Senior al-Shabab Foreign Fighter Defects in Somalia

One of the most senior foreign fighters with Somali militant group al-Shabab says he has defected and is now in Mogadishu with the Somali government. Zubair al-Muhajir traveled from London to join the group in 2006.  He rose through the ranks and ultimately became a member of al-Shabab’s Shura Council of religious scholars. 


Al-Muhajir, originally from Ivory Coast said that he fell out with the group in 2013 when its Amniyat force arrested him and imprisoned him for three years.  "I defected because al-Shabab, they are lying to the Muslims and to the world,” he said. “They are claiming to implement the Sharia (Islamic law) which is not true because I know from incidents where they went against the Sharia.”He says the group uses Sharia just to “betray the people, fool them, and lie to them.” "The reality of their actions is totally against their Sharia – they are killing innocent people and they are lying to the people.”


Zubair al-Muhajir’s identity and defection has been confirmed through Somali officials and previous al-Shabab defectors. In 2011, al-Muhajir was head of a committee appointed by al-Shabab to mediate a bitter dispute between the late leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and three other commanders – Ibrahim al-Afghani, Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour and Fuad Mohamed Khalaf Shongole. 


Godane rejected his mediation efforts and the dispute led to the execution of al-Afghani in June 2013.  Robow eventually defected while Shongole is still with al-Shabab.  At the time, al-Shabab detained a number of other commanders and figures suspected of opposing Godane. Zubair al-Muhajir says he was one of the detained. Al-Muhajir says before his defection in October 2019, al-Shabab visited a small shop he ran in Galhareri and asked him to pay zakat.  He said he told them he was ready to pay taxes but could not afford zakat, which is based on a certain amount of accumulated wealth.


"I have an argument with about paying zakat and taxes,” he said. “I showed them that if they want to take taxes from me, I’m ready to give them the taxes but if they want zakat from me, I’m not among the people who pay the zakat.” The Somali government has an open amnesty program for those defecting from al-Shabab as long as they renounce violence and the ideology. 


Al-Muhajir says he first went to the African Union Mission based at the Mogadishu airport.  He is now at a Somali government safe house.  He says he is still waiting to hear from the government on what program they have for him. But Zubair al-Muhajir is clear on what he wants the Somali government to do.


"They have to take the issue of al-Shabab seriously, otherwise they will still kill the innocent people and do it in the name of Sharia,” he said. "They have to take the fight with al-Shabab on the ideology side, because this is the side which is boosting al-Shabab. If the people realize that the ideology is wrong with Islamic proofs, I think al-Shabab will no longer be there for a long time.”

Teacher Convicted for Leading Al-Shabab Operations in Mogadishu

 
A college teacher who is the son of a senior police officer has been found guilty of leading al-Shabab's operations in Mogadishu for several years. A military court in Mogadishu sentenced Mohamed Haji Ahmed to death on Tuesday.  Prosecutors wanted to file charges connecting Ahmed to the death of more than 180 people.  But in the end, he was convicted for being behind the assassination of three generals, a police corporal and a deputy attorney general.
 
In a video recorded and released by the court, Ahmed confessed to working as head of operations for al-Shabab in Mogadishu. "I was head of operation of the city, the region," he said in the video. "There was nothing more nerve-wracking than sending out someone to do something…what will happen to them? Have they been killed?"
He said after an operation, al-Shabab bosses would call him to learn details about how it went, who fired the shots, and how many bullets were fired.

He would also send information to al-Shabab's radio station, Radio Andalus, so the group could claim responsibility for attacks and use it as propaganda. The court sentenced six other al-Shabab members to death, four of them in absentia.  An eighth Shabab member was given life imprisonment. A woman who worked at the Somali Women's Headquarters was also convicted for passing information about the movement of government officials to al-Shabab. Fadumo Hussein Ali, also known as "Fadumo Colonel," was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Ahmed, 27, from Bulomarer town in the Lower Shabelle region, has used multiple aliases over the years to evade authorities. Somali security forces said they have been hearing his name since 2014, when al-Shabab suspects arrested for carrying pistols in Mogadishu's Hamarweyne district said a man they identified as "Hudeyfi" gave them the guns to carry out assassinations. The following year, more detained al-Shabab suspects mentioned the same name.

In January 2016, authorities arrested a man whose phone they had tracked because of contacts with known al-Shabab figures. He told the court he was a college teacher, which was verified, and he was released on bail.  At the time, the officials did not realize that the man they arrested, Ahmed, was indeed Hudeyfi. Over the following years, Ahmed used several other aliases. On November 2, 2016, a traditional elder was killed in Mogadishu. Two men arrested by the police in connection with the killing named their supervisor as "Dahir." 

On December 2018, twin blasts near the National Theater in Mogadishu killed at least ten people including prominent television journalist Awil Dahir Salad. The two men captured in connection with the bombing named "Ilkacase" as co-conspirator.Police have since established that Hudeyfi, Dahir, Ilkacase and Ahmed are the same person. On Tuesday, Ahmed confirmed this information to the court.

"I was originally known as Hudeyfi, but I worked with different groups and I gave a different name to each group," he said. On Tuesday, Ahmed was convicted for the murder of police corporal Mohamed Omar Sheikh Osman, killed in a mosque on February 24 2017; the assassination of military General Abdullahi Mohamed Sheikh Qururuh, killed September 24, 2017; the assassination of Somali deputy attorney general Mohamed Abdirahman Mohamud on February 20, 2019; and the assassination of police General Mohamud Haji Alow on April 27, 2019.

He was also convicted for the assassination of police General Ismail Ahmed Osman on October 28, 2016. Ironically, Ahmed lived in Osman's house in the town of Marka when he was a high school student, after his father asked Osman to help his son, security officials say.
Military courts' prosecutor General Abdullahi Bule Kamey described Ahmed as a "merciless. Police have since established that Hudeyfi, Dahir, Ilkacase and Ahmed are the same person.

Police have since established that Hudeyfi, Dahir, Ilkacase and Ahmed are the same person. On Tuesday, Ahmed confirmed this information to the court.
"I was originally known as Hudeyfi, but I worked with different groups and I gave a different name to each group," he said. On Tuesday, Ahmed was convicted for the murder of police corporal Mohamed Omar Sheikh Osman, killed in a mosque on February 24 2017; the assassination of military General Abdullahi Mohamed Sheikh Qururuh, killed September 24, 2017; the assassination of Somali deputy attorney general Mohamed Abdirahman Mohamud on February 20, 2019; and the assassination of police General Mohamud Haji Alow on April 27, 2019.

He was also convicted for the assassination of police General Ismail Ahmed Osman on October 28, 2016. Ironically, Ahmed lived in Osman's house in the town of Marka when he was a high school student, after his father asked Osman to help his son, security officials say. Military courts' prosecutor General Abdullahi Bule Kamey described Ahmed as a "merciless killer".

"His crimes are unmeasurable," General Kamey said. "He killed the man who raised him, the hand that fed him, General Ismail," Gen. Kamey said. The prosecution said Ahmed spared his father's life only because he wanted to use him as a cover. "He let him live so that he bails him out when captured," Kamey said. Ahmed's lawyers argued that their client should only be punished for the cases that can be proven before a court.
 

Prominent scholar bashes al-Shabaab and its ideology

A Somali scholar has recently bashed and criticized the murderous group al-Shabaab’s religious ideology, alienating the group and terming it as a very dangerous group.

Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Umal, who is among the most prominent and influential Somali scholars, has appeared on Somalia’s national broadcaster, Somali National Television (SNTV), and talked about how such ideologies start and how dangerous they are.

He described several ways in which one can misinterpret the Islamic scripture according in a way that suits their monetary and political gains adding that the worst ideology is the one that spills innocent blood referring to al-Shabaab’s interpretation of Islam.

He then explained how the prophet (pbuh) warned Muslims on the emergence of such groups and how it is an obligation for every Muslim to fight such ideologies.

“The worst thing a person can do is to misinterpret the scripture and justify the spilling of the blood using the scripture. The Prophet (Pbuh) described such people as the worst among nations and that they should be fought and defeated by any means,” he said on SNTV.
 
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