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Al-Shabaab's execution of its own members reflects deepening crisis
Sabahi Online
Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Al-Shabaab's decision to execute three of its members for allegedly spying for foreign governments reflects a crisis of confidence within the ranks of the militant group, political analysts and observers say.

Al-Shabaab said the three men -- Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, and Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh, 33 -- were spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency and the British spy agency MI6.

"Hassan and Ahmed were both responsible for the deaths of Bilal al-Berjawi and three other [al-Shabaab members]," the al-Qaeda-allied organisation said on its official Twitter account July 22nd. "The two planted tracking devices in the vehicles of al-Berjawi & his brothers which guided the missile strikes in the outskirts of Mogadishu."

Al-Berjawi, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Britain who was stripped of his British citizenship, was killed in a missile strike in January outside Mogadishu. He was reported to have been al-Qaeda's second-in-command in Somalia.

Eyewitnesses in Marka said the three men were executed by a firing squad in the city centre.

"Al-Shabaab fighters used loudspeakers mounted on pick-up trucks to call people to witness the execution and when people gathered in the square, dozens of masked fighters blindfolded the three men and then shot at them, killing them instantly," Marka resident Mohamed Said, 34, told Sabahi.

Al-Shabaab's crisis of confidence

Omar Dahir, director of the Mogadishu-based Centre for Moderation and Dialogue, said al-Shabaab's problems result from increasing divisions among members and could lead to a rapid splintering of the group in the near future.

"There is a lack of confidence within al-Shabaab, as the group does not trust its members and now its leaders do not trust one another," Dahir told Sabahi. "Al-Shabaab's decision to execute three of its members in Marka reflects the crisis of confidence that the group is suffering from."

"This might be the beginning of a score-settling battle breaking out within the group, which already suffers from deep divisions," Dahir said.

He said al-Shabaab may resort to secretly executing many of its members for fear that repeated public executions might shake the unity of the group.

"The group will execute any member that is suspected of having relations with external parties because they fear that Western intelligence agencies might be able to infiltrate the group and target their wanted leaders," Dahir said.

Al-Shabaab said on Twitter that it has "launched an extensive counter-intelligence campaign to cleanse the country of such spies".

Last year, al-Shabaab leader Mualim Hashi Mohamed Farah said Western intelligence services have infiltrated al-Shabaab's ranks, with double agents pretending to be jihadists.

This is not the only time al-Shabaab has executed members accused of spying for Western intelligence agencies. Al-Shabaab executed its deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed Ali Hussein, also known as Ahmed Keyse, in 2010 for "spying" for foreign governments.

On July 27th, al-Shabaab said it caught three "TFG spies" who are currently undergoing interrogation. "If convicted, the three men will be publicly executed," al-Shabaab said on Twitter.

Bounty deepens internal crisis among al-Shabaab

"The crisis of confidence dominates the landscape within the al-Shabaab group, which has resulted in executions of its members," said Abdirahman Mohamud, an observer of fundamentalist groups.

Since the United States announced on June 7th that it would offer up to $33 million for information on the whereabouts of seven senior al-Shabaab leaders, the wanted leaders have hidden from not only intelligence services, but also the eyes of the public and their own members.

"Al-Shabaab leaders are now afraid that the US-offered bounty money might push some of the group's members, who are motivated by greed, to betray their leaders and provide information on their whereabouts in return for financial rewards," Mohamud told Sabahi.

"In my opinion, that is the motivation behind al-Shabaab's recent decision to execute three of its members on charges of spying for US and British intelligence agencies," he said.

Mohamud said al-Shabaab has split into two camps, and each will "deal brutally" with the other.

In March, al-Shabaab leader Hasan Dahir Aweys criticised the militant group for aimlessly killing civilians in the name of Islam and for its affiliation with al-Qaeda. "

The radical al-Shabaab group has carried out many executions in the past few years, targeting not only its members, but dozens of Somali citizens charged with working and spying for Western intelligence agencies or co-operating with the Somali government or the African Union forces," said Abdullahi Osman, a political analyst and expert in the affairs of radical Islamist groups in Somalia.

Osman told Sabahi that al-Shabaab terrorises Somali citizens and threatens to execute those who co-operate with the government or the African Union Mission in Somalia.

He called on the Somali government to intensify its efforts to liberate the remaining areas still under al-Shabaab's control to put an end to the heinous crimes committed by the group.

"Al-Shabaab will continue using unwarranted and indiscriminate violence against Somali citizens until the group is driven away from the country," he said.


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