Al-Shabaab, or “the boys,” is a radical Islamic insurgency that grew out of a Saudi-funded pro-Wahhabism campaign in the late 1980s to early 1990s. For decades the group, designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the United States in 2008, has inflicted egregious human rights violations on the Somali people. However, under the leadership of Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabaab pledged its commitment to global jihad and has become a regional force for terror, killing more than 70 in a bombing of a Ugandan bar during the 2010 World Cup and the massacre of 67 civilians at the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi, Kenya late last year. Following the assassination of their leader by U.S. forces last week, analysts continue to debate whether al-Shabaab will continue to promulgate global jihad and make-good on promises to punish the West for their opposition to “the boys,” or whether it will once again focus itself locally, shifting its immediate goals to regaining power throughout all Somalia.
09/12/2014 Somalia (Clarion Project) – The Pentagon has confirmed that a U.S. airstrike killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Somalia. The affiliate is known for its recruitment of Americans. The group has chosen a new leader and reasserted its allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
Al-Shabaab is best known for the September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya, killing 63 people. The group is fighting to turn Somalia into a sharia-based state.
The new leader’s name is Sheikh Ahmad Umar Abu Ubaidah. In a statement, the group pledged to retaliate against the U.S. for the assassination of Godane, who has led the group since 2008 and was one of its founders.
“Avenging the death of our scholars and leader is a binding obligation on our shoulders that we will never relinquish nor forget, no matter how long it takes,” the statement read.
Al-Shabaab said he was chosen unanimously, likely to tamper down speculation that a previous internal rift in the organization would be revived. Last year, an important American member of Al-Shabaab named Omar Hammami (also known as Abu Mansur al-Amriki) was killed by the group after a public falling out.
The U.S. airstrike happened 105 miles south of Mogadishu outside the city of Barawe. The U.S. obtained specific intelligence about an Al-Shabaab meeting he was attending and the convoy he was traveling in. Ten other Al-Shabaab terrorists were killed, including five senior commanders.
Witnesses said U.S. commandos arrived after the airstrike and captured the bodies. After the attack, Al-Shabaab began carrying out mass arrests in search of a spy and reportedly beheaded some people found with cell phones.
Western and Somali officials sound optimistic that the killing of Godane will have a profound impact on Al-Shabaab operations.
The Pentagon described it as a “major symbolic and operational loss.” Abdi Aynte, head of the Mogadishu-based think tank Heritage Institute, explained that Godane centralized control of the group. He said his death “is definitely a game changer for al-Shabaab and probably a turning point for the organization.”