Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane has admitted publicly that his group's fighters have been defeated in a series of recent battles in Somalia.
Monday, December 17, 2012
By Majid Ahmed
"This year comes as the crusade against Islamic rule in Somalia has been mounting and the crusader enemy has intensified its military, security, political and media capabilities to dim the light of sharia and defeat Islamic rule," he said in an audio message released Tuesday (December 11th) by al-Kataib Foundation, al-Shabaab's media centre, and other websites affiliated with the group.
Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair, announced that al-Shabaab will resort to guerrilla tactics. "I would like to tell the Islamic nation and its elite mujahideen, particularly Mullah Omar and Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri […] that the military might of the mujahideen in Somalia is strong and that they are waging a holy jihad that relies on raids and ambushes to create a state of instability for the enemy in the areas they control," he said.
Godane's message came two days after his fighters fled the city of Jowhar, the largest city remaining under their control, as soldiers from the Somali National Army and the African Union Mission in Somalia approached. Jowhar, capital of the Middle Shabelle region, is one of many regional capitals captured by government-allied forces in the past year, including Kismayo, Marka, Beledweyne, Baidoa and Hudur.
Retired Colonel Omar Mohamed, an adviser to the Somali army, said Godane's announcement that his group is moving towards guerrilla warfare and ambush techniques indicates al-Shabaab's increasing weakness.
"Godane's message reveals the total collapse from which the group is suffering, as well as the state of despair that afflicts its criminal members," he told Sabahi. "What he is trying to do is boost the morale of his frustrated fighters."
"If we look at the timing of this message, it comes when al-Shabaab is under siege from all directions and is suffering huge losses day after day as a result of the painful blows they have been dealt at the hands of the national army and its allies," he said. "Members of the al-Shabaab militia are living in a state of desperation and weakness as they are unable to escape the tightening grip of the national armed forces."
Mohamed said al-Shabaab fighters have no other option but to lay down their weapons and surrender to the government. "They are fleeing the large cities and taking refuge in rural areas that are relatively far away from the allied forces' movement, but they are unable to find a safe haven anywhere in the country."
President Mohamud announces al-Shabaab's defeat
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said last week that al-Shabaab has been militarily defeated.
"We have inflicted a military loss on al-Shabaab and the national army has liberated most of Somalia's major cities," he told the BBC Somali Service on December 12th.
The president said that the government is ready to pardon Somali fighters, especially youths, who are willing to abandon violence and lay down their arms to help rebuild the country. "We welcome with open arms all girls and boys who decide to leave al-Shabaab; these are our girls and boys," he said.
"We are working towards sending tribal elders to convince the youth who have been deceived to join al-Shabaab, reject violence and lay down their weapons," he added.
Mohamud said the Somali government will not negotiate with foreign fighters, as they must return to their countries. "There is also no room for negotiation with people who think they can achieve anything by using weapons or supporting the mass killing of Somalis," he said.
Abdirahim Issa Adow, director of Radio Mogadishu and former spokesman for the Islamic Courts Union, said al-Shabaab's status as a military group is almost over.
"Almost two years ago, al-Shabaab was a group that boasted military might as it launched a campaign called 'The End of the Aggressors' and called on government forces and officials to surrender within five days," he told Sabahi. "But now, al-Shabaab has reached a dead end and is nothing more than remnants trapped in a few areas."
In Godane's message, he praised jihadist fighters in North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Adow said these references are merely an attempt to divert attention from the group's losses. "It is also a desperate attempt to form ties and relationships with other terrorist groups in the region," he said.
Omar Dahir, a security analyst and director of the Centre for Moderation and Dialogue in Mogadishu, said Godane's message shows al-Shabaab's increasing military and political defeat.
"Because of its strict approach, adoption of global jihad and its merger with al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab has lost the real battle, which is to win the hearts and minds of the Somali people," he told Sabahi.