Terrorism & Insurgency

OSINT Summary: Al-Shabaab leader releases statement in response to Somali offensive

12 March 2014

On 9 March, an audio statement from the emir of Somali militant Islamist group Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen, Ahmad Abdi Aw Muhammad Godane (alias Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr), was posted on Somali jihadist websites. The broad theme of the message was a response to the seeming beginning of the long-awaited offensive by Somali forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) peacekeepers targeting the group across the country.
Two days before the release of the statement, on 7 March, Somali and AMISOM forces retook control of the city of Xudur in Bakool region from Al-Shabaab, with further territorial gains in towns in Bakool, Bay, and Gedo regions on 8 and 9 March. However, there has been little indication of fighting during the operations, with militants typically withdrawing from their positions in the towns ahead of the security force advance.
Godane began the statement by referring to the lengthy history of Christian "crusader" campaigns "against the Muslims of Eastern Africa, especially the Somali nation", starting with the Portuguese and Ethiopians in the 16th century. He characterised the latest offensive in Somalia as the United States government waging "an indirect war by using proxies, after having lost in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq". The proxies reference was directed at the AMISOM peacekeeping force, and in particular its Ethiopian contingent.
Godane continued by outlining the perceived objectives of the offensive, among which was the alleged division of Somalia between Kenya and Ethiopia under the guise of federalism, the looting of Somalia's natural resources, and an attempt to prevent the implementation of sharia (Islamic law) in the country.
However, Godane spoke witheringly with regard to the prospects of the offensive's success, claiming that it came at a time when "Muslims [are] achieving a series of victories", while internationally, regionally, and domestically the group's state adversaries were suffering a series of setbacks. Godane first stated, "Internationally, we have a victory in Afghanistan where America is withdrawing and has no influence beyond looking for a safe exit, while the mujahideen are recapturing territory. Likewise, jihad has exploded in the Levant and in Egypt, which increases the bloodletting of America and its allies."
He then added, "If we look in this region, we can see that the main states involved in the war against our country are facing political problems and wars. For example, Uganda is facing big problems at its borders, in South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, and [is] still fighting the rebel LRA [Lord's Resistance Army]. Kenya is facing problems with regards to South Sudan, in addition to the uprisings on the Muslim Coast province. Ethiopia has religious, ethnic, and economic problems that are on the verge of exploding."
Finally, Godane turned to Somalia, stating: "The apostate regime based in Mogadishu has all kinds of problems… This is the worst apostate regime seen in this country, and has a deficiency in humanity and religion. They have reached a high status in being puppets, bad manners, and corruption. They have divided the country, and given away its resources."
Godane ended the address by appealing to the Somali nation to join with and support Al-Shabaab against the offensive: "I hereby send a message to all Somalis everywhere: you have been fought [in order] to deny you your right to live by your religion; your land has been partitioned; your civilians have been killed and forced to flee; and your resources have been stolen. Every political system has been tested on our people: direct colonialism, communism, pseudo-democracy, and tribalism. Today we have to turn to God for real; our salvation is in implementing shariah... Our life is in jihad, our honour is in jihad, our victory is in jihad, and in jihad is our well-being in this world and the hereafter." In his final remarks he also underlined Al-Shabaab's ongoing relationship with, and continued obedience to, Al-Qaeda, stating, "The leadership of jihad in Khurasan [Afghanistan], especially our emir Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, are expecting of you something that makes them happy and fails the enemy offensive."

(670 words)