.