The US Department of State added the commander of the Islamic State’s nascent force in Somalia to its list of specailly designated global terrorists today. Abdulqadr Mumin, the leader of the small cadre of Islamic State fighters in the East African nation, defected from Shabaab late last year.
State identified Mumin as “the head of a group of ISIL [Islamic State]-linked individuals in East Africa” and “a former al-Shabaab recruiter and spokesman.” Since he pledged to the Islamic State in October 2015, he has “expanded his cell of ISIL supporters by kidnapping young boys aged 10 to 15, indoctrinating them, and forcing them to take up militant activity.”
Before defecting from al Qaeda’s branch in in East Africa to the Islamic State, Mumin appeared in numerous Shabaab propaganda videos. In April 2015, he appeared in a video where he incited fighters in the Golis Mountains in northern Somalia to wage jihad. Later that month, he gave a speech in a video that documented an attack on an African Union force in Lower Shabelle. And in July 2015, he was featured in a propaganda tape that highlighted a Shabaab attack on a Burundi convoy near Leego. Burundi troops later withdrew from Leego after the attack.
When Mumin defected to the Islamic State in October 2015, it was reported that no more than 20 of the estimated 300 Shabaab fighters in the semi-autonomous Puntland region in Somalia, where he is based, joined him.
While Mumin has pledge allegiance to the Islamic State’s emir, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Islamic State has yet to reciprocate and name an official province in Somalia or East Africa. This may be due to the fact that Mumin has failed to rally a significant number of jihadist to the Islamic State’s banner. Shabaab, which is waging a deadly insurgency in Somalia and even controls some towns and rural areas in the south, boasts thousands of fighters in its ranks, while Mumin has less than 100 fighters under his command.
Mumin has operated a makeshift training facility, known as the “Commander Sheikh Abu Numan Training Camp,” in Puntland. In April 2016, Mumin appeared in a video that depicted just over a dozen fighters training there. The camp is named after Bashir Abu Numan, a former commander who was killed by Shabaab’s Amniyat – the rival group’s internal security and intelligence branch – after he defected to the Islamic State in late 2015. [See LWJ report, Islamic State highlights ‘first camp of the Caliphate in Somalia.’]
Since Mumin swore allegiance to Baghdadi in October 2015, his group has only claimed three small-scale attacks inside Somalia. On April 25, the Islamic State claimed its first attack, an IED blast against an African Union convoy in Mogadishu.
The Islamic State has struggled to gain a foothold in Somalia despite a concerted effort to woo Shabaab fighters into its ranks. Shabaab’s Amniyat has been tasked with hunting down and killing any members who seek to or have defected to the Islamic State. Last December, the Amniyat gunned down Mohammed Makkawi Ibrahim, a veteran jihadist who was responsible for killing a diplomat for the US Agency for International Development and his driver in Khartoum, Sudan in January 2008. [See LWJ reports, Shabaab’s leadership fights Islamic State’s attempted expansion in East Africa and American jihadist reportedly flees al Qaeda’s crackdown in Somalia.]