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Somalia's Islamist insurgents: key players


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents have lost a series of towns to African Union and government troops, while commanders have initiated purges against rival factions. Here are a series of portraits of Shebab or rival Islamist leaders.

AHMED ABDI GODANE: Top commander or "emir" of the Shebab, aged just 36 and with a $7 million US reward for his arrest, Godane has sought to crush challengers to his command. The camera-shy extremist, a slightly built man said to have once worked as an accountant for an airline company, is one of the most radical supporters of global jihad, a position sometimes at odds with some factions' more nationalist agendas. Also known by the name Abu Zubayr, he has claimed responsibility for the July 2010 bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 74 people. Educated in Pakistan and reportedly trained in Afghanistan, he enjoys Somali poetry. He comes from the Isaaq clan of Somaliland, in the north.

MUKHTAR ROBOW: Former Shebab military commander and spokesman who trained in Afghanistan, 50-year old Robow has fallen out with Godane. Influential and powerful, the US have offered $5 million for his arrest. Also known as Abu Mansur, he is believed to have fled Godane to his Rahanweyn clan stronghold near Baidoa in south-central Somalia.

HASSAN DAHIR AWEYS: Once a war hero as a colonel in the Somali army battling Ethiopia, the veteran Islamist cleric has for decades led a series of hardline movements. On both US and UN Security Council terrorism sanctions lists, he fled Godane's purges, but has since been arrested and is being held in government-controlled Mogadishu. Aweys' Hizb al-Islam forces have been allied with Shebab troops since 2010 but he has been a recent outspoken critic of Godane. In his late 70s, he comes from the Habr Gedir sub-group of the Hawiye clan.

FUAD MOHAMED KHALAF: Holding both Somali and Swedish nationality, Khalaf is accused of fundraising for the Shebab, as well as taking part in attacks inside Somalia. Also known as "Shongole", the US offer $5 million for his capture.

AHMED MADOBE: A former Islamist governor of the key southern port of Kismayo, he was ousted in the Ethiopia's 2006 US-backed invasion. But after spending two years in an Ethiopian jail, the warlord has now abandoned his former comrades and teamed up with Kenyan troops as self-declared "president" of Jubaland, based in Kismayo. His Ras Kamboni militia, from the Ogadeni clan, face multiple rival forces.

OMAR HAMAMI: A US citizen better known as Al-Amriki or "the American", the Alabama-born fighter has a $5 million bounty for his arrest offered by his own government. Aged 29, rose to international prominence through his rap songs, recruiting videos and frequent use of social media to promote his cause.

JEHAD SERWAN MOSTAFA: Looking more like a computer geek than the extremist training camp instructor he is accused of being, Mostafa is a US citizen, born in Wisconsin but most recently a resident of California. Aged 31, he is said to be a leader of foreign fighters and promoting the group on the internet. The US have posted a $5 million reward for him.

BASHIR MOHAMED MAHAMOUD: Shebab military commander in his early 30s, with a $5 million reward for his arrest.

ABDULLAHI YARE: Reportedly a deputy to Godane and the Shebab's head of media, with a $3 million reward for his capture.





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