According to Somali website Garowe Online, Shabaab militants recently gunned down a pro-Islamic State commander in the southern Somali town of Bu’ale. Shabaab has not confirmed this event, but it rarely publicly comments on assassinations or executions of this nature.
Garowe states that “Yahya Haji Fiile, known as Abu Zakariye, was killed in the district after Shabaab intelligence linked him to the Islamic State in Somalia.” The article continues by stating that Fiile, a former top Shabaab commander, initially fell out with the jihadist group in 2016 after it killed Bashir Abu Numan.
Abu Numan was one of the first Shabaab commanders to defect to the Islamic State, but he was killed by Shabaab’s internal security force, the Amniyat, in late 2015. Since then, the Amniyat has hunted down and killed dozens of former Shabaab members and leaders who defected to the Islamic State or who professed pro-Islamic State sympathies.
Fiile reportedly entered some sort of reconciliation process with Shabaab prior to his assassination, according to both Garowe and Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf. It is likely Shabaab’s recent declaration of war on the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) shattered whatever peace the two achieved.
Prior to yesterday’s assassination of Fiile, Shabaab and ISS-loyal militants clashed near the borders with Kenya late last month. Earlier in mid-December, the Islamic State claimed that its men in Somalia battled with Shabaab “southwest of Qandala,” and that it had killed 14 members of the al Qaeda branch. It was this latter event that prompted the declaration of war by Shabaab.
With Shabaab continuing to target ISS members and pro-ISS members within its own ranks, it is unlikely Fiile will be the last commander to be killed by the al Qaeda branch.
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